Spirulina is a blue-green algae that contains a range of nutrients such as B-vitamins, beta-carotene, and E-vitamins. Spirulina also includes antioxidants, minerals, chlorophyll, and phycocyanobilins as a source of vegan protein. Despite having several benefits, you may wonder if there are some side effects. This article reviews the spirulina side effects.
What is Spirulina?
Spirulina is fresh-and saltwater-growing blue-green algae. People use it as a food source in certain areas of Mexico and Africa because it carries 60 percent protein by weight, and many vitamins and minerals.
In addition, it is an excellent source of healthy polyunsaturated fats, C-phycocyanin, and beta-carotene antioxidants. As a supplement, it is known for its antibacterial, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, immune-boosting, and cholesterol-lowering abilities (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6).
Spirulina Side effects
Although spirulina is safe, it may have some side effects and downsides for individuals with certain conditions. Spirulina harvested in the wild may contain toxins that pose a significant risk of infection.
If it grows in the water that is contaminated with heavy metals, bacteria, or damaging particles called microcystins, the algae may harbor toxins. They are poisonous to your liver when eaten in enormous quantities. In Italy, North America, and China, microcystin in algae supplements have been discovered and these compounds are an increasing problem for public health.
Spirulina cultivated in controlled environments are smaller in microcystins because researchers have established techniques for removing and limiting the manufacturing of this compound (7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15).
Can Slow Blood Clotting
Spirulina has an anticoagulant effect, which means it can thin your blood and boost blood clotting time. When you are wounded, coagulation helps avoid excessive bleeding or bruising.
Spirulina may be hazardous for those taking blood thinners or those with bleeding disorders because it may reduce the capacity of your blood to clot, leading to more bruising and bleeding.
While some studies show that spirulina does not influence blood coagulation time. However, there are little knowledge-based studies about its consequences on individuals who are already taking blood-thinning medication. Therefore, if you have a bleeding disorder or are on blood thinners, prevent spirulina (16, 17, 18, 19, 20).
Can Worsen Autoimmune Diseases
Because spirulina boosts your immune system, it may worsen certain autoimmune diseases such as lupus, various sclerosis, and rheumatoid arthritis in which your immune system attacks your body cells.
Spirulina strengthens your immune system by reinforcing immune cells called natural killer (NK) cells that attack perceived cell-level threats. Studies on animals and humans show that this effect can help slow tumor development and reduce inflammation.
However, this algae may increase these conditions by enhancing the NK cells in individuals with autoimmune conditions. Spirulina supplements may cause serious autoimmune reactions that affect your skin and muscles, although this side effect seems very rare. If you have an autoimmune condition, spirulina and other supplements of algae should be avoided (21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29).
Some individuals may have spirulina allergies. Reactions can be deadly in serious cases. According to one research, individuals with other allergies are more likely to respond to spirulina than those without allergies.
To be safe, people with allergies should prevent this supplement or consultation before using it with their healthcare provider. Spirulina and other algae contain phenylalanine. Therefore, an individual with phenylketonuria should strictly avoid it.
Some minor spirulina side effects may include nausea, sleeplessness, and headaches. They still consider this supplement is still safe, and most individuals experience no side effects (30, 31, 32, 33).
The Bottom Line
Spirulina may have some disadvantages. In some people, it is best to consult with a health care provider before taking it. To prevent spirulina contaminated with microcystins or toxins, buy only products from trusted brands tested by third-party organizations like the U.S. Consumer lab, or NSF International, Pharmacopeia (USP).
Keep in mind that even products from a reputable brand may not be contaminant-free. Therefore, dietary supplements in countries such as the United States are unregulated. Spirulina has several potential side effects, although deemed safe. Toxins may contaminate some supplements. Also, some autoimmune conditions may worsen by these algae or thin your blood.
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