Chlorella: Detoxifying Super Nutrient
Chlorella, a single-celled fresh-water algae, is one of the most heavily researched algae in the world. It’s often referred to as a near-perfect food as research through the years have identified an astounding range of health benefits. While being well known for its ability to detoxify your body by binding to toxins and carrying them out of your system, that’s certainly not all it’s good for.
Chlorella’s Impressive Range of Health Benefits
As you will see, chlorella seems to fit the description of a “wonder nutrient” that serves far more than just one function. Here’s a sampling of some of the health benefits associated with this green algae:
- Repairing nerve tissues
- Enhancing your immune system
- Improving digestion
- Promoting healthy pH levels in your gut, which in turn helps good bacteria to thrive
- Enhancing your ability to focus and concentrate
- Increasing your energy levels
- Normalizing your blood sugar
- Normalizing your blood pressure
- Removing potentially toxic metals from your body
- Eliminating bad breath
Chlorella can also be of benefit to vegetarians and vegans looking for proteins and B vitamins from a non-animal source. About 60 percent of it is protein, and because it contains all the essential amino acids your body needs, it’s considered to be a “complete protein.”
Chlorella is also rich in:
- Vitamin B12
Seven Health Conditions Chlorella May Help Prevent or Treat
As mentioned earlier, chlorella has and still is being researched for a number of health conditions. Here’s a list of seven common health problems and diseases where chlorella may be of particular benefit:
- Insulin resistance—Earlier this year, researchers discovered that chlorella has the ability to improve fructose-induced insulin sensitivity. As I’ve discussed on numerous occasions, excessive fructose consumption is the number one cause of insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes. In this animal study, after being fed fructose-rich chow for four weeks, the rats were then given chlorella three times a day for five days, which brought their elevated glucose-insulin values back to normal. The authors concluded that: “Oral administration of chlorella has the ability to improve insulin sensitivity, which may be used as an adjuvant therapy for patients with insulin resistance.”
- Detoxification—Chlorella is particularly helpful when used in conjunction with an infrared sauna and taken two hours before you go in the sauna. This way the chlorella will be in your intestine and ready to bind to the toxins that are released when you are in the sauna. It will bind irreversibly to the toxins and be safely excreted when you have your bowel movement.
- Diabetes—Additional evidence supporting the theory that chlorella can improve insulin sensitivity can be found in an earlier study. Here, the algae was found to improve insulin sensitivity and glucose uptake in the liver in type 1 diabetic rats. The authors suggest chlorella’s hypoglycemic effects may be due to improved glucose uptake in the liver and the soleus muscles. Another mechanism may be related to decreased levels of nonesterified fatty acids (NEFA), since insulin sensitivity is usually blunted by elevated NEFA in type 1 diabetes.
- Hypertension—The results from a placebo-controlled, double-blind study published two years ago suggest that chlorella can significantly decrease high-normal blood pressure and borderline hypertension. The authors proposed that it may be a beneficial dietary supplement for preventing hypertension, with no apparent adverse side effects.
- Anemia, proteinuria and edema in pregnant women—Pregnancy-induced hypertension and anemia are common, and potentially dangerous. One of the primary causes for these conditions is the woman’s nutritional status. A study published last year found that chlorella may help improve both of these conditions in pregnant women, likely due to its high folate, B12 and iron content.Subjects took six grams of chlorella per day, starting somewhere between the 12th to the 18th week of gestation, until delivery. The chlorella group had significantly lower rates of anemia compared to the control group. They also had fewer incidences of proteinuria and edema; two symptoms associated with pregnancy-induced hypertension. Here too, the authors concluded that: “Chlorella supplement may be useful as a resource of natural folate, vitamin B-12 and iron for pregnant women.”
- Fibromyalgia—Although the individual results were varied, it may be worth considering chlorella if you suffer with fibromyalgia. A study published in 2000 tested the effectiveness of two commercially available chlorella-based products on patients diagnosed with fibromyalgia, and the overall results showed a 22 percent decrease in pain intensity. However, while seven patients reported improvement in their fibromyalgia symptoms, six reported no effect at all, and five claimed their symptoms had worsened during the trial. So keep that in mind if you decide to try it. While it may help some, it might not work at all for others.
- Liver cancer—A study published in 2009 discovered that chlorella triggers cell death (apoptosis) in rat liver cancer cells, which suggests it may be useful in the prevention of liver cancer. The authors concluded that: “Our study shows that chlorella has definite chemopreventive effect by inducing apoptosis via decreasing the expression of Bcl-2 and increasing the expression of caspase 8 in hepatocarcinogenesis-induced rats.”
For additional research findings, check out Green Med Info’s chlorella page, which lists more than 40 health conditions for which chlorella may be of benefit.
Chlorella—A Potent Detox Agent
Heavy metal toxicity, just like chemical toxicity, has become one of the most pressing health hazards of our day, and this is where chlorella may be profoundly useful. Its ability to bind to heavy metal toxins, allowing them to be safely excreted from your body, has been well established. It’s particularly crucial for systemic mercury elimination, because the majority of mercury is rid through your stool. Once the mercury burden is lowered from your intestines, mercury from other body tissues will more readily migrate into your intestines where chlorella will work to remove it.
You can also add cilantro, which works as a synergetic detoxification aid along with the chlorella. This combination is particularly useful to take when you’re consuming seafood, as most are invariably contaminated with heavy metals and chemicals. Ideally you would take it with the meal so the chlorella can bind directly to the toxins while they are in your gut, before they absorbed into your body.
In order to optimize heavy metal detox, you’ll want to take at least four grams of chlorella every day, year-round.
Be aware that side effects may occur. As your body starts to detox, you may initially experience some slight nausea, and/or mild diarrhea. If these symptoms are too bothersome, you may want to lower your dose initially, and slowly increase the dose. As your body is cleansed of toxins, these side effects should disappear. Infrared saunas are another phenomenal detox approach. I seek to do a 20 minute sauna virtually every day I am home. I will be writing more about this useful tool in the near future.
The Crucial Detail that Determines Chlorella’s Effectiveness
The key to chlorella’s detoxing abilities lies within its membrane, but the fibrous cell wall of chlorella is actually indigestible to humans. This is why most chlorella products use the term “broken cell wall,” to describe the fact that the chlorella has been rendered digestible.
If a product does not specifically tell you that the cell wall has been broken, you are likely flushing your money down the toilet as the chlorella will simply pass right through you without doing you any good. As Ginny Banks explains in this previous chlorella interview, it’s in your best interest to make sure you’re getting a high quality product for this reason.
How to Verify the Quality of a Chlorella Product
While there are a number of proprietary methods to break the cell wall, the key comparison you need to pay attention to is the nutritional profile of the end product. In addition to making sure it’s “broken cell wall” chlorella, this is the other factor that will help you evaluate the quality of any given product. Keep in mind that, according to the legal requirements, a natural product may contain plus or minus 20 percent of the stated level of any nutritional component. Therefore, I recommend sticking with reputable companies only, as they will adhere to certain processes that increase your chances of getting the levels of nutrients stated on the label.
Recent changes to the Good Manufacturing Practices (GMPs) guidelines and the labeling requirements now make it much easier for you to investigate and verify company claims, because companies are now required to list their phone number and website on every label. They must also maintain a paper trail showing where the material came from and any testing that has been done.
Key questions to ask when calling a company directly include:
- How often do you test batches for nutritional consistency?
- Ask for a specification sheet (“spec sheet”), or the Certificate of Analysis, known as the “C of A.” These are documents that itemize every single test that the final product gets tested for.
- How and where is the chlorella grown? Variations in climate and season can cause nutritional variations, but if the chlorella is grown in artificial ponds the producer has greater control over consistency. You’ll also want to make sure the chlorella is grown in unpolluted areas, since chlorella binds to heavy metals.
- Does the producer test for heavy metal contamination? A high quality producer will perform regular heavy metal analysis’, for which there should also be a verifiable paper trail. And organic producers must adhere to even more stringent rules in order to become certified organic, which is another sign of a clean, high quality product.
Although I do not promote the use of many supplements in general, believing it is far better to get your nutrition from food, there are exceptions to this rule. In this case though, chlorella truly is a food, but it must be properly processed into supplement form in order to unlock its greatest health benefits. Whether you want to help reduce your toxic burden, prevent a particular health ailment, or just boost overall nutrition, I believe chlorella can be a phenomenal addition to a healthy diet.
(Leesa recommends getting your daily dose of Chlorella in GT’s Multi-Green Organic Raw Kombucha like she does!)
By Dr. Mercola