Sulfur Deficiency and your Microbiome Health

SIBO/IBS Gas, Bloating and Abdominal Pain

If you are experiencing gas, bloating, abdominal pain and digestive issues, chances are you are dealing with a microbiome imbalance. This microbiome imbalance is a common root cause of gut health issues and other chronic inflammatory conditions and autoimmunity.

You may think that a nutrient dense diet with lots of prebiotic fiber foods are a good idea to restore the microbiome, but for those with gas and bloating symptoms, this typically makes the problems worse.

First, we want to heal and strengthen the gut using a gentle, soft food diet while replacing a key missing ingredient to microbiome health: sulfur.

Sulfur deficiency may be driving the overgrowth of harmful bacteria, causing a microbiome imbalance. Improving your sulfur levels with GI Janel One powder may be the missing link that you’ve been seeking.

Let’s talk about sulfur deficiency and your microbiome health and how to improve it naturally.

Dr Kathleen Janel

For over 25 years, Dr. Janel has been using her High Dose Sulfur (HDS) treatment for sulfur deficiency and microbiome health.

She has treated thousands of patients all over the world.

Dr. Janel teaches doctors and nutritionists to treat gas, bloating and abdominal pain with HDS, so they have a natural option to the more aggressive antibiotic treatments for these symptoms.

In 2018, she formulated her HDS supplement, called GI Janel One Powder. This is available for shipment to patients.

Doctors and health care providers can order GI Janel One formulas for their clinics.

Dr. Janel published her HDS treatment in GI Janel, Permanent IBS and SIBO resolution.”

You can use her book to help understand your microbiome and treat yourself.

There are HDS videos on her YouTube channel @GIJanel

Now, let’s look at how your digestive system works.


Parts of Your Digestive System

Your GI (gastrointestinal) tract is a group of organs that food travels through.

On its journey, food is broken down (digested), nutrients are absorbed into the body and waste exits at the end. Your GI tract includes your mouth, throat, esophagus, stomach, small intestine, large intestine (colon), rectum and anus.

This system is complicated, so as you can imagine, a lot can go wrong in the largest parts, which are the small and large intestine. You may have microbiome imbalances and gut health issues in either of both areas.

Right after the stomach churns up your food and mixes it with HCL (hydrochloric acid) to kill germs and activate digestion, the food is sent to the small intestine. Your small intestine is the part where food gets broken down into its smallest building blocks by digestive enzymes. Most nutrients are absorbed there.

From here waste, and insoluble fiber move to your large intestine. There are a few bacteria in the small intestine. Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) and small intestinal fungal overgrowth (SIFO) occur when too many bacteria or yeast have grown in the wrong place which leads to symptoms in the small intestine. (This is usually gassy fermentation – burping and bloating gas).

Your large intestine is the part of your gut where fiber moves through to feed the good bacteria and water and salt get absorbed back into your body. Finally, the compacted waste will wait in the rectum then leave your body through the anus. The common issue that affects your large intestines is dysbiosis (imbalance of bacteria or yeast). Food intolerance has an impact on both the small and the large intestine. We primarily find leak gut syndrome (LGS) in the small intestine.

Using sulfur may be particularly helpful for small intestinal microbiome balance and for improving SIBO or SIFO. It can also improve your gut lining, gut motility, bacterial overgrowth, and it is a natural bio-film buster. In the large intestine, sulfur is a powerful anti-fungal that sends those yeast out of your body with the waste!

Before we jump into the potential gut health benefits of sulfur, let’s talk more about your microbiome health.


Your gut is the home to trillions of microbes, bacteria, viruses, yeasts, and some others. There are more bacterial cells in your body than human cells (1). There is a reason all these species live inside your gut. It is for your health and well-being. The species that comprise these bacterial families are critical to you.

The Integrative Human Microbiome Project published a study in Nature (2019) which found that the average gut is home to up to 1,000 different bacterial species (2). These are beneficial or commensal bacteria, but only if they grow in the correct proportions and amounts.

Having potentially harmful bacteria in your gut is normal, as long as they don’t overgrow. Thus, it is important to have a healthy balance between beneficial and potentially harmful microbes. If you have too many bad bacteria and too few good ones (dysbiosis), your gut microbiome will be off-balance, and you can develop problems. Dysbiosis can lead to chronic inflammation, leaky gut, gassiness, bloating, abdominal pain, and inflammatory conditions.

Taking care of your gut microbiome health is clearly important. Most of us have heard about the importance of probiotics and prebiotics, but there is one nutrient we don’t really talk about, yet it may be the key to microbiome balance.

I’m talking about sulfur.

What is Sulfur?

GI Jan-Aloe

Sulfur is a mineral that cycles through the atmosphere and returns to the soil in rain. It is found in plants, animals, soil, and water. Sulfur is the fourth most common mineral in your body and your body cannot make it on its own.

You must get sulfur from your diet. Sulfur is known to have healing properties that go back centuries. Sulfur mineral baths were used by native American culture and have been used for centuries in Europe and the Mediterranean. People still gather all over the world to bathe in natural sulfur springs and to drink this mineral water for health benefits.

Dr. Stephanie Seneff, an MIT research scientist, states that “Sulfur is the most common nutritional deficiency that you’ve never heard of”.

Now let’s discuss how sulfur works!

Benefits of Sulfur

Sulfur is an essential mineral for your health.

Sulfur has been shown to protect the gut, have antioxidant effects and improve intestinal physiology.

It has also reduced colitis (gut inflammation) in mice studies (3).

Other benefits of sulfur include:

  • Protection from oxidative stress and cellular damage
  • Supporting, building, and repairing DNA
  • Aiding in antioxidant synthesis
  • A reduction of inflammation & supporting immune health
  • Allergy reduction
  • Decreased joint pain.
  • Fighting bacteria and yeast
  • Anti-biofilm and bacterial quorum sensing.
  • Protection of the lining of blood vessels and elements suspended in blood (exclusion zone water)
  • Transportation of nutrients like: cholesterol, vitamin D, tryptophan, and tyrosine

Causes of Sulfur Deficiency

When you are not eating enough sulfur-rich foods, it can lead to low sulfur levels. This is often the case for SIBO patients who find that sulfur rich foods increase their symptoms.

But even if you have a healthy diet and eat plenty of those foods, you may still be sulfur deficient.

The sulfur cycle plays an important role in cellular regeneration. Modern farming practices, like monocrops and pesticide use have changed the sulfur cycle in food production. This has led to lower sulfur levels in previously high sulfur crops (4). A 2024 report in Crop Nutrition found that sulfur levels have declined so much in our rivers, watersheds, and soils that farmers must consider adding sulfur to the soil (5).

So, even if you eat sulfur-rich foods, they may no longer contain the amount of sulfur your body needs. This means sulfur deficiency. A publication in Communications Earth and Environment in 2021, found that sulfur depletion leads to nutrient deficiencies. (6). Since sulfur is so important for your gut, low sulfur levels can pose a health risk.

Improving your sulfur levels may be critical to your recovery.

Sulfur and Your Gut Lining

Your body cannot make or store sulfur, so a constant intake of sulfur through supplementation is helpful considering that our diets may no longer be sufficient to supply the needed amount. Everyday your body needs 840-1500 mg of sulfur to protect you, build healthy tissue, and to repair and maintain detoxification.

Methylsulfonylmethane or MSM is the oxidized form of dimethyl sulfoxide (DMSO), which is an organic sulfur compound. MSM is biologically available for your body and is essential for building glycosaminoglycans (GAGs). GAGs contain sulfur to hold collagen together. This provides strength and flexibility to all your connective tissue.

This is why MSM is commonly used for joint and cartilage health. However, connective tissues also are what form the gut barrier. Using sulfur in the form of GI Janel One can help improve your gut mucous lining, repair cell-to-cell connections in leaky gut syndrome (LGS), improve cell permeability and elasticity which supports motility of your digestive system.

Sulfur, Microbiome and Gut Health

Chronic microbiome imbalance, ongoing gut inflammation, small intestinal overgrowth and chronic digestive symptoms can take a serious toll on your body. But what if I told you that you could improve your gut microbiome, relieve gas and bloating, and improve your overall health with sulfur? It sounds like a miracle!

Though more research is needed on the topic, functional doctors now believe that sulfur deficiency is one of the most common nutrient deficiencies that we’re not aware of (7). Addressing a sulfur deficiency can improve your health on many levels, including the health of your gut.

Image of pills on a wooden spoon

Sulfur and your Gut Microbiome

Beyond supporting your intestinal lining, GI Janel One can also improve your gut flora. And this is where the story gets really interesting! Sulfur is used as a natural antimicrobial and as a natural antifungal in farming.

Sulfur has been recognized throughout history as an antibacterial agent. Sulfur has been given orally for bacterial infection and has been used topically as a fungicide and bactericide for the treatment of cutaneous infections.

If used correctly, GIJanel One sulfur can help to reduce bacterial and yeast overgrowth in the gut and improve symptoms of small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) and small intestinal fungal overgrowth (SIFO). A 2022 animal study in Frontiers in Microbiology found that MSM improves the gut microbiome in cats.

We still need more research, including human studies, to understand this more clearly. However, evidence and the growing experience of functional medicine doctors suggest that using sulfur can be beneficial for those with intestinal overgrowth and dysbiosis.

We find that most people who tolerate sulfur the least and cannot eat foods like broccoli, cabbage, garlic, and onions are the ones who need it the most. There is even some research now into the production of hydrogen sulfide gas or H2S SIBO as a compensation for a sulfur deficiency.

Producing hydrogen sulfide gas is one way the body can make more usable sulfur when there has been a decrease of the beneficial microbiome species that are supposed to help get sulfur in our bodies.

This may explain why eating high sulfur foods can cause gas. The microbiome is out of balance and trying to make up for a deficiency. Once you accumulate the needed sulfur by a slow titration of your GI Janel One powder, the gassiness can resolve. It is bringing your microbiome back into balance. Staring at a low dose and increasing it gradually over time can eventually reduce gassiness and even eliminate gassy bloating completely as the microbiome regains its homeostasis or balance.

Think about it this way. The body has innate wisdom to keep us healthy. Our microbiome is working with our body by sending and receiving chemical messages in our blood. If we are sulfur deficient, the microbiome gets the message that it needs to help and it shifts to make hydrogen sulfide gas that can be converted to usable sulfate by the brain.  The sulfate reducing bacteria (SRB) are trying to provide us with sulfur! The sulfate reducing bacteria in your gut will start dying off, leaving more room for the beneficial microbes and gut microbiome balance once the sulfur deficiency is met. Symptoms of gut microbiome imbalance can finally improve, resolving your SIBO for good and improving your overall health.

If your symptoms return, you have not treated the cause

Sulfur Intolerance and Sulfur Deficiency

Sulfur intolerance should not be mistaken for sulfa drug allergy or sulfite intolerance. They are not the same thing.

Sulfa drugs (sulfonamides) include sulfonamide antibiotics, thiazide diuretics, loop diuretics, sulfonylureas, and carbonic anhydrase inhibitors. Allergies to the sulfa drugs are common.

Sulfites are naturally occurring sulfur containing molecules that are produced during fermentation and are used as preservatives in foods, including jam, pickled foods, soup mixes, gravy, canned vegetables, baked goods, and wine. Some people experience reactions to sulfites.

Sulfates are salts of sulfuric acid. They are found in some supplements, medicines, and personal care products.

Sulfur is a chemical element that is essential for your health. Sulfur containing nutrients include Methylsulfonylmethane (MSM), allicin in garlic, alpha lipoic acid, glucosamine sulfate, S-adenosylmethionine (SAM-e), chondroitin sulfate and antioxidant protective molecules like glutathione, dimethyl sulfoxide (DMSO) and N-acetylcysteine (NAC).

You Cannot be Allergic to Sulfur

Sulfur is essential for your health. Without a daily sulfur intake, you could not live.

This means that an allergy to sulfur is not possible. There are very rare cases where a severe genetic defect at birth affects the sulfite oxidase enzyme. This child will not survive, the need for sulfur cycling in the body is that great.

Even if your genetic panels have found SNPs (single nucleotide polymorphisms) in the sulfur pathways, these SNP cannot affect you to the degree that you won’t tolerate sulfur orally. If a person does not get daily sulfur, they will not continue to live.

Sulfur Intolerance

Sulfur intolerance is a temporary response to the upregulation of sulfur deficiency in the body. Some may experience initial headaches, flushing, nausea, or fatigue. All of which can abate once the deficiency is resolved.

Having sulfur intolerance doesn’t mean that your microbiome health cannot benefit from sulfur (remember, you cannot live without it). If you begin with very low doses and move up gradually, you can eventually tolerate GI Janel One at a therapeutic level and re-balance your microbiome health.

Sulfur does not directly affect the transulfuration or sulfide oxidase pathways where some have been diagnosed with CBS and SUOX enzyme SNPs. This is because these pathways start with methionine and we cannot make methionine in our bodies, regardless of how much sulfur is available. Methionine is an essential amino acid. The slow titration of GI Janel One powder with additional molybdenum and selenium as co-factors can support sulfur metabolism.

Dr. Stephanie Seneff, an MIT research scientist, states that “Sulfur is the most common nutritional deficiency that you’ve never heard of”. This sulfur deficiency is an explanation for sulfur intolerance. As hydrogen sulfide species are being released and sulfur levels are replenished, your microbiome balance will shift. The healthier your microbiome becomes, the more likely you are to tolerate higher doses of GI Janel One and sulfur rich foods.

Food Sources of Sulfur

The consumption of sulfur rich foods can be very beneficial for your gut and overall health. Due to our depleted soils, it may not be enough, especially if you are dealing with gut microbiome imbalance and related symptoms.

Our treatment goal is to expand the diet to include whole food sulfur sources, once the sulfur deficiency is addressed and gas, bloating and abdominal pain abate.

Beef, chicken, turkey fish and shellfish all contain sulfur in the amino acid form of methionine and cysteine.

Eggs and dairy contain organosulfur and amino acid sulfur.

Legumes, especially kidney, black, white beans, peas, and lentils contain organosulfur.

Nuts and seeds like Brazil, walnuts, sesame, and pumpkin are sulfur rich.

Cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, Brussel sprouts, cauliflower, and radishes contain organosulfur compounds.

Allium family foods like garlic, onion, leeks, scallions, and chives are rich in organosulfur.

Leafy greens and brassica family vegetables including cabbage, watercress, kale, and turnip tops contain organosulfur.

Barley, oat, and wheat grains contain sulfur.

Some herbs like ginger, curry and horseradish are sulfur rich.

There is also sulfur in some beverages, coconut milk, grape juice, tomato juice, wine, and cider.

Picture of food on a table

Dosage of GI Janel One

The recommendations for daily sulfur intake are 850-1500 mg daily. Safety studies show that there are no toxic effects up to 8 mg per Kg per day. This means that a 165 lb. person can take 600 grams of MSM daily. That is a lot and is not necessary in this protocol which caps out at 30 grams daily (13).

Remember that if you are dealing with gut microbiome imbalance, starting with a high dose of GI Janel One can lead to digestive upset instead of improvements.

There can also be Herxheimer reaction or Herx reaction with GI Janel One use initially. The Herx reaction refers to the idea that you can feel worse before you feel better, and it is the result of killing yeast in your digestive system. As the yeast dies, your body can become overwhelmed trying to remove and clean up all its toxic waste.

Starting with a low dose of GI Janel One and gradually increasing your dose can help your body to ease into things. This helps to minimize the Herx reaction so that you get better gradually.

I recommend starting from as low as a pinch of GI Janel One to ½ teaspoon (1.25 grams) daily. You can then increase your dose by ½ tsp every three to seven days. Once you reach 10 grams, you can start to increase your dose faster. It can be taken in juice at or between meals, all at once or divided.

Your goal is to reach 30 grams daily and then hold that dose daily for 8 weeks. It is important to listen to your body and titrate slowly as tolerated.

A knowledgeable function medicine doctor or practitioner can be a helpful guide on your journey.

Next Steps

Are you interested in improving your sulfur levels to rebalance your microbiome?

If you are experiencing symptoms of IBS or SIBO or gut microbiome imbalance, and want support with your recovery, we welcome you to schedule a visit with our functional doctors.  Residents of Washington State can request a patient appointment with Dr Janel.

Those residing outside of Washington State can request a consult with Dr Janel.

Visit our online store to directly purchase GI Janel One sulfur treatment, and related digestive products formulated by Dr. Kathleen Janel, including her book, GI Janel, Permanent IBS / SIBO resolution.

We look forward to supporting you in your ongoing health journey.

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