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Survey to explore potential link between hydrogen sulfide urine test results and Epsom salt intolerance

  [ 5 votes ]   [ Discuss This Article ]
By Rich van Konynenburg via Co-Cure listserv • • August 17, 2009

Aug 14 - I want to ask for help in testing a hypothesis. Some of you have taken the hydrogen sulfide (H2S) urine color change test, and some of you know whether or not you can tolerate Epsom salt baths.

I would like to know what the correlation is between the result of this test and whether or not a person can tolerate Epsom salt baths. (Note that some time ago, Susan Owens, the owner of the sulfurstories internet group, started a separate group about Epsom salt intolerance. We kicked this issue around a little there, but haven't reached any conclusions about what's going on in these cases. I think that this new urine test may provide some insight.)

My hypothesis is that people who test positively on the H2S test do not tolerate Epsom salt baths. The rationale is as follows:

The urine color change test gives a qualitative measure of the concentration of hydrogen sulfide in the urine. It has been suggested by Dr. de Meirleir that when the H2S level in the urine is high, it means that:

• There are bacteria in the gut that are producing large amounts of H2S,

• So much that the normal sulfide oxidase enzyme in the wall of the gut is not able to oxidize all of it and convert it to thiosulfate,

• So that it passes into the blood and is then filtered out by the kidneys and excreted in the urine.

If this is true, it must mean that there is a significant population of sulfate-reducing bacteria in the gut of a person who has a positive H2S urine test, since these are the types of bacteria that produce H2S.

Epsom salt is composed of magnesium sulfate. As far as I know, there is no pathway in the human metabolism itself that can chemically reduce sulfate, and normal, healthy people are able to tolerate Epsom salt baths and to benefit from them, as their body absorbs both some magnesium and some sulfate through the skin. Both are normally found in the body and perform important functions.

• One of the functions of magnesium is to relax the muscles.

• One of the functions of sulfate is to help the cartilage in the joints to retain water, and thus to cushion the joints.

• Epsom salt can thus help both muscle and joint pain in a normal, healthy person.

If a person is intolerant of Epsom salt baths, I think the reason is that some of the sulfate is chemically reduced to hydrogen sulfide by sulfate-reducing bacteria in the gut. Some of that is oxidized to sulfite by the human sulfur metabolism.

Both hydrogen sulfide and sulfite are toxins if they reach high enough concentrations, and they will both produce unpleasant symptoms.

So far I've heard from one person who tested positive, and three who tested negative, and all four are consistent with this hypothesis. Four is not a big number, and I would like to accumulate some more data for a preliminary test of this hypothesis.

So I would appreciate it very much if those of you who have taken this urine test, and also know whether or not you tolerate Epsom salt baths, would email the result of your urine test and whether or not you tolerate Epsom salt baths to me at

I will keep your names in confidence.

It would also be interesting to me to know what the symptoms were for those of you who did not tolerate Epsom salt baths, when you tried it. I will post the results of this survey on Co-Cure. (

The purpose is to get a better understanding of one of the mechanisms of this disorder. Gut dysbiosis is a big factor in CFS, and the more we understand about it, the better position we will be in to correct it.

Thanks very much,
Rich Van Konynenburg, PhD

[Ed note: Dr. De Meirleir has explained that the test may be positive for a person who recently took/is taking a course of antibiotics, as this would in itself disturb the gut flora.]

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