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Today’s topic is carrageenan. It’s a plant-based ingredient that’s in many foods and a lot of people can also have a sensitivity to it. For those who are affected, they’re often in the dark as to what the culprit of their discomfort is. That’s why I’m bringing this to your attention today.
 

Carrageenan is something that’s added to foods and pharmaceuticals to emulsify them, to thicken liquids, or to give them a gel-like consistency. Carrageenan itself comes from red edible seaweed, or sometimes it’s called Irish Moss. So it is a natural plant product, therefore it IS in many foods that are labeled as vegan but it’s also highly inflammatory for many people.
 

Also in this episode: 
• What kind of symptoms you might experience with a carrageenan sensitivity
• What kind of foods contain carrageenan
• Other names for carrageenan that you’ll find on food labels
• How carrageenan creates inflammation
• Be careful of false information about carrageenan
• How to find out which brand/foods contain carrageenan
• What does GRAS mean and why to be cautious when you see this label
 

So WHAT IS carrageenan exactly? 

Carrageenan is something that’s added to foods and pharmaceuticals to emulsify them, to thicken liquids, or to give them a gel-like consistency. It’s most commonly found in foods that you’d loosely categorize into “healthy” or “organic” foods, but foods that are also processed in some way. So you’re not going to find it in apple, but you could find it in applesauce.

 

The reason that a lot of people have trouble with it, is that even though it’s a natural plant product, it IS highly inflammatory.

 

Definitely go listen to my episode on inflammation (Ep 13) if you need to understand that better, but inflammation happens in all kinds of different ways and shows up in different ways in different people, depending on your genes, your makeup, your current stress level, the current state of your health and what you’re predisposed to having trouble with.

 

Inflammation can show up in different ways. There can be low-level types of inflammation from carrageenan that people tend to write off as “normal” like farting, burping, bloating. This is how it shows up in relatively healthy people that aren’t already having any chronic health conditions or digestive issues.

 

For people who DO already have chronic health conditions, autoimmune conditions, and/or digestive issues or any kind they might have more severe experiences from carrageenan because gut health is already severely weakened — most likely all of these types of people have some level of leaky gut (intestinal permeability) — so it only makes sense that anything highly inflammatory will affect them more seriously.

 

It can be inflammatory to the gut lining and it can worsen leaky gut. It can also cause things like rashes or acne. Carrageenan has been known to cause renal bumps which means issues with the kidneys but then these little cysts on the kidneys will most likely disappear when carrageenan is omitted from the diet.

 

Sometimes it’s the mere presence of the carrageenan itself that causes the issue but sometimes people have bad reactions because of what it does when it’s ingested. That is because carrageenan has a laxative effect. It pulls water into the intestines which can cause a person to have an upset stomach, discomfort, or GI issues. For some people, it can negatively impact blood sugar regulation and it can also cause migraines.
 

Where you’ll find Carrageenan

It might be in frozen foods, processed meats, dairy or non-dairy milks, yogurt, cheese, ice cream, sour cream, whipping cream, chocolate, syrups, fruit bars, jellies, tofu, dips, juice, pudding, frozen dinners, frozen pizzas. It’s even found in some prescription drugs, toothpaste, baby foods, baby formulas, and lots of other types of foods and personal care products.  
 

Other Names for Carrageenan

There is quite a long list of names that carrageenan also goes by on food labels.

Algas, Algue Rouge Marine, Carageenan Gum, Carastay, Carrageen, Carrageenin, Carragenano, Carragenina, Carragheenan, Carraghénane, Carraghénine, Chondrus Extract, Danish Agar, Eucheuma Spinosum Gum, Extrait de Mousse d’Irlande, Galgarine, Iota-Carrageenan, Irish Moss, Irish Moss Algae, Irish Moss Extract, Irish Moss Gelose, Kappa-Carrageenan, Lambda-Carrageenan, Marine Colloids, Mousse d’Irlande, Norsk Gelatin, PES, Processed Eucheuma Seaweed, Red Marine Algae, Red Seaweed Extract, Vegetable Gelatin.

 

If you’re interested in reading more about specific brands that do and do not contain carrageenan, you can find them on this website.

I’m Kelly Wilson, owner of fitfizzstudio.com and I’m a personal trainer, nutrition coach, behavior change specialist, autoimmune disease educator and I’ve worked in the health and fitness industry for over 25 years.

I’m here to help you ditch the gimmicks, finding strength through your struggles, give you the knowledge for making the smartest choices for your own health and to remind you to celebrate victory all along the way. 

 

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The information shared is for educational and informational purposes only. It should not be interpreted as an intent to diagnose, treat, cure, heal or prescribe.

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Ep. 74: Carrageenan: A Common Food Additive That Might Affect Your Health