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Spirulina 101

 

 

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Spirulina is a type of blue-green algae that is 62-65% protein.  Blue-green algae are a plant-like organism that is usually found in salt water and a few fresh water lakes.  Most of the time they will be found in tropical and subtropical waters with high salt content.  Most of the spirulina produced now is grown in labs where conditions can be controlled (see Figure 1). It is used as a source of B-vitamins and iron as many blue-green algae’s are.  Spirulina is rich in B-vitamins, beta-carotene, manganese, zinc, iron, copper, vitamin E, selenium, and gamma linoleic acid, which is an essential fatty acid.

 

Figure 1

Figure 1

Blue-green algae have been used for many medical conditions but there is lacking scientific evidence on whether or not they are effective for humans.  They have been used for ADHD, hay fever, diabetes, weight loss (has not proven to be effective), stress, fatigue, anxiety, depression, and PMS.  Improving memory, increasing energy, lowering cholesterol, speeding up healing, and improving digestion are a few other uses to add to the promising list.

Studies in animals suggest that spirulina may have anticancer, antiviral, and immune system boosting properties.  It has also been show to help against allergic reactions in animals, stopping the release of histamines, the very culprits that cause allergy symptoms.  There has been one controlled study where taking spirullina reduced precancerous lesions, called leukoplasia, in tobacco chewers.  The lesions disappeared quicker in the spirulina group vs. the placebo.  Don’t go all wild wild west on us cowboys; more research is needed on this one.

 

It’s not all fun in the sun, however.  Spirulina can contain microcystines, toxic metals, and harmful bacteria, which may be harmful to some people.  It is important that you purchase spirulina from a trusted manufacturer.There is not enough scientific information to determine dosing protocols.  I have been using it at 5g’s per day great success.  I don’t think I could stomach anymore.  This stuff smells absolutely awful and doesn’t taste too great either.

 

It is available in a few forms.  Most people take in in pill or powder form but it can also be found as flakes (see Figure 2).  Spirulina Maxima from Mexico and Sprulina Platensis from California are the two most popular forms.  It is widely available and sold online from many trusted websites.  Spirulina may contain toxins and bacteria so please use with caution.  Women who are pregnant or breast-feeding should not risk it.  Just to be safe, talk with your health care provider before taking this stuff.

 

Figure 2

Figure 2

The main problem with spirulina and other blue green algae is there is not enough hard data to prove the vastly claimed health benefits are legitament.  There aren’t many dosing protocols and big commercialized success stories.  I am not completely sold, but I am getting there.  My experience with spirulina has been promising.  I eat 5g per day with a smoothie that also includes around 2 cups of Kale, Greek yogurt, frozen berries, whole milk, and 1/2c oats.  It has been over a year since I have been sick and I used to get a cold at least every other month.  Let me give you some advice:  THIS STUFF IS NOT FOR THE FAINT OF HEART.  Frankly, it’s gross.  Through much trial and error, I have found the best way to mask the taste is with orange juice or in a smoothie.

 

Sources: http://www.umm.edu/altmed/articles/spirulina-000327.htm

            http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/druginfo/natural/923.html

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