Kelp is a type of seaweed that has a myriad of medicinal benefits. It is very healthy to consume, containing plenty of vitamins and minerals, especially iodine and B vitamins. Iodine is an ion that is necessary to create thyroid hormones. Without sufficient iodine, thyroid diseases develop and wreck havoc on the body’s metabolism. Iodine is also necessary to make female hormones, and assists in immune system function. The ion has also been shown to fight against the problems caused by radiation. B vitamins are used for breaking down food molecules during digestion and for producing energy within the cells. The plant also contains a variety of amino acids, which makes it a great option for vegetarians and vegans because amino acids are generally obtained via meat consumption. Kelp comes dried, in powder, in capsules and tablets, and in quite a few other forms. It can be purchased online or in health stores.
Kelp grows in cold water in clumps, referred to as kelp forests. The water that kelp tends to grow in is quite shallow, and thus plenty of sunlight can reach the plants. More shallow water tends to have more current, so the plants are also exposed to more minerals and nutrients in the water. These properties help the kelp to develop into a highly nutritious and healthy food. This plant is healthy for anybody to consume, including small children and pregnant women, as long as you take care to only ingest the proper dosage. Kelp can be found in its natural seaweed form, but is most often found as a supplement, and high doses of any supplement can be harmful. If you have any plant allergies, be sure to use caution when introducing kelp into your diet. Getting an allergy test at the doctor’s office is one option. If you don’t want to do that, introduce the kelp very slowly to make sure that you don’t have an allergic reaction.
Benefits of Kelp
- Regulates thyroid function (metabolism regulation)
- Enhances energy levels
- Provides hydration
- Has anti-cancer properties
- Reduces inflammation
- The high antioxidant content of kelp is great for fighting against oxygen free radicals, which cause diseases like cancer, as well as the symptoms of aging.
- Kelp contains various B vitamins as well as vitamins A, C, D, and E. It also contains many trace ions and minerals, including iodine, iron, potassium, zinc, sodium, calcium, copper, magnesium, etc. All of these are necessary in small amounts for proper cell functioning and are great for overall health.
- Kelp contains 16 amino acids, which are what your cells use to create proteins. Amino acids are also prominent in red meat, but kelp is much healthier!
- Kelp contains 10 times more calcium than milk, and is not infused with hormones and preservatives like milk is.
Effects on Health Conditions
- Those with thyroid conditions should consume kelp regularly, as the high iodine concentration helps regulate the thyroid naturally. This is often used to supplement traditional medication, but if your symptoms are only mild, increasing iodine in your diet may resolve them altogether.
- If you are overweight and suffer from hypothyroidism, increasing iodine intake will help jump start your thyroid and speed up your metabolism, which often leads to weight loss.
- Even if you are not diagnosed with a thyroid disease but seem to have a slow metabolism, trying kelp will supplement the iodine in your diet and may increase your thyroid function. Studies show that 15% of women are lacking iodine in their diets, which may contribute directly to being overweight.
- Those with certain lymphomas may be in luck. Kelp has been shown to induce cell death in these cancer cells. Studies show that in areas where kelp consumption is high, such as Japan, there are lower rates of certain cancers, including breast and ovarian cancers. Kelp supplements are also associated with decreased rates of colon and endometrial cancers.
- It has been shown that kelp may improve mental function in certain neurodegenerative disorders (these are diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s). Similarly, it tends to improve the slight mental decline associate with old age. It can also decrease the physical symptoms of aging, which are often associated with free radicals.
- Eating kelp can help reduce the chance of skin cancer developing as a result of sun exposure.
- Kelp can help with heart disease
Possible Side Effects
- Allergies prevent some people from consuming kelp, and are often associated with allergies to other plants that grow underwater. If you experience rashes or cold-like symptoms after eating kelp, you may be allergic.
- Ingesting too much kelp supplement can lead to hyperthyroidism, vitamin absorption complications, and reduced fertility. As long as you take the recommended dosage, these issues will not occur. Kelp is very safe as long as it is not overused.
- One common concern with kelp is arsenic poisoning. This only occurs with extended periods of over-usage. Kelp may contain tiny amounts of this pollutant from when it was growing in the water, but this will not harm you in the proper amounts.
- Kelp supplements often contain high levels of potassium. Talk to a doctor before beginning to take kelp supplements if you are taking any medications that may also increase potassium levels, including ACE inhibitors, which treat high blood pressure.
- If you currently take a multivitamin, or eat a diet high in potassium, be careful to change your current vitamin intake so that you are not taking too much potassium or other vitamins.
- Some diuretics (“water pills”) increase potassium levels in the body. Check the ingredients of any medications you are taking to ensure that you will not overdose on anything, or preferably ask your doctor.
Side effects from kelp consumption are rare and easily avoided. The only ill effects that it may cause are due to allergies and overdosing. The recommended dose per day is 15 milligrams of kelp, and ingesting too much will produce uncomfortable side effects. These include rashes, cold symptoms, and a bitter or unpleasant taste in your mouth. You can purchase supplements that are pills with the proper dosage to ensure that you don’t take too much. If you are at risk for an allergic reaction, be sure to introduce the kelp slowly. This way, if you do have a reaction, it will likely be minor in comparison to if you ingested a full dose. A safer alternative is to get allergy tested at an Allergist/Immunologist’s office. Before you start taking kelp supplements, acknowledge that these supplements contain a lot of potassium and iodine, among other things. You should consider eliminating or reducing your current multivitamin, if applicable. One method is to take your regular multivitamin one day, then your kelp supplement the next day, and repeat.
Due to kelp’s cancer fighting properties and high concentration of many necessary vitamins, minerals, amino acids, and antioxidants, it is a great power food to eat regularly- or to take supplements of, if eating seaweed isn’t your thing. There is plenty of data out there to support the various benefits of kelp, and almost no chance of harmful effects occurring. Even the symptoms of an overdose are mild, assuming that it is not a continuous overdose over a longer period of time. If you are a female with a family history of breast, cervical, or endometrial cancer, kelp is likely to reduce your risk of developing the disease yourself. Taking a chance with a safe method of prevention that will not harm you is better than finding yourself having to undergo the dreaded chemotherapy. Make sure to ask your doctor or pharmacist if kelp supplements will be safe for you if you are taking any other drugs or vitamins.