Hydrogen Sulfide Gas

As I prepare for the beginning of fall classes, I reflect upon how grateful I am to have had the last six weeks to really focus on my health and scour the internet and books for insight into my condition.  I have been doing so much research and feel like I have made substantial headway in my healing process.

One of the sources of my research was a six-hour recorded webcast by Dr. Mark Pimentel and his colleagues at Cedar-Sinai Medical Center who hosted the Global IBS Symposium (the cost is about $100, but the money goes to a good cause- IBS research).  The key piece of information that I took away from this recording was that there is a third type of gas (in addition to methane and hydrogen) produced by bacteria that they know much less about: hydrogen sulfide.

When you hear about the lactulose breath test for SIBO, the results are either that you have elevated hydrogen, elevated methane, both, or neither.  Typically, individuals with hydrogen-producing bacteria experience diarrhea, while those with methane experience constipation.  Patients with breath tests showing both gases typically alternate between constipation and diarrhea.  However, my test results and symptoms do not match up with this trend.  My lactulose breath test showed high levels of hydrogen and ZERO methane and I only experience constipation, not diarrhea.  One of my doctors suspected that this could be the result of the breath test not being sensitive enough to pick up low levels of methane that were still causing problems.  However, we have now pretty much ruled out this theory out.  I took Allimed herbal antibiotic (in combination with Neem Plus herbal antibiotic) which is supposed to help with methane, but experienced no relief at all.

Hydrogen sulfide fits like a perfectly-shaped missing puzzle piece in my SIBO puzzle.  Here’s why:

  1. Hydrogen sulfide gas produces the characteristic “rotten egg” smell of “silent, but deadly” flatulence.  I experience increased amounts of this when eating high-sulfur (free thiol) foods such as eggs and broccoli.  See a full list here.  Additionally, the foods that came up on my IGG/IGA allergy test last year almost all fall under this category (the exceptions are blueberries & cranberries): eggs, green beans, sesame seeds, coffee beans, and kidney beans.  I used to think that these were such random allergies, but it appears they are not random at all.
  2. Hydrogen sulfide gas appears to be linked with CFS (chronic fatigue syndrome) and Fibromyalgia.  I have been suspicious about whether my onset of fatigue in May was a result of CFS.  Also, although I do not have full-fledged fibromyalgia, I do have severe muscle pain in my scapula which is one of the fibromyalgia trigger points.  I also have a lot of muscle tightness in my hips and buttocks.  My scapula muscle pain/tension began around the same time that my digestive symptoms got really bad.  My grandmother (who has suffered from digestive issues much of her life) believes that she suffers from fibromyalgia.
  3. According to Dr. Pimentel and his team, nearly all cases of SIBO/IBS are caused by acute gastroenteritis.  I ordered my medical records from all of my visits to the emergency room and learned that while I did have acute gastroenteritis in 2008, many of my symptoms actually began well before that incident and therefore it was unlikely the root cause of my gut dysbiosis (however, each subsequent case of acute gastroenteritis can worsen symptoms and cause further dysbiosis).
  4. I had colic as a baby, which is said to indicate digestive distress.  Gut flora is passed from mother to child and digestive issues stem back along my matriarchal heritage as far as I can trace them.  Therefore, my microbiome was primed for disaster as soon as I came out of the womb.  Add in all the sugar I ate, antibiotics I was prescribed, NSAIDS I used for headaches and migraines, and contraceptive pills that were handed out like candy and my gut is probably chalked full of pathogenic critters.  My extreme gut dysbiosis would also explain why I got staphylococcus aureus toxic shock syndrome in 2008 even though I was vigilantly responsible and never broke any of the tampon rules that cause you to get the very rare, life-threatening condition.
  5. The only medication on my medical charts that it says I am allergic to is “sulfa drugs”.
  6. My maternal grandmother is extremely sensitive to mercury.  While I do not completely understand how hydrogen sulfide gas forms in the body and creates issues, I have learned that it creates a heavy metal toxicity that is believed to be the cause of conditions such as fibromyalgia and CFS.  This is as a result of improper methylation processes.
  7. Excessive hydrogen sulfide in the gut damages the gut wall and leads to leaky gut/ intestinal permeability.

So, what am I going to do about this new discovery?

  • Follow a low sulfur (in addition to low FODMAP, AIP) diet for 10 days while taking molybdenum (to help clear sulfur pathways).  If this helps my symptoms, it should be a pretty clear indication of my sulfur intolerance.  I’m not sure what the protocol will be from there.

**UPDATE: I only lasted 4 days low sulfur, low FODMAP, AIP and I took molybdenum for two of those days (150 mcg three times per day with food).  A couple of days later, I no longer got super itchy when eating grains and other items that previously made me itch.  I have been on a successful bout of food reintroduction for three weeks.  Coincidence?  I doubt it.  I also got a nutrient IV around this same time, but I have gotten those before without my itching improving.  One of my doctors suggested that it could be a combination of factors relating to an immune system boost.

  • I already had blood work testing done for MTHFR.  The results should be out in about a week.

**UPDATE: I tested negative for the C677T mutation in the MTHFR gene.  I tested positive for the A1298C mutation, but my doctor said that one really isn’t all that detrimental or important.

  • I plan to do 23andme.com gene mutation testing.  It appears that a certain gene mutation creates difficulties with the methylation cycle.  It would make a lot of sense considering my family history of related issues.  My doctor will be interpreting the results for me.
  • I will never stop trying to figure out what is going on and improve my situation!

72 thoughts on “Hydrogen Sulfide Gas

  1. Your symptoms are similar to mine. The only thing that will help is removing heavy metals through chelation. I am using the Cutler method as it is safer. I know that I will never heal my gut until I get the mercury out.

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    • Hi Kathryn, I attempted Dr. Cutler’s protocol a few years ago, but it was just too disruptive to my sleep to get up every few hours and was causing nutrient deficiencies, so I decided to discontinue. My gut has healed greatly since that time through other methods.

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  2. Do you know If betain hcl is contraindicated for those with sulphur issues? There is talk that it is just trying to get to the bottom of why. Thanks! Dave

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  3. Hi Riley, great site! Just wondering what your thoughts on taking betain hcl with sulphur metabolism issues? Apparently it is an enzyme which converts cysteine to methionine so is contraindicated for those with sulphur issues. This seems to be the case for me just wondering what your thoughts are? Thanks! Dave

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    • Hi Dave,

      Interesting! That is news to me. I can’t say it ever had particularly negative or positive effects for me. Maybe slight positive, but I tried it after my sulfur issues resolved.

      One thought I have is that if the root issue was low stomach acid and that deficit in the digestive cascade was causing downstream effects of overgrowth of sulfur bacteria, then I would think that betaine HCl could actually be helpful.

      Theories can be helpful, but they can also stop people from trying things that may be a miracle for them! I am an advocate of trying things as the only way of truly knowing what is right for your body.

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  4. Hi! I am an overall healthy individual, but my only problem is with the same gut issues that you were struggling with when you wrote this article. I’m very young and I’ve already taken three rounds of antibiotics, which I can somewhat blame for my issues. I think that I have hydrogen sulfide SIBO, and I can’t seem to get rid of it. I’ve tried no carb, which got rid of symptoms, but isn’t long term. I am currently using oregano oil and peppermint, along with a low-fodmap diet, but nothing is working. Also taking probiotics. I believe it can be cured, as it’s just an overgrowth of a certain type of bacteria. I’m wondering, did you ever end up curing all of your symptoms (gas, etc.) that came along with this? If so, please share how!

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    • It can definitely be frustrating struggling with these issues! I think the concept seems so simple, but I have learned over the past several years that it is much more complex than just killing bacteria- because usually there is a reason they are overgrowing. And addressing the WHY is what helps reach long-term healing. It’s much easier said than done. I still have to eat low FODMAP or take antimicrobials or strong probiotics at times, but for the most part I eat what I would consider a pretty flexible diet and have very minor symptoms. I am in a much better place than I was at the time of writing this post. It’s hard to even know where to begin with what worked for me because I have done so much! If you are interested, I have a “10 Step Guide to Healing SIBO” document that gets automatically emailed if you sign up for my newsletter- it might be a good place to start!

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    • If no or low carb helped I suggest you consider Fast Tract Digestion by Norman Robillard who came up with this clever and well founded concept of adding certain carbs back into low carb diets so that they can be followed long term.

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      • Hi Andreas, thanks for suggesting the Fast Tract Diet for Ella. I agree that it is important to add back in carbohydrates for long-term success- there can be many ways to go about that. Fast Tract Diet certainly works for some people. Personally, it did not help me (probably in part because I am highly sensitive to fructose), but everyone is different. I’m glad you have found it to be helpful!

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      • Hi Riley, Fast Tract Digestion (FTD), if followed correctly — that is according to Robillard’s
        book, excludes whatever one is sensitive to. FTD is not a diet that says this is OK and that is forbidden. It’s not easy to follow, it seems. Professional guidance might be beneficial for some. You should consider providing one 🙂

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      • Hi Andreas,

        Ahh, yes, it has been a while since I read his book- since I had already determined my food triggers when coming across his diet, I just found that it did not match what worked for me. There are so many different diets out there and each one is quite detailed, I find I am able to be most helpful to my clients when I focus on a narrow range and really understand the ins and outs. For me, that’s primarily the low FODMAP diet, but I also have an awareness of SCD, SIBO diets, histamine, sulfur, and several others. Since FTD is quite similar to FODMAP in terms of the premise behind it, it gets very confusing to try to work with both at the same time. So I have stuck with FODMAP due to the greater amount of research that has and is currently being conducted as well as my personal experience. Definitely not implying that FTD doesn’t work, but just that if someone wants to try it, I refer them out to someone who really works with it day-to-day and can give the finer details.

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  5. Hi. I too had A Hydrogen dominant breath test results, yet I had constipation. My last breath test showed ‘flatline’ which my GI doc said could be Hydrogen Sulfide. He has an antibiotic he has had success with plus peptomisbal (for diarrhea so not sure how I’ll do on it, but it somehow interacts with the HS). Have you heard about this treatment?

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    • Hi Carrie,

      Yes, I believe you are referring to Bismuth as a treatment for hydrogen sulfide. What I have heard is that if it turns your stools black, that indicates the bismuth has come into contact with hydrogen sulfide. I have not personally taken it since I did not hear about this treatment until after my sulfur issues resolved.

      Riley

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  6. Hi! Did you have any amalgam fillings while taking molybdenum? Right now I’m under the impression you should avoid any chelation if you still have some – would you say that’s true?

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    • Great question! I did not have any amalgam fillings when I took molybdenum. I only had amalgams very briefly during elementary school. It is also my understanding that chelation while you have amalgams is unsafe. However, I am not aware of molybdenum being a chelating agent.

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