kelp… (i need somebody)

19Jul13

Earlier this year, I started taking kelp supplements. Obscure? Yes. But I was convinced to buy them by my local supplement store as a prebiotic, since I was taking probiotics (note the one-letter difference). I take a probiotic to support my immune system and hopefully get it functioning more properly. Prebiotics are anything that supply “food” to the probiotics, which are the “good” bacteria. If our gut doesn’t provide an external source of prebiotics for the probiotics that we consume, the probiotics may start leeching minerals from our bones. (Confused yet?)

So, I was convinced to buy kelp pills, a prebiotic supplement, to provide the food for my gut flora. I took it routinely along with my probiotic pill. After a while, however, I slacked off, especially as I did my research for my nutrition classes, realizing that there is enough prebiotic material in onions, garlic, and bananas–foods I frequently eat. Why do I need to swallow another pill if I get it naturally? (Whole foods >> pills, if at all possible.)

Fast-forward to a few days ago, when I felt inexplicably sluggish (maybe attributed to significant sinus problems). My nutrition spidey-sense immediately started going through the list of supplements I’d been slacking on… and I realized that kelp is not only a prebiotic, but also a source of iodine.

Which led me to think… where do I get iodine in my diet? Hmmmm… just like the rest of America these days, I cook with sea salt (no iodine). Apparently yogurt is a decent source, but I eat that maybe once a week. Seaweed is a great source, but sushi isn’t cost-effective on that regular a basis. Iodine is the foundation of thyroid hormone… so if you can’t make enough thyroid hormone, of course you’ll feel tired!

So now, I’m back on the kelp pills, once a day. (and maybe buying some nori as a snack.) I don’t know if it’ll cause any long-term significant change, but it’s a fairly cheap experiment.

I’ve often wondered, with my nutrition students, since everyone’s so keen on sea salt these days rather than iodized, if we’ll start seeing goiter in industrialized countries…

(sorry for the geek-out post. I’ll be back to non-geek-out posts next time. I think!)

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