What are Kelp Supplements?

Sara Schmidt
Sara Schmidt

Kelp supplements are extracts taken from green or brown seaweed and are used for their medicinal and nutritional properties. People can take these dietary supplements in capsule, tea, tablet, powder, or dried form. Kelp extract is used to help regulate the thyroid, manage blood pressure, and offer nutritional support.

Dried kelp.
Dried kelp.

Sales of kelp supplements are generally high, as the extract is a popular supplement. As kelp is thought to help improve thyroid function, people who wish to lose weight often take kelp capsules to help stimulate their metabolism. Kelp may also help regulate iodine levels in the body, which may induce some weight loss.

Kelp is high in iodine.
Kelp is high in iodine.

Some people take a kelp supplement to help manage their high blood pressure. In Japan, many people opt to use kelp and garlic in exchange for the salt and pepper traditionally used for seasoning in the Western hemisphere. This combination of flavorings is considered much more healthful in the diet.

Kelp supplements are said to create a dewy, clear complexion.
Kelp supplements are said to create a dewy, clear complexion.

People with sluggish digestive systems may take kelp for improving digestion. Those who suffer from arthritis may also find relief within the herbal remedy, as it has been found to help reduce the inflammation that causes arthritic symptoms. A kelp detox is a popular way of purifying the blood and maintaining optimal kidney health. Consuming kelp regularly is also said to provide one with a clear, dewy complexion.

Some people take kelp supplements to help lower and regulate their blood pressure.
Some people take kelp supplements to help lower and regulate their blood pressure.

Nutritional benefits can be obtained from kelp supplements as well. Kelp powder is often added to special shakes or smoothies in order to provide extra minerals and vitamins. A typical dosage of kelp consists of one to three capsules twice daily, usually taken during mealtimes. Kelp tea is imbibed for the same purpose. Many Japanese foods contain kelp for these and other healthful benefits.

Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding should not take kelp supplements.
Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding should not take kelp supplements.

Though sea kelp can offer many health and nutritional benefits, many kelp side effects also exist. Blood thinning or abnormal bleeding can be brought on by taking kelp supplements. People with allergies, particularly iodine, may experience an allergic reaction while taking kelp supplements, and should stop use immediately if this occurs. Women who are pregnant, nursing, or trying to become pregnant should avoid this supplement.

Kelp supplements may be blended into smoothies or shakes for added nutritional content.
Kelp supplements may be blended into smoothies or shakes for added nutritional content.

Caution should be exercised when taking kelp supplements. Some studies have found that the dietary aids contain high levels of arsenic. This is due to the high presence of toxic metals in the ocean. People who regularly consume contaminated kelp may experience arsenic poisoning, which can include memory loss, fatigue, kidney damage, and death.

The makers of kelp and other dietary supplements are loosely regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
The makers of kelp and other dietary supplements are loosely regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
Sara Schmidt
Sara Schmidt

A graduate of Southeast Missouri State University, Sara has a Master’s Degree in English, which she puts to use writing for wiseGEEK and several magazines, websites, and nonprofit organizations. She has published her own novella, and has other literary projects currently in progress. Sara’s varied interests have also led her to teach children in Spain, tutor college students, run CPR and first aid classes, and organize student retreats.

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Discussion Comments

KoiwiGal

I know one of the theories of why the Japanese people are the longest lived people in the world is that they eat a lot of kelp. Eating a lot of fish also comes into it.

I have never tried kelp supplements, but I think they sound very interesting. I wouldn't mind giving it a go, although I think the idea of the heavy metal poisoning is awful. I'll have to look around and see if there is a way to manage that.

umbra21

@Mor - That's true about the iodine. When I was a kid I read about how children during war time were given a certain kind of sea weed to eat in order to prevent goiters. They weren't getting enough iodine from their diets, I think because of the lack of fresh fish and meats.

I was curious so the next time I saw that particular kind of seaweed I munched on a bunch of it. It kind of tasted like olives, so I didn't mind eating quite a lot.

I was very ill that night, unfortunately, and it was because my body wasn't used to so much iodine I suspect. Since then I've had a few leaves off the seaweed now and then with no ill effects. But, if you are planning to take kelp supplements you might want to bear this in mind and reduce your other sources of iodine for a while.

Mor

You should also be aware of the high levels of iodine when you're taking sea kelp supplements for the first time.

Yes, the iodine is one of the reasons for taking the supplement, but if you aren't used to it it can really upset your stomach.

A lot of people who don't live by the ocean have no real regular intake of iodine. So if you suddenly add a whole bunch to your diet you might feel sick.

Just add it in slowly, rather than all at once. Also bear in mind, as it says in the article, that anything from the ocean could contain heavy metals like arsenic, which can build up in your system and eventually hurt you.

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