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Sulfite Sensitivity Print E-mail
by Ron Kennedy, M.D., Santa Rosa, CA

Dr. Kennedy Symptoms of Sulfite Sensitivity

Sulfites are contained in many food and in others are used as a food preservative. Some people have low levels of the enzyme (sulfite oxidase) which breaks down sulfites to sulfates. These people react with one or more of the following symptoms after ingestion of sulfites: (1) fatigue (2) coughing (due to the impairment of the lung ATP production), (3) asthma, (4) a drop in blood sugar (sulfites disrupt the regulation of blood sugar), (5) headache, (6) itching and reddening of the skin.

Foods That May Contain Sulfites

Here is a list of foods that sometimes contain sulfite preservatives: dried fruit, red wine, bottled lemon juice, molasses, sourcrout juice, grape juice (all colors), bottled lime juice, and yellow die #5 found in Doritos. Foods that sometimes contain sulfites in lesser amounts are pickles in a jar, shrimp, cookies, crackers, beet sugar, mashed potatoes made from dry powder, and pie dough. If a food contains more than 10 ppm (parts per million) of sulfite, the FDA requires the product to be labeled with the amount of sulfite. 10 ppm is the same as 10 mg. (10 milligrams) per liter, or about 2 mg. per cup of a product liquid.

The Effect of Excessive Levels of Sulfites

If your level of Sulfite Oxidase (the enzyme which converts sulfites to sulfates) is low, sulfite will build up and inhibit other important enzymes such as tyrosinase, polyphenoloxidase, and ascorbate oxidase. This can result in the impairment of the synthesis of Dopamine and the conversion of Dopamine to Noradrenaline, which can lead to fatigue of the nervous system. ATP is how the body stores energy. Sulfites can inhibit 90% of lung ATP energy production and can impair liver cell ATP energy production, and can deplete glutathione, a natural antioxidant which helps the liver detoxify. Anything that reduces your production of ATP energy can cause fatigue.

Factors Which Provoke Sensitivity

The toxic heavy metals such as lead and mercury, sulfa-drugs (a class of antibiotics), some asthmatic inhalants, many antibiotics, molybdenum deficiency, proto-IX-porphyria, inherited genetic damage encoding of the SO-enzyme, severe B12 vitamin deficiency, and arrays of SO2/SO3-group containing drugs including DMPS (a chelation drug).

Protective Measure

People who are sulfite sensitive should avoid sulfa drugs and heavy metals and if this protective enzyme does go down, then avoid the sulfites themselves. Look on the labels of foods to see if they contain sulfites and avoid those foods.

Testing for Sulfite Sensitivity

Although I do not recommend this, some doctors do recommend testing by ingesting small amounts of a food that contains sulfites (as noted by the product label), and looking for signs of coughing, headaches, fatigue, or itching/reddening of the skin within one hour. Also, there is the Edmund Scientific Home Testing Kit for sulfite sensitivity. Call 856-573-6865 to order this item (it is very affordable). Another way of testing involves your doctor who orders sulfite pills from the pharmacy and you take 5 mg., 25 mg., 50 mg., and then 100 mg. of sulfite, with a 30 minute pause between doses to gauge your tolerance. After taking the challenge, one looks for coughing, headaches, fatigue, itching/reddening of skin. Another test is to measure urinary levels of sulfite after, for example, a carbocysteine challenge with 500-1000 mg. carbocysteine.

Treatment

If mercury or lead has induced protoporphyria, detoxifying those heavy metals can help. Treatment also involves avoiding sulfites, avoiding things that inhibit the protective sulfite oxidase enzyme, tracking down the cause of the sulfite oxidase inhibition and then treating that if possible. If you have sulfite sensitivity you are at increased risk of asthma and therefore addressing this issue early may save you from that unpleasant experience. In some cases, Molybdenum, B12, B6, B1 and tetrahydrofolate supplementation has helped to boost the sulfite oxidase level. In cases where the protoporphyria is inherited, this is incurable but can be compensated for by avoidance of sulfites.



The information in this article is not meant to be medical advice. Treatment for a medical condition should come at the recommendation of your personal physician.

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