By Lawrence Wilson, MD
Kelp, which can include several species of a common sea plant, is a wonderful food and food supplement in dried form if the brand is correct, and only if the brand is correct. The only brands I recommend are Nature’s Way and Solaray. (Click here for a $10 coupon at vitacost) Others may contain too much arsenic (see the references). The right brand of kelp is almost a life-saving food supplement today that I recommend for everyone. It is inexpensive, widely available, and very safe and beneficial.
Why kelp and not other sea vegetables? Kelp is not the same as bladderwrack, Irish moss,dulse, nori, hiziki, wakame and many other sea vegetables, so do not confuse them. The main difference, for therapeutic purposes, is that the brands of kelp I recommend have lower levels of toxic metals, a much higheralginate content, and perhaps contains other substances as well that appear to successfully bind the mercury and other toxic metals found in all products from the sea. This is important because eating a lot of the other sea vegetables, as with eating much fish at all, will result in mercury and arsenic toxicity, unfortunately.
PROPERTIES OF THE RIGHT BRANDS OF KELP
Kelp is beneficial in at least half a dozen ways.
1. An excellent general mineral supplement. Kelp is well known as an excellent source of most of the important trace minerals. there are few such sources anywhere on earth. Besides the well-known trace elements such as copper, zinc, manganese, chromium and others, kelp supplies many of the ultra-trace minerals such as germanium, iridium, rubidium and others of which we know much less. However, they may be very important for human health, especially today when the food and the soils have become very depleted.
Kelp versus other mineral supplements. Kelp is rich in iron, calcium, magnesium, with some zinc and selenium, but low in copper. This is quite a good blend of minerals and the main reason why we prefer kelp to other “mineral supplements”, that are sold. Most people need the extra minerals desperately, and the other mineral supplements that are available either do not contain the ultra-trace minerals or they contain many more toxic metals without containing substances to counteract or bind and remove the toxins. Examples are sea water-based minerals and land-based mineral supplements such as fulvic and humic acid supplements. Please do not use these products!
Kelp versus “green superfoods”. I prefer kelp to the other “green superfoods” that are available because kelp does not go bad because the salt in it seems to preserve it better. It is also less expensive. The only way I recommend taking green superfood is in capsules, because exposing most dried vegetables to the air causes them to break down and their value is diminished. Keeping your superfood in the refrigerator or better, the freezer, would help this problem. Many superfoods also contain products I don’t like, such asspirulina, chlorella, blue-green algae, other algae and herbs that may be somewhat toxic.
2. A source of readily available calcium. In particular, kelp contains some bioavailable calcium. This is a complex phenomenon because many foods contain calcium. However, we find that kelp, carrots, carrot juice and raw dairy contain the best forms as far as we can tell. The calcium found in pasteurized and homogenized dairy, in seeds and nuts, and in a few other foods is not as well utilized for some reason, which is not clear at this time.
3. An excellent source of bioavailable iodine. This is kelp’s best known advantage. It provides plenty of iodine, a mineral that most people need more of today due to the presence everywhere of iodine antagonists. Also, we cannot recommend much fish or any seafood, the other good sources of bioavailableiodine. Iodized salt is helpful, but is not enough in almost all cases and the iodine is not that well utilized by some people.
Some doctors prefer not to use kelp because the amount of iodine in kelp can vary greatly. This is a concern, and for this reason I recommend a standardized iodine amount of about 400 mcg per capsule, which is a common range. However, most sea products contain plenty of iodine, even if the exact quantity is not known.
Why kelp and not other iodine preparations? I prefer Kelp instead of Iodoral, Lugol’s solution,Prolamine Iodine and other iodine preparations because:
- Kelp, we find, is more effective. This may be because it is a natural food, and perhaps better utilized
- Kelp is much cheaper, especially considering that it is a “green food” supplement as well as a source of iodine.
- Kelp is safer. We find toxicity with all the other products if one stays on them for more than a few months. The body seems more able to regulate how much iodine it takes in from kelp to avoid an overdose, perhaps because it is a natural product.
Also, all single-mineral products can interfere with the absorption of other minerals. Minerals all compete for absorption to some degree. Taking a balanced food such as kelp, rather than a single mineral product, appears to be much safer for long-term use, which most people need.
NOTE: Having said all this, in a few rare cases I have found that Lugol’s solution or Iodoral was needed for a time to prevent goiter. I do not know why this is so, but it must be because the body needed this particular form of iodine. Eventually, I would think the Lugols’ solution would not be needed, as it is a little toxic.
4. An excellent general nutritional supplement. Kelp contains a wide variety of trace minerals. One hundred grams of kelp also contains 1.7 grams of protein, and vitamins A, B, C, D, E, and K. It is particularly rich in folic acid. It also contains many other phytonutrients found in plants, along with soluble fiber. It even contains some fatty acids, including a little of the omega-3 fatty acids and others.
THE MERCURY AND ARSENIC PROBLEM IN KELP
A drawback of kelp and all sea products is the presence of toxic metals, mainly mercury and perhaps arsenic. The interesting thing is that using kelp we have not found greater mercury toxicity. This is not true when one uses the other sea vegetables such as dulse, wakame, nori and others. We are researching this further to make sure that kelp is a safe product.
Confusion about the word ‘kelp’. One fact I have noted is that occasionally a bottle of so-called kelp is not really kelp, but bladderwrack or another seaweed. In these cases, we have found toxic metal problems. Safe brands of kelp, so far, only include Nature’s Way and Solaray, which are widely available in health stores and on the internet as well. Kelp should be a species of laminaria, but not laminaria digitata. A brand that may not be very good is Maine Sea Coast bulk kelp (laminaria digitata). I am not sure why this is so, but the website says it is higher in calcium, iodine and mannitol. This may alter the balance of the minerals in a negative way.
REACTIONS TO KELP
Occasionally, a person has a reaction to taking kelp. The main ones include irritability, perhaps nausea and a few cases of hair loss.
Most reactions are temporary. Most of them, I find, are due to the removal of toxic elements such as chlorine, bromine and fluorine compounds from the body. In most cases, all one has to do is reduce the dose for a while, and then work up slowly. One man reported a reaction to kelp that went away when he took zinc along with kelp.
In fact, everyone seems able to take kelp, eventually, if the person follows a nutritional balancing program. Like the product GB-3, some people must go easy at first, but everyone eventually seems able to take it.
A MORE YANG FOOD AND FOOD SUPPLEMENT
This is an interesting fact about kelp and the other sea vegetables, compared to land-grown vegetables. Kelp, in particular, is a very yang product, meaning rich in salt, exposed to a lot of sunshine, and of a more contracted, “drier” nature when the water is expelled from it. Such qualities are needed today because most food has become far more yin or expanded and cold, thanks to genetic modification and other reasons such as pesticide use.
Kelp is therefore a balancing food and this may be one reason why it seems to work so well with so few problems, in our experience.
The yang quality of kelp does, however, make it a more powerful therapeutic food, almost like an herb, and this could be one reason why it causes more reactions than eating zucchini or broccoli, for example. This may also be a factor in why the toxic metals in kelp, in particular, are not well-absorbed. This will be researched more in the future.
DOSAGES OF KELP
Adults can usually take at least three, 600 mg, kelp capsules daily, preferably with meals. When one is able to do this comfortably, most people can double this to six 600 mg capsules daily. Some people need to take even more, if they can do so comfortably for a few months, at least. That is how deficient many people are in iodine and the other minerals found in kelp.
Children may take two or three 600 mg capsules of kelp capsules daily. Younger children and babies can take one kelp capsule daily.
Amster E, Tiwary A, Schenker MB. Case Report: Potential Arsenic Toxicosis Secondary to Herbal Kelp Supplement. Environmental Health Perspectives. April 2007;115(4).
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