Carrageenan…you may want to avoid this food additive.

What if I told you that everyone reading this article is most likely consuming on a weekly basis — if not daily — a harmful natural substance that has been linked to arthritis, immunodeficiency, Crohn’s disease, decreased liver enzymes, thyroid issues, ulcerations, and cancer of the gastrointestinal track.

What if told you that this substance is found in most soy milks, almond milks, rice milks, hot dogs, ice creams, cottage cheeses, yogurts, and other processed food products? It’s also in some make-up brands, shampoos, lotions, and lubricants. Yes, it is everywhere.

What if I told you that this natural food additive has been known as a dangerous allergen since 1940, yet it’s still classified by the FDA as “safe for human consumption”? Quite honestly, this news should not surprise most of you, since the FDA also approves MSG (linked to brain damage, obesity, and cancer), aspartame (linked to MS, seizures, memory issues, and blindness), saccharine (linked to many cancers), and Olestra the fat-substitute in Wow chips (remember the warning: Olestra may cause abdominal cramping and loose stool).

I am going to guess that most of you have never heard of this natural substance, so today will be an introduction as to why you should be avoiding this food additive.
What am I talking about? CARRAGEENAN.
Pronounced: Care-a-GEE-nan

What is carrageenan?

Carrageenan is a polysaccharide extracted from red seaweed. It’s also considered a food “gum” and a food additive. It is used as a thickener, emulsifier (helping liquids stay mixed together without separating), and a food stabilizer (preventing sugars or ice from crystallizing) in many processed foods and hygiene products. Basically, carrageenan gives your ice cream a creamier mouth-feel, it makes your almond milk thicker, and it makes your face and hand lotions have an even consistency.

Carrageenan is considered natural by the FDA, since it comes from a natural source — seaweed. However, carrageenan has to be removed by a powerful alkali solvent. A solvent so strong it would remove the tissue right off your hands if you were to ever touch it. We must remember that just because something is considered natural does not mean it is good for us. Aspartame, MSG, and marijuana are all considered natural, yet NONE of them are good for us.

The FDA and food manufacturers argue that carrageenan is safe for human consumption because its molecules are too large to be absorbed by the digestive system. They claim these large molecules pass through the intestines undigested and unabsorbed, and then are excreted by the body. However, there are two points the FDA has failed to consider:
1) Carrageenan can react terribly with gut bacteria
2) These large molecules can be absorbed in a process called persorption

In the October 2001 issue of Environmental Health Perspectives, a publication of
The National Institute for Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS), Dr. Joanne Tobacman, reported results of a decade of research that linked human consumption of carrageenan to cancer and other gastrointestinal problems. She reported that carrageenan in itself can be harmless, but once it interacts with gut bacteria, it can produce ulcerations and inflammation. Before Dr. Tobacman’s research, it was understood that only the “degraded” carrageenan or carrageenan of lower molecular weight was harmful. However, Dr. Tobacman showed in her research that once the regular “undegraded” carrageenan interacts with our gut bacteria and stomach acid, this carrageenan turns into the dangerous “degraded” carrageenan. Basically, it’s our body’s interaction that makes it unsafe.

Even the FDA will confirm that degraded carrageenan is cancerous and very dangerous for human consumption. Yet, like so many things, the FDA does very little when it comes to upsetting the BIG moneymaking food manufacturers.

Dr. Tobacman’s current research is now investigating the effects of carrageenan on breast cancer. Are you listening ladies?

In the 1960s, Gerhard Volkheimer rediscovered the phenomenon of persorption, which had been demonstrated a century earlier. Persorption describes how large particles or molecules — larger than the cells that line the intestine — can be absorbed.

Volkheimer showed how persorption of food particles, moving in one side of a cell and out the other, is very common. Starch grains, gums, carrageenan, and other large particles can be found in the blood, urine, and other fluids after they have been ingested. His research explained how the large particles of carrageenan can enter into the intestinal track and can be absorbed through the intestinal walls into the blood system via persorption. This absorption can create an allergenic response. Once this happens our system creates antibodies to fight the intruder. The reaction is similar to people who have celiac and can not consume gluten due to the allergenic response.

Due to increased stress and inflammation, the permeability of the intestinal walls increases, allowing bacteria to enter into the blood stream. This can be very serious if the phagocytic cells (white blood cells that protect the body) are weakened. Carrageenan poisoning is one known cause of the disappearance of macrophages (a type of phagocyte). Decreased levels of macrophages leads to decreased immune system function. And this can lead to all the issues I conveyed at the beginning of this article: arthritis, immunodeficiency, Crohn’s disease, decrease in liver enzymes, thyroid issues, ulcerations, and cancer of the gastrointestinal track.

Carrageenan has an impressively wicked resume.

I have heard many friends and clients say they cannot consume some dairy products or eat ice cream because of the lactose in the dairy. People say it gives them gas and bloating. Well, it may be lactose intolerance, like you thought, or it may be the effects of carrageenan in the dairy products. Sometimes it’s not the actual food, but the additives in the food that may be causing your system to be stressed.

What can you do?

Read the labels of the foods and other products you buy. Food and personal care manufacturers love to add in additives to make your food and products taste better, look better, smell better, and feel better. Are they good for you? I would say most are not, if not all. Your body is not designed to digest and absorb all these additives. If you have a healthy body, you might not be effected by most food additives — or you are being affected and you just don’t know yet.

Understand that disease does not happen overnight. Disease takes decades of body abuse to appear. It is the continued exposure to food additives, chemicals, pesticides, herbicides, environmental toxins, work stress, home stress, money stress, and life stress that ends up making us sick — and it eventually kills us. It was not the last year of your stressed out life that gave you a heart attack — it was the 30 years of stress that gave you the heart attack

Once again, READ YOUR LABELS! The quality of your food does matter.

Here are 10 things you can do right now to ensure you are eating the best quality food.

1. Choose organic fruits and vegetables whenever possible.
2. Wash all your food no matter where you buy it.
3. Shop the outside perimeter of your grocery store (they keep all the more modified packaged foods on the inner isles).
4. Shop at least 2 times a week. Fresh is best.
5. Cook at home often. Limit going out to eat to 2-3 times a week.
6. Stop using your microwave. Quick micro-heated food is dead food.
7. Limit boxed, packaged, already-prepared, and canned foods.
8. Limit energy bars, shakes, and most supplements. Quality food is your best supplement!
9. Eat grass-fed and free-range meats and dairy
10. If you cannot pronounce or identify the ingredient, then DO NOT eat it!

Got it? Again, READ YOUR LABELS. Carrageenan is not your friend.

Your Optimal Health Coach,

“Disclaimer: I am an exercise physiologist, personal trainer, nutritional and lifestyle coach, not a medical doctor. I do not diagnose, prescribe for, treat or claim to prevent, mitigate or cure any human disease or physical problem. I do not provide diagnosis, care treatment or rehabilitation of individuals, nor apply medical, mental health or human development principles. I do not prescribe prescription drugs nor do I tell you to discontinue them. I provide physical and dietary suggestions to improve health and wellness and to nourish and support normal function and structure of the body. If you suspect any disease please consult your physician.”


Dr. Ray Peat; Food-junk and some mystery ailments: Fatigue, Alzheimer’s, Colitis, Immunodeficiency.
Josh Rubin;
Robert Cohen; Stomach Aches Caused by Carrageenan
Dr. Joanne Tobacman; Consumption of Carrageenan and Other Water-soluble Polymers Used as Food Additives and Incidence of Mammary Carcinoma, J. K. Tobacman, R. B. Wallace, M. B.Zimmerman, Medical Hypothesis (2001), 56(5), 589-598