Carrageenan Making You Sick?
• Harmful food additive made from seaweed found in wide range of products.
By James Spounias —
Everyone has heard of the dangers of gluten, which is found in wheat, so much so that the “gluten-free” food marketplace has become a billion-dollar business, growing at a fast rate and estimated to be in the $4 billion to $7 billion range by 2020. Best-selling books in America warn of the dangers of gluten while some health advocates posit that Monsanto’s glyphosate, not wheat itself, may be the actual culprit for alleged gluten intolerance.
What remains under the radar is a commonly used, but little known, naturally occurring food substance from a specific species of red seaweed, known as carrageenan.
Carrageenan is found in many foods, especially “health foods,” and ironically can be labeled organic because it is approved by the National Organic Standards Board. It is used as a thickening and stabilizing agent and is found in processed foods, such as deli meats, dairy, and plant-based beverages, including beer and even infant formulas.
In a devastating report released on April 25, 2016, the Cornucopia Institute, a public health research organization, stated unequivocally that carrageenan may cause gastrointestinal distress, inflammation, cancer, and diabetes as well as other health problems.
The specific problem lies with low molecular weight poligeenan, a carcinogenic contaminant, which Cornucopia claims exists in all food-grade carrageenan.
The carrageenan industry alleges that carrageenan is distinct from poligeenan, but Cornucopia disagrees, citing publicly funded research.
“Now, the industry’s own data has revealed that all 12 food-grade carrageenan samples tested did in fact contain poligeenan in varying quantities up to 25%,” said Linley Dixon, Ph.D., one of Cornucopia’s senior staff scientists.
This writer has been told by emergency room (ER) personnel the most puzzling cases involve gastrointestinal disturbances.
One ER physician mused: “We run every test possible and find nothing wrong with the patient . . . even though they present symptoms of extreme distress. It’s fascinating.”
Reading the testimonials of people who suffered from ingesting carrageenan is shocking.
Kimberly DeLaroque of Warren, Manitoba, Canada said:
“Before I knew about carrageenan, I suffered tremendous stomach cramps, body aches and extreme bloating from eating certain foods, sandwich meat, ice cream, etc. My symptoms would last for a minimum of 24 hours, sometimes lasting for 48 hours. I had several exploratory procedures done to see if I had a blockage omewhere in my intestinal tract. I started to record a food journal and a list of ingredients of everything I ate, and suddenly discovered my symptoms were caused solely by carrageenan. Since eliminating carrageenan, I have had no problems with stomach cramps, body aches or extreme bloating. I am extremely careful not to ingest even the smallest amount, as it will cause me hours of suffering. I am extremely strict about the products I purchase, and after having researched the terrible effects of this awful ingredient, I have taken extra precautions that my four children do not ingest anything that contains carrageenan.”
This is what Jeff Pokorny of Bend, Oregon wrote:
“I learned that carrageenan was bad but was not yet aware of what the symptoms were from exposure. Upon learning that it affected the lower GI, and upon recognizing that my elimination of symptoms coincided with my elimination of carrageenan from my diet, it became clear that it was likely more than coincidence, that these symptoms were from carrageenan. My wife always wondered why I had diarrhea, and I just told her it was normal and that I’d always had it. She also wondered why I defecated so frequently (three to six times per day). Now I’m down to one to two [times per day]. Damn the corporations that put this junk in our food and passed it along as though it’s totally safe and ‘made from seaweed.’”
Kyla L. of Morgantown, West Virginia had this to say about carrageenan:
“I wrote extensive food journals for at least a year—what I ate, the ingredients, and the effects which occurred. There were several emergency room visits where I didn’t know what was wrong, and I needed fluids and sometimes medication because I couldn’t stop vomiting. It was painful, and I became severely dehydrated. I had several tests done including a barium upper GI and a gastrointestinal nuclear scan. Those tests came out okay, but the barium drink used for the x-rays had carrageenan, and I was vomiting profusely after ingestion (since I had to fast). It occurred pretty much as soon as the drink hit my small bowel. At the point of this test, I realized what had to be the cause of my GI distress—mostly due to the food journals commonality, but also that precise moment. Discovering this reaction was a long, horrible process and I felt like my own science experiment every time I ate. The episodes—which included pain, nonstop throwing up, sweats and chills—were intolerable. If I had not stopped ingesting carrageenan, I would have outrageous medical bills and be unable to eat without fear of such an episode.”
Finally, here is what Katie M. of St. Louis, Missouri said:
“I discovered that carrageenan caused my gastrointestinal symptoms after correlating my stomach upsets with the consumption of ice cream and prepared coffee shop drinks. Since I was not lactose intolerant, I started looking for common ingredients and noticed carrageenan in the ice cream, creamer, and coffee shop smoothies. When I removed things with carrageenan from my diet, there were no more problems. I no longer have irritable bowel syndrome flare-ups and am now able to do things I couldn’t do previously. Before, I was afraid to go on overnight camping trips, day canoeing trips, or Kendo seminars, because the pain would literally incapacitate me, and now it’s not an issue.”
Even some establishment medical figures are demanding action.
Dr. Stephen Hanauer, M.D., chief, section of gastroenterology, hepatology and nutrition, and Joseph B. Kirsner, professor of medicine and clinical pharmacology, University of Chicago School of Medicine wrote recently:
“The rising incidence and prevalence of ulcerative colitis across the globe is correlated with the increased consumption of processed foods, including products containing carrageenan. Since carrageenan has been found to cause colitis in animal models of ulcerative colitis we felt it would be important to perform a well-controlled dietary study to determine whether carrageenan causes exacerbations (flare ups) of ulcerative colitis in patients in clinical remission.”
The best advice for now is to read food labels carefully. Ask manufacturers if they use carrageenan, and, if they do, encourage them to use other thickening agents.
Most consumers may not have severe reactions to carrageenan, but research indicates it causes low-grade inflammation, which often brings more serious diseases later in life, according to Cornucopia.
James Spounias is the president of Carotec Inc., originally founded by renowned radio show host and alternative health expert Tom Valentine and his wife, Carole. To receive a free issue of Carotec Health Report—a monthly newsletter loaded with well-researched and reliable alternative health information—please write Carotec, P.O. Box 9919, Naples, FL 34101 or call 1-800-522-4279. Also included will be a list of the high-quality health supplements Carotec recommends.