THE BENEFITS OF KELP
by Lawrence Wilson, MD
Ó March 2013, The Center For Development
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 right brand of kelp is almost a life-saving food supplement today that I recommend for everyone. It is inexpensive, widely available, safe and beneficial. Adverse reactions to kelp are rare, and it can be taken with hypothyroid conditions. One must reduce it in some cases if one has Grave’s disease or hyperthyroidism.
The brand of kelp matters. The only brands of kelp capsules I recommend are Nature’s Way, Solaray, Country Life, Now, Ecological Formulas, Vitamin Shoppe and Solgar. Also, if one wants to use kelp granules, Frontier Herbs and Monterrey Bay Herb Company kelp granules are fine. Other brands may not work well, in my experience, and can be toxic.
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. I do not like “Icelandic kelp” as much, either.
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 higher alginate 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 four ways.
1. An excellent all-around 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 one of the main reasons why I prefer kelp to other “mineral supplements”. Most people need the extra minerals desperately. Please do not take most mineral supplements such as E-lytes, electrolytes, sea minerals, fulvic and humic minerals, and others. All of these have one or more of the following problems:
1. They do not contain the ultra-trace minerals.
2. They contain the wrong balance of minerals.
3. They contain more toxic metals without containing substances to counteract or bind and remove the toxic minerals.
Kelp versus “green superfoods”. I prefer kelp to the other “green superfoods” because:
1. Kelp is much more yang. This is quite important, although it is a somewhat esoteric difference.
2. Kelp does not lose its potency. Its higher salt content seems to preserve it. Exposing most dried vegetables to the air causes them to break down and their value is diminished, so green superfoods should always be in capsules and preferably kept in the freezer.
3. It does not contain spirulina, chlorella or blue-green algae. These common ingredients in the “superfood” formulas I do not like. They seem to build up in the liver, indicating they are not that compatible with human physiology, no matter what heath benefits they may have.
4. Kelp has much more iodine, and I find this is needed today, despite what some health authorities say.
5. Kelp is less expensive.
2. An excellent overall nutritional supplement. In addition to its high trace mineral content, 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.
3. Kelp is a source of a special form of readily available calcium. This is a complex phenomenon because many foods contain calcium. However, I find that kelp, carrots, carrot juice, sardines and raw dairy contain the best forms of calcium needed today. 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.
4. 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 – bromine, chlorine and fluorides. These interfere with our iodine uptake and utilization, causing widespread thyroid problems and many other health problems, as well.
Also, I cannot recommend much fish or any seafood, the other good sources of bioavailable iodine, because food from the sea is now loaded with mercury. Iodized salt provides some iodine, but is not enough in almost all cases. Also, the iodine in salt 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, but not a major concern because kelp is a natural food and the body seems able to regulate the iodine absorption from it.
Why kelp and not other iodine preparations? I prefer Kelp instead of Iodoral, Lugol’s solution, Prolamine Iodine and other iodine preparations because:
1. Kelp is non-toxic. All the other kelp preparations listed above build up in the liver to some degree, indicating some toxicity. 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.
2. Kelp is often more effective. This may be because it is a natural food, and perhaps better utilized.
3. Kelp also contains 20 or more other trace minerals, which is a distinct advantage as these are needed today by most everyone.
4. Kelp is less expensive, especially considering that it is a “green food” supplement as well as a source of iodine.
NOTE: In a few rare cases I have found that Lugol’s solution or Iodoral was needed for a short 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.
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, are the ones listed earlier in this article.
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).