What is Spirulina?
Spirulina is a kind of blue-green algae that comes with the scientific name of Arthrospira platensis. Spirulina has an odor and taste that is very much comparable to seaweed.
Spirulina is usually found in freshwaters like lakes, ponds, and rivers. This grows under good sunlight, moderate temperature level, and pesticide-free environment, but it can also survive with extreme conditions since it also has the ability to easily adapt to its environment.
There are over 25,000 species of algae that can be found all over the world. They mostly live in soils, water, rocks, or plants. But among all of these, Spirulina is considered to be highly nutritional that is why it is processed and used as a potent dietary supplement. This alga is known to be rich in vitamins, minerals, iron, protein, and complex carbohydrates. Aside from that it also has a high amount of carotenoids like yellow xanthophylls and beta carotene which are good antioxidants. Some other components of it are chlorophyll, nucleic and fatty acids, and lipids.
What is Spirulina used for?
Since Spirulina contains a lot of nutritional values, this dietary supplement is used and taken for several reasons. Here are the common uses of Spirulina:
- Boosts immunity
Numerous test tube studies show that Spirulina may help increase immunity by producing more antibodies and other infection-fighting proteins. In effect, the body can increase its protection against harmful microorganisms and infection. However, further studies are needed to prove that this can be effective in humans.
Research studies prove that eating various fruits and vegetables that is rich in beta carotene may help the body increase its anti-cancer protection. Synthetic or artificially prepared beta carotene does not show to be beneficial as anti-cancer but natural beta carotene from algae such as in Spirulina has been proven to be highly effective because it contain more antioxidants and anti-cancer power.
Spirulina contains beta carotene that is ten times more concentrated than the ordinary carrots. Beta carotene can help maintain healthy eyesight. Aside from this, beta-carotene is powerful antioxidants which means it can help the body eliminate any toxins or free radicals that could potential harm the body system.
Also, the iron that is found in Spirulina is easily absorbed by the body compared to iron supplements. It means that more iron is readily available for your body to use. Adequate iron supply can help prevent anemia from occurring.
Spirulina is also rich in Vitamin B-12. Vitamin B-12 is an essential vitamin needed to maintain healthy tissue and nerves.
- Protein supplement
62% of Spirulina is made up of amino acid. This means that it contains a highly large amount of protein that can be used by the body for cell regeneration and tissue repair. Some athletes also used Spirulina to help build more muscle.
- Allergic reactions
- Improving gastrointestinal health
Common Spirulina side effects
Typically, Spirulina does not exhibit any side effect but in some cases, it may exhibit some mild side effects. Below are the common mild side effects;
- Edema (swelling of body tissues)
Spirulina contains more concentrated protein, vitamins, and minerals that is why the kidneys might have a hard time in filtering the molecules of these compounds. Edema is the earliest sign of decreased kidney function. If this occurs, it is advisable to discontinue the use of Spirulina as too much fluid retention may lead to more severe cases.
Increased in body temperature may occur due to increased cellular metabolism since the body needs to breakdown all the protein obtained from Spirulina.
You may experience indigestion if you take large doses of Spirulina. You may have stomach pain which is sometimes accompanied by constipation.
However in some rare cases, severe side effects may also occur. But if you are sure that you take Spirulina in right doses, then the side effects below are unlikely to happen.
- Liver toxicity
- Heavy metal contamination
Spirulina side effects on children
Before taking Spirulina, children should first consult a doctor to seek for medical advice on right doses. Actually, there are no recent studies that could conclude the appropriate dosage for children less than 18 years of age. But if the child is experiencing overdosing, the severe side effects mentioned above are the possible signs to watch out for.
Children who are suffering from a condition called phenylketonuria (PKU) should not take Spirulina. PKU is a rare metabolic disorder characterized by the inability of the body to metabolize the specific amino acid called phenylalanine.
Also, children with asthma should take cautious when taking Spirulina along with anti-asthma medications as it can interact and affect the effectiveness of certain anti-asthma drugs like prednisone.
Spirulina side effects on men
Actually, gender is not an issue when it comes to Spirulina. Generally, men can experience all the side effects listed above. If they have taken high doses of Spirulina, liver toxicity may occur.
Also, Heavy metal contamination is common if you are taking Spirulina dietary supplements since it can be contaminated by other substances which might be toxic.
For men, the beneficial effect of Spirulina is its ability to effectively increase the muscle mass. Especially for men athletes or those who are into bodybuilding, Spirulina is of great help since it contains the most concentrated amount of protein. This can be a good alternative for proteins that are obtained from animal meat.
Spirulina side effects on women
Women can also have all the side effects listed above, whether it is mild or severe side effects. To avoid taking high doses of Spirulina, it is best to consult first a physician in order to figure out the right dosage for you and to avoid any side effect from occurring.
For women who have an active lifestyle and are consistently engaging into different sports or physical activities, Spirulina’s effect on muscle mass is quite an advantage. Just like for men, Spirulina promotes muscle development in women, thus improving their performance in any activities they do.
On the other hand, Spirulina can have negative effects for women who are diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS). MS is an autoimmune disorder that is caused by the damage to myelin sheath. This condition is more common to women than men and is diagnosed by the age of 20 to 40. Theoretically, Spirulina can stimulate the immune system and make MS even worse.
Spirulina side effects on pregnant women
During pregnancy, it is strongly suggested to avoid using Spirulina due to possible heavy metal contamination that it can cause. Although the specific harmful effects that it can cause to the unborn child is still unknown, doctors still suggest to stop using Spirulina to promote safety of both the child and the mother.
For lactating mothers, Spirulina is also avoided to eliminate any possible risks for the baby. Although still, there are no strong evidences that Spirulina can be potentially harmful for the baby, the doctors still suggest avoiding it until another research can prove that Spirulina is safe for breastfeeding mothers.
Spirulina side effects on elderly
For elderly, there are some conditions wherein Spirulina can cause some harmful side effects and the most common musculoskeletal condition that affects elderly is rheumatoid arthritis. Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic disease characterized by inflammation of joints and its surrounding tissue. Spirulina may worsen this condition if taken with the present condition.