You may have heard a lot about spirulina health benefits, but what is spirulina, and why is it so beneficial to your health?
What Is Spirulina?
Spirulina is a health supplement that is derived from two forms of cyanobacteria. It is a blue-green algae that grows in warm, fresh water. It is available as a number of different types of supplements, including pills, tablets and powders.
Spirulina Health Benefits
What are spirulina's health benefits? There are a number of reported health benefits to taking this powerful supplement.
The nutritional makeup of this supplement is responsible for a great deal of spirulina's health benefits. Included in spirulina's health profile are:
- It is 60% vegetable protein with abundant amino acids
- Vitamin A
- Vitamin K
- Thiamine (vitamin B1)
- Riboflavin (vitamin B2)
- Niacin (vitamin B3)
- Vitamin B12
- Phytonutrients that include phycocyanin, polysaccharides, sulfolipids, clorophyll, GLA (Gamma Linolenic Acid), Linoleic Acid, Caroteniods and lutien
Because spirulina is so nutritionally dense, there are a number of health benefits. These include:
- It cleanses the body of toxic chemical byproducts (dioxins) of industrial processes.
- It enhances immune function.
- It increases production of interferons and interleukins, which are part of the body's natural anti-inflammatory system. A University of Hyderabad Department of Animal Sciences, School of Life Sciences study on this effect can be found at Pub Med.
- It has been shown to reduce the incidence of brain lesions in rats with induced strokes, as evidenced in a 2005 Oregon State University Study
- A Harvard Medical School Study seems to indicate that spirulina may be effective in the inhibition of HIV.
- It may block the release of histamines released during allergic reactions.
- It is believed to have anticancer effects.'
- It is believed to help fight aging.
- It increases energy.
- It blocks viral cells from entering host cells.
- It normalizes digestive acids.
- It is low calorie, low sugar, low starch and is easily absorbed by the human body.
Cautions and Side Effects
While there are very few reported side effects of spirulina, the following cautions and side effects should be considered.
- Always check with your personal health care provider before self-prescribing any supplement.
- There have been reports of mild fever associated with spirulina intake.
- Dizziness or nausea may be present.
- Constipation has been reported.
- Gastrointestinal system upset
- Itchy skin
- The US Food and Drug Administration does not regulate herbal supplements, including spirulina.
- Headaches and muscle pains have been reported.
- Flushing may be present.
- Spirulina may cause adverse reactions in people with PKU.
- Liver damage has been reported - especially if the spirulina has been harvested in uncontrolled settings.
- The effects of spirulina on pregnant and breast feeding women are not known. Check with your doctor before taking spirulina if you are breast feeding or pregnant.
- Spirulina may react with certain blood pressure drugs, including ace inhibitors. It may also interact with drugs for diabetes, immune disorders, blood thinners and antihistimines.
- Spirulina in combination with certain weight loss, heart and cancer medications may be toxic to the kidneys.
The recommended dosage of spirulina is 5000 to 10,000 miligrams per day for healthy adults. Different delivery systems offer different dosages of spirulina, so be sure to read labels carefully.
Where to Find Spirulina
Spirulina is available at most health food stores in a variety of forms including capsules, powders, flakes and tablets. Spirulina may also be found in combination with other natural supplements and ingredients. There are a number of types of spirulina available on the Internet, as well, all with varying price points. Some Internet sources of spirulina include:
- Amazon.com has 100 500 mg capsules of GNC brand spirulina for $7.39.
- The Vitamin Shoppe has Nutrex brand spirulina - 200 500 mg tablets for just $10.94.