Kelp grows in the ocean and belongs to the seaweed family. There are around 30 different varieties of kelp and the entire plant is dried and used for various purposes. It is a popular dietary supplement having a large iodine concentration which benefits various thyroid problems and helps control metabolism. Kelp supplements are also said to possess cancer fighting properties, strengthens circulatory system, provides strong teeth and bones and reduces risk of heart diseases and strokes.
Ocean waters which are free of pollution are rich in nutrients and these find their way into seaweeds like kelp. Hence kelp contains over 21 amino acids, over 70 minerals, enzymes, iodine, trace elements, magnesium, calcium, potassium and iron. It also contains vitamins B1, B12 and B2 and polysaccharides. Other vitamins and minerals found in kelp include bromine and vitamin C. It is a natural blood thinner and this benefits those with high blood pressure. It is considered a natural antibiotic and helps fight infections, bad bacteria and promotes glandular health.
Kelp can even be used to treat burns, aging skin, insect bites and other skin diseases. Kelp is considered to be a cook’s god send for it can be used in various ways. Kelp noodles can be used like spaghetti, kelp flakes can be used as garnishing on casseroles, stir-fries, soups and salads, and it can replace salt. Those who prefer not to use kelp as an ingredient can take it in capsule form.
Side effects of Kelp
There are really very few side effects caused by sea kelp.
Excess iodine: The most common side effect caused by kelp is an overdose of iodine. Anyone who takes excess kelp could suffer from hypothyroidism which causes an over production of the thyroid hormone. This will result in side effects like weight loss, failed menstrual period, fatigue and increased bowel movements.
Laxative: Kelp contains laxative properties. Hence, an excess intake can cause side effects like diarrhea, heartburn and dehydration. Replace fluids at once to avoid getting dehydrated. Consult your doctor if the symptoms are severe.
Anti-coagulant: Kelp can slow blood clotting and possesses anti-coagulant properties. This can increase bleeding in the gums and urinary tract even in case of a minor injury or trauma. Kelp could also interfere with blood clotting and cause excess bleeding during a surgery or after.
Allergic reactions: Kelp supplements and other kelp products will vary in their nutrient strength depending on the area where they are harvested. Hence, an excess of any one ingredient can cause allergic reactions like hives, quickened heart beat, swollen lips, and difficulty in breathing and itchy body. Stop using kelp at once if you experience such reactions and go to an emergency room at once. Allergic reactions to iodine can also occur if you require an injection of dye used for X-rays of various organs. You can also suffer from signs of environmental allergens like runny nose and excessive sneezing.
Contamination: Some side effects can occur if the right brand of kelp is not taken. Some kelp products could be contaminated by toxins like mercury and arsenic found in many oceans. When such kelp products are consumed, especially in excess, it could result in symptoms of arsenic poisoning. This includes hair loss, drowsiness, memory loss, headaches and confusion. If you do experience any of these symptoms, stop taking kelp and consult your doctor immediately.
Like any other herbal supplement, always exercise caution when using kelp supplements. Kelp cannot be taken continuously. Give a break of 2 weeks after taking it for 2 weeks. This prevents an overdose of iodine which can lead to an imbalance in the functioning of the thyroid gland.
Prolonged dietary intake of iodine can cause thyroid cancer and goiter. Always consult your doctor when you have any thyroid problem and wish to take kelp. There is a possibility of contamination of heavy metals like arsenic and mercury which are found in the oceans. Hence, try to use kelp products harvested off the seas of North West United States, Canada, Hawaii and Iceland. Pregnant and breastfeeding women are advised not to use any herbal supplements which includes kelp. Kelp could cause infertility, so women of child-bearing age must exercise caution when using kelp products.
Those who suffer from iodine allergies must avoid any seaweed product, including kelp. Do not use kelp 2 weeks before and after any scheduled surgery for it could interfere with blood clotting. Be cautious about combining kelp with anti-thyroid, anti-platelet and anti-coagulant drugs. Iodine-rich supplements like kelp must not be taken if you are already on any medication which contains lithium. Anyone with existing lung or respiratory problems must check before taking kelp.
The right dosage of kelp depends on the age and overall health condition of each individual.
Source: nlm.nih.gov, internet research