Last week I learned of yet another thing that we all need to watch out for on food labels. Sadly this one is found all over the place, in organic food as well as standard packaged foods and in personal care products. Carrageenan is a common thickener and emulsifier derived from red seaweed, which has been shown to cause gastrointestinal inflammation, lesions, ulceration and even malignant tumors in animals. Scientists have been warning that this is not a substance that should be in the human food supply for over forty years now. But still it persists.
Symptoms of distress caused by carrageenan include everything from bloating to irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) to severe inflammatory bowel disease. These are caused by the immune response the body has to the substance. Prolonged inflammation causes a whole host of problems in people. Arthritis, arteriosclerosis, cancer, diabetes and enzyme deficiency can all be linked to the inflammation reaction caused by carrageenan. When sufferers stop consuming the substance, they find that their symptoms go away. For those of us working on improving the health of our digestive systems, it is probably crucial to avoid this ingredient.
History is, of course, full of examples of good science being rejected by regulatory agencies for whatever reason, putting human health at risk. So as usual we have to be diligent, do our own research and pay attention to these things ourselves. Organic watchdog, The Cornucopia Institute has published a shopping guide that helps consumers avoid this damaging ingredient. I’ve already combed through my cabinets on a seek-and-eliminate mission and will not be purchasing any food or personal care products that contain carrageenan anymore.