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Side Effects of Spirulina

Spirulina is the buzz word in the present day health and nutrition industry.  Fitness enthusiasts have started understanding the immense potential of this blue-green algae as a nutritional supplement.

However, despite the numerous benefits of spirulina as a superfood, it is important to consider the possible several side effects, especially for people with some pre-existing health conditions.

Following are some of the factors that need to be considered before starting with Spirulina as a health supplement: 

1. Possible contamination with toxins

Spirulina harvested in the wild poses a significant risk of contamination. This blue-green alga may harbour toxins if it happens to grow in water bodies that are heavily contaminated with toxins such as harmful bacteria, heavy metals and microcystin particles.

These microcystin particles are toxic to the liver when consumed in high amounts.

Thus it is imperative that the alga should be grown in a clean and extremely hygienic environment. Scientists have developed various methods to produce this alga in a very safe and hygienic matter.

Spirulina contaminated with microcystin particles can cause medical problems like stomach pain, thirst, nervous weakness, nausea, dizziness, vomiting, liver damage, etc. 

2. Increase the time of blood clotting 

Spirulina has an anticoagulant effect, that means it will thin your blood, and it takes a longer time for your blood to clot

For those who are already on blood thinners, consuming spirulina might not be an excellent idea. However, if you plan to include it for nutritional purposes, be sure to discuss the dosage with your medical practitioner. He/she will be able to check the dosage of your blood-thinning medicines and prescribe the appropriate dosage of this superfood for you.

3. Not suitable for autoimmune disorders

For a person suffering from autoimmune disease, the immune system mistakes any part of the body as a foreign invader and releases proteins called antibodies that attack the healthy cells.

Some researchers suggest that the allergic reaction may be due to triggering of TNF-alpha, an inflammatory agent common in people having autoimmune disorders. However, others believe that spirulina suppresses the inflammatory protein.

Since spirulina helps to strengthen your immune system it may worsen autoimmune diseases such as multiple sclerosis, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis etc.

If you are suffering from any autoimmune disorders, it is best to consult your doctor before going for the product.

Who should not take spirulina?

If you are suffering from any autoimmune condition, thyroid disorder, kidney stones, gout, phenylketonuria (PKU) spirulina won't be a healthy choice for you.

Further, the alga is not considered appropriate for pregnant or feeding mothers owing to contamination risks.

What happens if you take too much spirulina?

Even if you overdose on this superfood, it is unlikely to cause any harm. Worst possible consequences could be bloating, diarrhoea, nausea and cramps.

That said, it is advisable to start slowly on low doses and gradually build your way up.

Does spirulina interact with any medications?

Until now, there is no scientific evidence to support any possible interaction of spirulina with standard drugs. 

If you are suffering any condition related to autoimmune disorders, it is best to avoid the product (or consult your healthcare practitioner) as it may interfere with the medicines given to suppress the immune system.

Some of these medicines include:

  • Infliximab (Remicade)
  • Leflunomide (Arava)
  • Methotrexate
  • Azathioprine (Imuran)
  • Cyclosporine (Neoral)
  • Mycophenolate (CellCept)
  • Adalimumab (Humira)
  • Etanercept (Enbrel)

Final Words: 

It is suggested to source your spirulina from a reputed brand in order to ensure that the product conforms to the highest safety and quality standards. 

Finally, it is recommended to speak to your doctor before you start including spirulina as a part of your everyday diet.

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