Seaweed Detoxes Dioxins, Has Other Health Benefits

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Seaweed is a powerful detoxifier that may help rid your body of toxic dioxins, like those released near the train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio, or are produced in products containing Splenda (sucralose).

Seaweed has been valued for food and medicine since ancient times. At the archaeological site Monte Verde in southern Chile, remains of nine species of seaweed, dated between 14,220 and 13,980 years ago,[i] were found, suggesting the marine plants were an important resource for the people.[ii]

Rich in minerals and iodine, as well as providing meaningful amounts of essential amino acids, B vitamins, fiber and vitamin C,[iii] seaweed is a nutrient-dense food that can quickly boost your daily nutritional intake. However, its detoxifying properties are, perhaps, most relevant in the present day, when chemical accidents occur regularly.

For those living near the February 2023 Ohio train derailment, for instance, seaweed could present an important tool for ridding the body of toxic dioxins.

Seaweed Accelerates Body's Excretion of Dioxin

After a train derailed in East Palestine, Ohio, a controlled burn of vinyl chloride released dioxins into the environment.[iv] Dioxins are known as persistent organic pollutants (POPs) because they persist in the environment and resist breaking down.

Dioxins are known to cause cancer, reproductive and developmental problems, immune system damage and hormone disruption.[v] While the dioxin levels in East Palestine were described as "very low" by an administrator with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and are below the federal action threshold,[vi] laboratory data suggest dioxin levels in the area are hundreds of times greater than the exposure level previously found by EPA researchers to increase cancer risk.[vii]

A simple way to help detox may be adding seaweed to your diet. In 2002, a rat study looked at the effects of seaweed, including wakame, hiziki and kombu, on the gastrointestinal absorption and reabsorption of 17 types of dioxins, including polychlorinated dibenzo-p-dioxin (PCDD) and polychlorinated dibenzofuran (PCDF).[viii]

Rats exposed to dioxins that were fed a diet containing 10% wakame, a type of brown seaweed, excreted more dioxin in their feces. After one to five days, levels of excretion of dioxins in the rats' poop were 1.2 to 4-fold higher in the rats fed seaweed.

After eight to 35 days, the rats fed seaweed still had higher levels of dioxin excretion, by 1.7 to 2-fold, compared to rats not eating seaweed. The researchers, from the Fukuoka Institute of Health and Environmental Sciences in Japan, explained:[ix]

"These findings suggest that the administration of seaweed such as wakame is efficient in preventing the absorption and reabsorption of dioxin from the gastrointestinal tract and might be useful in treatment of humans exposed to dioxin."

12 More Natural Substances to Detox Dioxins

While dioxins are no longer produced in the U.S., they still exist in the environment, largely due to releases that occurred decades ago. Because dioxins are so persistent in the environment, and they accumulate in food chains, more than 90% of exposure is believed to come from consuming animal fats, including meat and dairy products, along with fish and shellfish.[x]

If you're concerned about exposure, our dioxin toxicity research database has more than a dozen additional substances that may be beneficial for detoxification, including:

Chlorella (algae)

Breast milk

Curcumin

Flavonoids

Broccoli

Cabbage

Chives

Green tea

Kale

Onion

Resveratrol

Spinach

More Reasons to Eat Seaweed

Seaweeds are classified into brown algae (Phaeophyceae), red algae (Rhodophyceae) or green algae (Chlorophyceae), each with its own concentration of active phytochemicals. While green algae are common in coastal areas, red and brown algae are found in deeper waters where sunlight is limited.[xi]

Seaweed, as a rich source of iodine, is well-known for its role in thyroid health and may even help protect the thyroid from radiation exposure.[xii] Seaweed also contains antioxidants, including fucoxanthin, the main marine carotenoid produced in brown algae.[xiii]

Fucoxanthin has antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, anticancer and anti-obesity properties,[xiv] and is being explored for use against nonalcoholic fatty liver disease,[xv] colorectal cancer,[xvi] diabetes and other chronic diseases.[xvii] Seaweed also contains high concentrations of fiber and polysaccharides, which may act as prebiotics to stimulate beneficial microbes in the gut.[xviii]

Research supports the use of seaweed for at least 69 diseases, which you can explore via our seaweed research database. Among them:

Allergic rhinitis

Radiation-induced illness

Depressive disorder

Endometrial cancer

Osteoarthritis

Herpes simplex virus

Shingles

HIV infection

Breast cancer

Only Consume Seaweed From Nonpolluted Sources

Seaweed consumption is growing worldwide, with the market valued at about $6 billion. Source matters, however, when it comes to choosing seaweed for your health.[xix] Just as seaweed absorbs beneficial vitamins and minerals from seawater, it can also accumulate contaminants, including lead, mercury, arsenic, dioxins and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs).

A 2022 study by researchers at Western Washington University[xx] uncovered 162 chemical contaminants in seaweed collected in U.S. and Canadian waters. Some samples contained high enough levels of arsenic, PCBs, lead and other toxins that researchers suggested people consume less than about 5 grams of dried seaweed per day if it comes from a high-risk source.

The most contaminated seaweed was harvested near industrial sites, such as Smith Cove near the Seattle Cruise Terminal in Washington.[xxi] When choosing seaweed, look for varieties harvested in nonpolluted waters away from industry or busy harbors with heavy boat traffic. In addition, be aware that some types of seaweed, such as kelp, can contain very high concentrations of iodine.[xxii]

While iodine deficiency is dangerous, excess iodine can also be harmful, so you'll want to keep an eye on your iodine levels if you consume seaweed frequently.


References

[i] Science. 2008 May 9;320(5877):784-6. doi: 10.1126/science.1156533. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/18467586/

[ii] NewScientist May 8, 2008 https://www.newscientist.com/article/dn13861-first-americans-thrived-on-seaweed/

[iii] Adv Food Nutr Res. 2011;64:17-28. doi: 10.1016/B978-0-12-387669-0.00002-8. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22054935/

[iv] The Guardian March 17, 2023 https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2023/mar/17/norfolk-southern-derailment-east-palestine-ohio-carcinogenic-chemical-levels

[v] U.S. EPA, Dioxin https://www.epa.gov/dioxin/learn-about-dioxin

[vi] The Guardian March 17, 2023 https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2023/mar/17/norfolk-southern-derailment-east-palestine-ohio-carcinogenic-chemical-levels

[vii] The Guardian March 17, 2023 https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2023/mar/17/norfolk-southern-derailment-east-palestine-ohio-carcinogenic-chemical-levels

[viii] J Agric Food Chem. 2002 Feb 13;50(4):910-7. doi: 10.1021/jf0111920. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/11829667/

[ix] J Agric Food Chem. 2002 Feb 13;50(4):910-7. doi: 10.1021/jf0111920. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/11829667/

[x] U.S. EPA, Dioxin https://www.epa.gov/dioxin/learn-about-dioxin

[xi] Mar Drugs. 2011; 9(6): 1056-1100. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3131561/

[xii] J Cancer Res Clin Oncol. 1992;118(6):447-52. PMID: 1344008 www.greenmedinfo.com/article/seaweed-has-suppressive-effect-radioactive-iodine-uptake-rats

[xiii] Int J Mol Sci. 2013 Jul; 14(7): 13763-13781. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3742216/

[xiv] Int J Mol Sci. 2013 Jul; 14(7): 13763-13781. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3742216/

[xv] Mar Drugs. 2022 Mar 25 ;20(4). Epub 2022 Mar 25. PMID: 35447899 www.greenmedinfo.com/article/fucoxanthin-attenuates-free-fatty-acid-induced-nonalcoholic-fatty-liver-diseas

[xvi] Nutr Cancer. 2022 Jun 13:1-11. Epub 2022 Jun 13. PMID: 35695489 www.greenmedinfo.com/article/biscuit-containing-fucoxanthin-prevents-colorectal-carcinogenesis

[xvii] Biochim Biophys Acta Mol Cell Biol Lipids. 2020 Jan 10:158618. Epub 2020 Jan 10. PMID: 31931174 www.greenmedinfo.com/article/health-benefits-fucoxanthin-prevention-chronic-diseases

[xviii] Mar Drugs. 2010; 8(7): 2038-2064. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2920542/

[xix] PLOS One September 23, 2022 https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0269269

[xx] PLOS One September 23, 2022 https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0269269

[xxi] Western Washington University September 26, 2022 https://news.wwu.edu/wwu-researchers-find-potentially-harmful-levels-of-pollutants-in-the-salish-sea-s-edible-seaweeds

[xxii] University of New Hampshire, Seaweed Foraging Tips https://seagrant.unh.edu/events/workshops/seaweed-workshops/seaweed-foraging-tips

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