Spirulina (Arthrospira platensis and Arthrospira maxima.) is a cyanobacterium consumed as feed by some animals (in poultry, aquarium and aquaculture industries) and as a dietary supplement as well as a whole food by humans.
Spirulina vs. Chlorella — Similarities and Differences:
Chlorella is another form of algae that is sometimes confused with spirulina. The fundamental difference between spirulina and chlorella is that spirulina is many thousands of years older and does not possess the hard cell wall that makes chlorella closer to being a plant than algae.
Spirulina is not an herb but a natural “algae” (specifically, blue-green algae, a cyanobacteria), an aquatic micro-vegetable organism which contains beta carotene (carotenoids), 65 to 71 percent protein, vitamin B-12, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, GLA (Gamma-linolenic acid) and other essential nutrients. It can help regulate insulin and blood sugar, improve immune system, suppress appetite, promote weight loss and increase mental capacity. It is the most naturally and one of the cleanest sterile foods nature has to offer which can retain its nutritional value even when processed and stored in a high temperature.
According to a study done by the Department of Aquataculture in Taiwan,4spirulina shows significant immune-boosting properties. Researchers exposed white shrimp to seawater containing a hot-water extract of spirulina before transferring them to seawater with a pH level of 6.8. The control group was not exposed to spirulina. The shrimp exposed to the spirulina seawater showed a faster and more promising recovery rate to the high levels of pH than those not given the dose of spirulina first.
Because it is made up of protein and essential amino acids, it is typically recommend it to individuals who decide to remain vegetarian for its high natural iron content. The high concentration of protein and iron also makes it ideal during pregnancy, after surgery, or anytime the immune system needs a boost. They are also used for weight loss, attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), hay fever, diabetes, stress, fatigue, anxiety, depression, and premenstrual syndrome(PMS) and other women’s health issues. Some people use spirulina for treating precancerous growths inside the mouth, boosting the immune system, improving memory, increasing energy and metabolism, lowering cholesterol, preventing heart disease, healing wounds, and improving digestion and bowel health.
Blue-green algae are commonly found in tropical or subtropical waters that have a high-salt content, but some types grow in large fresh water lakes. The natural color of these algae can give bodies of water a dark-green appearance. The altitude, temperature, and sun exposure where the blue-green algae are grown dramatically influence the types and mix of blue-green algae in the water. Blue-green algae are being researched for their potential effects on the immune system, swelling (inflammation), and viral infections.
Its immune-system boosting power can help reduce the risks of the following diseases:
Spirulina is concentrated nutrient value, easily digested and loaded with antioxidants. Beta carotene is good for healthy eyes and vision. Spirulina beta carotene is ten times more concentrated than carrots.
Iron is essential to build a strong system, yet is the most common mineral deficiency. Spirulina is rich in iron, magnesium and trace minerals, and is easier to absorb than iron supplements.
Spirulina is the highest source of B-12, essential for healthy nerves and tissue, especially for vegetarians. Having said that, there does seem to be lots of evidence that the Vit B12 is in a slightly different form than that which can easily be absorbed by Humans, so it is debatable how much good this B12 will do you. It seems to be only the B12 there is this absorption issue with though, and the rest of the nutrients do seem to be bio-actively available to the body.
If you have an autoimmune disease such as Crohn’s disease, chronic fatigue syndrome, Lupus or fibromyalgia, chronic candida yeast can both cause and worsen your symptoms. Spirulina has been shown to encourage and support the growth of healthy bacterial flora in your gut,5 which can help keep candida overgrowth under control.
HIV and AIDS
Nothing to Sneeze At
If you suffer from seasonal or perennial allergies, you’re not alone. Millions of people are allergic to pollen, ragweed, dust, mold, pet dander, and a myriad other environmental contaminants, ensuring the makers of Kleenex will always stay in business.
Unfortunately, many people who have allergic rhinitis treat it with prescription and over-the-counter (OTC) drugs that often do more harm than good. Antihistamines are designed to suppress your immune system, which leads to decreased resistance to disease and dependence on the drug. Certain asthma drugs have been linked to serious side effects as well.
This is where natural methods such as the use of spirulina come in. According to one study,6 patients treated with spirulina reported relief of symptoms commonly associated with allergic rhinitis, such as nasal discharge and congestion, sneezing and itching, when given spirulina.
Balances Blood Pressure
High blood pressure (hypertension) is a serious health concern that affects millions of Americans today. If you have high blood pressure, you are at increased risk of dying from a heart attack or stroke.
The good news is, following a healthy nutritional plan, getting adequate exercise and applying stress modification techniques such as the Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) can help normalize blood pressure and get you back on track to optimal health. According to a study done by the Department of Biochemistry in Mexico,7 4.5 grams of spirulina given each day was shown to regulate blood pressure among both women and men ages 18-65 years with no other dietary changes made during the six weeks the experiment was run.
Get more information about high blood pressure and how to normalize it without resorting to potentially dangerous drugs.
Help to Normalize Cholesterol Naturally
Are you on a cholesterol medication? Tens of millions of people take cholesterol-lowering medications every day and, according to “experts,” millions more should be taking them, including children! If you are skeptical about this recommendation please see this page, which contains a list of articles addressing the dangers of statin drugs.
Statin drugs are responsible for a host of unwanted and dangerous side effects including:
Pancreas or liver dysfunction (including a potential increase in liver enzymes)
Increased cancer risk
Cholesterol-lowering medications have also been linked to severe muscle problems such as polyneuropathy (nerve damage in the hands and feet) and rhabdomyolysis (a serious degenerative muscle tissue condition). There is even evidence to suggest that taking statins can increase your risk of developing Lou Gehrig’s disease.
Thankfully, there are natural ways to lower your cholesterol. Avoiding fructose and grains, and getting appropriate exercise top the list, but spirulina may also help. According to a study done on elderly male and female patients ages 60-87,8 those given eight grams of spirulina per day for 16 consecutive weeks showed lower cholesterol levels than those who were given a placebo.
Lowers Stroke Risk
Those with sickle-cell anemia or congenital heart defects are at greater risk for a condition called brain ischemia or cerebral ischemia. Brain ischemia refers to a lack of blood flow to your brain, which causes oxygen deprivation and can lead to a stroke. Just 10 seconds of interrupted blood flow to your brain can cause unconsciousness and lead to serious health consequences.
In a study done at the Institute of Pharmaceutical Technology in India,9 it was found that a dosage of 180mg/kg of spirulina had a protective effect on the brain and nervous system of rats exposed to high amounts of free radicals, compared to rats not given the spirulina before the experiment. This lab test shows the promising effect of spirulina on stroke prevention.
Helps Reduce Cancer Risk
Cancer is the leading killer of adult Americans under age 70 and in the case of this frightening disease, prevention is worth much more than a pound of cure. It could literally save your life.
My first recommendation in cutting your cancer risk is to eliminate sugar/fructose, grains, and processed foods from your diet. Additives such as fructose feed cancer cells and help them to thrive. I also recommend healthy sun exposure, which will boost your levels of natural vitamin D and help cut your cancer risk by half!
But spirulina may have potential benefits here as well. According to a study done in China,10 selenium-infused spirulina inhibited the growth of MCF-7 breast cancer cells.
Healthy for Vegetarians — More Protein than Red Meat
When you think of protein, you probably imagine sitting down to a meal of organic eggs or grass-fed beef or maybe even drinking a whey protein shake.
If you’re a vegetarian, you may turn to plant-protein sources such as nuts, beans, lentils, and soy products. Unfortunately, soy is not the health food it claims to be. None of the above-mentioned sources of protein compare to the protein punch delivered by spirulina. Spirulina is 65-71 percent complete protein compared to beef, which is only 22 percent, and lentils, which is only 26 percent.11
The Disease Fighter
As well as beta carotene, Spirulina contains other nutrients such as iron, manganese, zinc, copper, selenium, and chromium. These nutrients help fight free radicals, cell-damaging molecules absorbed by the body through pollution, poor diet, injury, or stress. By removing free radicals, the nutrients help the immune system fight cancer and cellular degeneration. In some findings, spirulina has helped reduce oral cancer tumors in laboratory rats, and may thus provide a big medical breakthrough in cancer treatment.
Spirulina’s ability to reduce the bad cholesterol LDL in the body helps prevent the onset of cardiovascular diseases, such as hardening of the arteries and strokes. It also helps lower blood pressure. While not clinically proven, spirulina may also protect against allergic reactions and liver infection.
Research confirms Spirulina promotes digestion and bowel function. It suppresses bad bacteria like e-coli and Candida yeast and stimulates beneficial flora like lactobacillus and bifidobacteria. Healthy flora is the foundation of good health and it increases absorption of nutrients from the foods we eat, and helps protect against infection. Spirulina builds healthy lactobacillus, aiding assimilation and elimination and relieving constipation.
Antioxidant — Toxins Removal
In 1994, a Russian Patent was awarded for spirulina as a medical food to reduce allergic reactions from radiation sickness. 270 Children of Chernobyl consuming 5 grams a day for 45 days (donated by Earthrise Farms), lowered radionucleides by 50%, and normalized allergic sensitivities. Today we are subject to an onslaught of toxic chemicals in our air, water, food and drugs. Our bodies need to continually eliminate these accumulated toxins. Spirulina has a completely unique combination of phytonutrients – including chlorophyll, phycocyanin and polysaccharides, that can help cleanse our bodies.
How to Take Spirulina
Spirulina is now commercially available in tablet or powder form. Some health tonics contain spirulina as part of their ingredients. A simple daily regimen for spirulina involves taking a 500 mg tablet four to six times daily.
Sources for these forms of spirulina are normally laboratory-grown. Harvesting spirulina from more natural settings has posed a challenge because of possible contamination from toxic substances that cannot be removed from the product. Hopefully, more eco-friendly and safer ways to cultivate the algae can eventually be developed and perfected.
Optimal Spirulina — Types and Dosing
There are many types of spirulina out there so it is important to do your homework before making a purchase. Since spirulina grown in an uncontrolled environment has the potential to become contaminated with heavy metals and other toxins,12 it is important to choose organic spirulina from a reputable source.
Spirulina comes in capsules, tablets, powders and flakes. The recommended daily dose is typically betweeen three to five grams. You can spread the dose out to twice or three times a day if you like. It is safe to take higher doses, but this is a good place to start. Remember to increase your intake of spring or filtered water when taking spirulina to help it absorb into your system.
An Important Note on Dosing
In addition to being your powerhouse of essential vitamins and minerals, spirulina is a potent detoxifier. For that reason, it is best to start with a small dose and work your way up. Once you see how your body responds, you can then gradually increase your intake.
Potential Adverse Reactions
Spirulina is a safe source of protein, nutrients, vitamins, and minerals that has been used for centuries. Though there are no known side effects associated with spirulina, your body may react to it based on your current state of health. Let’s take a look at some of those reactions,13 what they mean, and what you can do to alleviate them.
The most prominent reactions you may experience are:
Slight Fever — The high protein content in spirulina increases metabolism, which may elevate body temperature.
Dark Green Waste Matter — Spirulina can remove accumulated waste product in your colon, which may cause darker stool. Also, spirulina is high in chlorophyll. This will also turn waste matter green.
Excessive Passing of Gas — This may indicate that your digestive system is not functioning properly or you have an extreme build-up of gas.
Feelings of Excitement — Your body is converting protein into heat energy, which may cause temporary feelings of restlessness.
Breakouts and Itchy Skin — This is caused by colon cleansing process and is only temporary.
Sleepiness — This is caused by the detoxification process and may indicate your body is exhausted and needs better rest.
Remember, your body may go through an adjustment period with spirulina, and your best bet to reduce reaction is to dose gradually to see how your body will react. Increase your water intake, reduce your stress levels, eat according to your nutritional type, and get plenty of rest.
Important Contraindications for Spirulina
Even though spirulina is entirely natural and generally considered a healthful food, there are some contraindications you need to be aware of. You should not take spirulina if you have a severe seafood or iodine allergy.14 And, if you are pregnant or nursing or have hyperthyroidism, consult your healthcare provider before taking spirulina.
As you can see, spirulina can serve as a potent “super food.” Just remember to do your research and arm yourself with knowledge. It is the best way to take control of your health! Spirulina can be contaminated with toxic substances called microcystins. It can also absorb heavy metals from the water where it is grown. For these reasons, it is important to buy spirulina from a trusted brand.