Kelp is an edible seaweed, of the brown algae family (Phaeophyceae) that
is extremely rich in health-promoting nutrients. It contains all of the B
vitamins, plus macro minerals and trace minerals. Kelp contains iodine, a
major component of thyroid hormone, the hormone responsible for setting the
body's metabolic rate. The fibre content of kelp, known as "alginate", has
also been shown to help slow fat absorption in the gut, thus aiding in
Kelp's mineral content also supports the brain, nerves, blood vessels, hair,
skin and nails. It can also help to protect the body from damage due to
radiation both from the sun and due to cancer therapy. Natural health
practitioners recommend kelp for a variety of conditions including:
hypothyroidism, hair loss, obesity, ulcers, constipation, radiation sickness
and poor mineral status.
Alginate and Weight Loss
There is a fibre extracted from kelp called alginate that has been used as a
thickener in a number of processed products such as: jellies, desserts,
toothpaste and even dog food. One 2010 study found that alginate from kelp
is better at slowing fat absorption than most over the counter weight loss
treatments. In this way, alginate is used much like agar before or during a
meal to increase bulk in the stomach to speed the feeling of "fullness" with
the meal, and to slow the absorption of excess fat during digestion.
Iodine & Kelp
Iodine has become so difficult to get in the diet that staple foods like
table salt are now enriched with iodine. In the case of iodized salt the
inorganic form of iodine is added. Natural, organic sources, such as those
derived from the seaweeds known as kelp and bladderwrack are much more
absorbable and easier for the thyroid gland to use that the inorganic
(mined) sources used to enrich foods.
Iodine Content and Radioactive Iodine
Kelp, rich in iodine, has the potential to protect the thyroid from taking
up radioactive iodine, in the case of nuclear disaster, as seen in Japan in
March of 2011. Radioactive iodine is strongly associated with the
development of thyroid cancer, especially in infant and children
populations. The iodine found in kelp binds with receptors on the thyroid
gland, essentially filling the receptors, making it impossible for
radioactive iodine to bind and be utilized by the gland in the making of
thyroid hormone. Excess iodine can cause thyroid dysfunction, so it is not
advised long-term, especially in children. Individuals with a hyperthyroid
condition are not advised to take Kelp or iodine.
Some cases of hypothyroidism can be attributed to lack of iodine, and this
causes a swollen thyroid (goiter). When there is insufficient iodine
available to the thyroid gland, it is not able to produce sufficient thyroid
hormone. Thus, it cannot properly regulate the body's metabolism, a
condition known as hypothyroidism. Hypothyroid individuals experience many
symptoms due to a lack of thyroid hormone including: fatigue, weight gain,
hair loss, constipation, and frequent colds and flus.
How can I get more Kelp?
Kelp can be eaten raw but it is usually found dried in sheets, or powdered
for use as a salt substitute. A liquid form can be added to drinking water.
As a supplement kelp is found in tablets. Some commercial "green food"
smoothies and "energy" drinks may contain kelp. Green food supplements are
combinations of medicinal foods and herbs, and may contain kelp. In a
supplement form, iodine is usually derived from natural seaweed sources and
is available in both liquid and capsule, or tablet, forms. The standardized
types of these supplements contain a higher level of iodine and a consistent
amount in each tablet – usually about 150mcg (0.15mg). This is the preferred
form for clinical use in low thyroid conditions, while the un-standardized
kelp is suitable for people in need of a daily supplement for health