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Sensitivity To Sulfites
For some, the more frequently they drink, the more liquor they tolerate. Others could either never hold their liquor or have watched their tolerance slowly wane over the years. Some are so affected by alcohol that even a glass or even a sip of red wine would do them in.
This sensitivity to alcohol is sometimes due to a deficiency in the liver enzymes that help break it down. Sulfite oxidase is an enzyme that converts sulfites, which can be toxic, to harmless sulfates.
Sulfites are everywhere, commonly found in beer, wine, liquor, soft drinks and air pollution (sulfur dioxide). They are often used as preservatives in meat, fish, salad bar items, dehydrated fruits and vegetables, as well as pickled foods, vinegars, food colorings and flavorings. (1)
As a result, many become chemically and environmentally sensitive without understanding why.
Sensitivities to sulfites are common, and there are many co-factors that support the efficiency of the sulfite oxidase enzyme. One of the most important is a mineral called molybdenum. While deficiencies in this mineral are rare, I have had success in using this mineral, either as a supplement or by increasing molybdenum-rich foods.
While the science here is scarce, journals do report anecdotal evidence suggesting that molybdenum supplementation may alleviate symptoms of sulfite sensitivities. (1) An example symptom is a “red-wine stuffy nose.” This can occur after just one glass.
Other symptoms can include:
- A flushed face or neck (1)
- Environmental chemical sensitivities (4)
- Mild swelling of the eyes, hands and feet
- Mild itching
- Mild nausea
- Loose stools
The exact cause of sulfite sensitivity is not known, but early studies found that many patients presenting with these symptoms had virtually no detectable blood molybdenum. Normal values are from 10-100 ppb. (1-3)
In addition to molybdenum being a co-factor for the ample production of the sulfite oxidase enzyme, it is also a co-factor for the production of xanthine oxidase, which efficiently breaks down proteins, and aldehyde oxidase and aldehyde dehydrogenase, which are key to the breakdown and detoxification of alcohol. (1,5)
Boosting Healthy Molybdenum Levels
The best way to ensure you are meeting your molybdenum requirements is to include beans in your diet daily. They are not only a high source of fiber, they are one of the highest molybdenum-rich food groups. In particular, mung beans come in second place after soybeans, which I suggest limiting the consumption of. (6)
According to Ayurveda, split yellow mung beans are the easiest to digest of all beans and have certain anti-gas or anti-flatulence factors. (7) Traditionally, the yellow mung beans were split by hand in order to remove the husk, combined with hand de-husked long-grain rice, and cooked with digestion-boosting spices like ginger, cumin, coriander, fennel and cardamom.
This combination makes what is today known as the Ayurvedic superfood, kitchari. In certain parts of India, kitchari is still used today as a first food for babies as well as nourishment for the weak and elderly.
- Soybeans (I suggest limiting these)
- Mung beans, lentils
- All beans, legumes
- Walnuts and almonds
Molybdenum Foods Can Be Hard to Digest
The highest molybdenum foods are also high in phytic acids. Phytic acids are anti-nutrients that protect grains, nuts, seeds and beans from bacteria while lying dormant through the winter before they sprout in the spring.
I find that many people have difficulty digesting these foods, and this may be the link to inadequate absorption and under-utilization of molybdenum. I wrote the book, Eat Wheat, to specifically help those who cannot tolerate hard-to-digest, phytic acid-rich foods (like wheat, grains, beans, nuts and seeds) re-boot their digestive strength. Solely removing these foods from the diet may be causing insidious deficiencies – as I am describing here with regards to molybdenum.
Molybdenum Foods that are Low in Phytic Acid (6,8)
These foods are lower in phytic acid, which makes them easier for some to digest.
- Cow Liver
- Chicken Liver
- Green beans
- Romaine lettuce
Note: Supplemental molybdenum can be purchased at most health food stores. I suggest taking it for one month at a dose of 50mcg a day, never taking more than 300mcg in one day.