If you struggle with gastrointestinal issues such as belly bloating, IBS, IBD, gastritis, diverticulitis, or any other kind of GI distress, I want you to read this post! Many food manufacturers add “carrageenan” to health foods like almond milk, coconut milk, yogurt, soy milk and ice cream. It is derived from red seaweed and added to give products a fuller consistency, especially to low-fat products. It also prevents ingredients from separating.
This additive isn’t new, in fact it has been in use in food since the 1930s. Most recently, in 2012 the National Organics Standard Board chose to allow its use in organic food production for another five years. However, its safety is under fire lately and you should know about it.
Degraded vs. Undergraded Carrageenan
There are two kinds of carrageenan. The undergraded and degraded kind. Umm what?! Okay its simple. The undergraded version is deemed safe by the FDA for use in foods. The Degraded version is not. According to the Cornucopia Institute:
“Degraded carrageenan is such a potent inflammatory agent that scientists routinely use it to induce inflammation and other disease in laboratory animals, to test anti-inflammation drugs and other pharmaceuticals.”
What’s the Problem
Only the undergraded version is being used in food. But, the problem is that for years many scientists have raised concerns over the use of “food-grade” aka undergraded carrageenan. Scientists are extremely concerned that the acidic environment of our stomach may alter food-grade carrageenan once it enters the digestive system, therefore exposing the intestines to this potent carcinogen. Now thats risky!
Health Concerns Linked to Carrageenan
Again, most of the health concerns about this additive are linked to the degraded kind. But as mentioned above, we just don’t know how the food-grade one reacts once exposed to our stomach acid and GI environment.
According to Cornucopia Institute, the chemical structure of carrageenan innately triggers an immune response in the body which ultimately leads to inflammation. It has been found that inflammation is the precursor to over 100 human diseases. In the late 1960s, researchers even linked the food-grade version to GI diseases in lab animals, including ulcerative colitis and intestinal lesions.
What You Can Do
Ban it from your diet. If you experience gastrointestinal symptoms ranging from bloating to irritable bowl syndrome to inflammatory bowl disease, try cutting out carrageenan from your diet completely and see if your symptoms improve.
Check Food Lists. The Cornucopia Institute created a Buying Guide to help you shop carrageenan-free products. You’d be amazed at the number of products that contain this additive…like almond milk.
There’s a lot of evidence stating that carrageenan can be extremely harmful to one’s health, especially if consumed regularly. If you have any GI issues it might be wise to avoid this additive completely. Let me know your thoughts in the comments!