Does Spirulina Detox the Body?

Written by: Pard Bharaj

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Time to read 10 min

Image of Pard, the Author

Author: Pard Bharaj

I am a dedicated researcher with nearly a decade of experience in investigating health best practices. 

Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is for educational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or before making any changes to your diet or lifestyle, especially if you have existing health conditions or concerns.

Introduction: 


Our readers may already be aware that Spirulina, a cyanobacterium commonly known as blue-green algae, is well known for being one of the world's most nutrient dense foods, and is used extensively as a dietary supplement. Packed with protein, vitamins, minerals, and powerful antioxidants, it holds a well earned position at the top of the superfood category. 


Beyond its nutritional value, Spirulina is also celebrated for its detoxification properties, which have sparked considerable interest in both nutritional and medical fields. This article will explore Spirulina's detoxification capabilities, examining scientific evidence, and expert opinions to assess its effectiveness in aiding the body's removal of toxins - especially heavy metals.

Spirulina Interesting Facts:


  1. Ancient Superfood: Spirulina is one of the oldest life forms on Earth and has been consumed by humans for centuries. The Aztecs reportedly consumed spirulina harvested from Lake Texcoco in Mexico as early as the 16th century.

  2. Nutrient-Rich: Spirulina is incredibly nutrient-dense, containing high levels of protein, vitamins (such as B vitamins and vitamin E), minerals (including iron, calcium, and magnesium), and essential fatty acids.

  3. NASA Endorsement:  It has been stated by NASA that the nutritional value of 1000 kg of fruits and vegetables equals one kg of spirulina.

  4. Protein Content: Spirulina is incredibly protein-rich, containing between 50% to 70% protein by dry weight, making it one of the most protein-dense foods available.

  5. Research Studies: There has been a substantial body of research conducted on spirulina, with thousands of scientific studies investigating its various health benefits, nutritional properties, and potential applications in medicine and industry.

Does Spirulina Detox the Body?


The general consensus is yes it does! Several studies (please see references and further reading for scientific reviews) show that spirulina can be very effective at helping the body remove heavy metals. 


Limited other studies show that it can also be effective and counteracting the toxic effects of various environmental pollutants, including arsenic, cadmium, carbon tetrachloride, deltamethrin, fluoride, hexachlorocyclohexane, iron, lead, lindane, and mercury and mycotoxins - although more research is required to confirm these findings.


Here’s how it does it:

1. Heavy Metal Chelation: 


Spirulina's ability to chelate heavy metals and assist in their removal from the body is well-documented through various preclinical studies. This detoxification property is primarily due to specific compounds within Spirulina that have a strong affinity for binding heavy metal ions.


  • Chelating Compounds:¬†Spirulina contains compounds that can effectively bind to heavy metals like arsenic, cadmium, lead, and mercury, forming stable complexes that facilitate their excretion. This binding process helps reduce the toxicity and bioavailability of these harmful metals.

  • Role of Polysaccharides: Polysaccharides in Spirulina significantly contribute to its detoxification capabilities. Research indicates that these polysaccharides can bind to heavy metal ions, promoting their removal through excretion. This binding reduces the reabsorption of metals in the gut, enhancing their elimination from the body.

2. High Antioxidant and Chlorophyll Content


Spirulina has an abundance of antioxidants, including phycocyanin, beta-carotene, phenolic acids, and chlorophyll. These components collectively combat oxidative stress‚ÄĒa key factor in many chronic diseases linked to toxic exposures‚ÄĒby neutralising free radicals.


  • Phycocyanin, Beta-Carotene, and Phenolic Acids: Spirulina‚Äôs distinctive blue-green color primarily comes from phycocyanin. Combined with beta-carotene (a precursor to vitamin A) and phenolic acids, this antioxidant blend helps scavenge harmful free radicals and supports the body's antioxidant defense system. This combination not only reduces cellular damage caused by environmental toxins but also bolsters overall cellular health.
  • Chlorophyll: Chlorophyll, abundant in Spirulina, is known for its ability to bind with toxins and facilitate their excretion through the gastrointestinal tract. This prevents the absorption of harmful substances and aids in their removal from the body.

3. Improves Liver Function 


Spirulina supports liver function, a key organ in the body's natural detoxification system. The liver filters and processes blood, removing toxins and converting them into harmless substances or ensuring they are excreted from the body.


  • Enhancement of Detoxifying Enzymes:¬†Spirulina is known to boost the levels of critical enzymes involved in the body's antioxidant defence, such as superoxide dismutase (SOD) and catalase. These enzymes play a vital role in neutralising oxidative stress, which if left unchecked, can impair liver function and its ability to process toxins.

  • Liver Protection:¬†By enhancing the activity of these enzymes, Spirulina not only helps protect liver cells from damage caused by free radicals but also improves the liver‚Äôs efficiency in detoxifying chemicals and metabolic byproducts.

Precautions, Side Effects and Concerns:

 

While Spirulina is generally regarded as safe and beneficial, the following information is worth reading before taking this supplement.


  1. People with Phenylketonuria (PKU): Individuals with PKU cannot metabolise phenylalanine, an amino acid present in Spirulina. Consuming Spirulina could exacerbate their condition.

  2. People with Autoimmune Diseases: Spirulina can stimulate the immune system. For those with autoimmune conditions, this could potentially worsen symptoms by increasing immune system activity.

  3. People with Thyroid Conditions: Spirulina is relatively low in iodine, but in if consumed in large quantities it can affect thyroid function. Those with thyroid disorders should be cautious, as excess iodine could either exacerbate hyperthyroidism or interfere with thyroid medication.

  4. People Allergic to Seafood, Seaweed, or Other Algae: Individuals who are allergic to seafood, seaweed, or other algae might also be allergic to Spirulina. Consuming it could trigger allergic reactions ranging from mild to severe.

  5. People on Anticoagulant Medication (Blood Thinners): Spirulina may affect blood clotting due to its high vitamin K content. People taking anticoagulants like warfarin may experience interactions that could affect the medication’s efficacy.

  6. Pregnant or Nursing Women: It is best to contact a healthcare specialist for personalised advice before beginning spirulina supplementation.

  7. Contamination: Spirulina naturally thrives in both fresh and saltwater and can absorb and accumulate toxins from its environment. Consumers should seek organic Spirulina products that have been tested and certified free of contaminants and sourced from reputable suppliers who adhere to strict safety standards. 

Expert Insights and Opinons:

“Let's talk about the benefits. Number one, spirulina has been shown to help detoxify your body of heavy metals. In fact, a recent study found that it detoxifies your body of the heavy metal arsenic. By the way, of all the heavy metals, we probably get more arsenic in our diet than any other heavy metal"

Dr. Josh Axe

"Spirulina is essential for removing heavy metals such as mercury, aluminum, lead, cadmium, and toxic copper from the liver, reproductive system, intestinal tract, thyroid, and brain‚ÄĚ

Medical Medium

‚ÄúHeavy-metal contamination of spirulina supplements has also raised concern, especially ones coming out of China. Making independent lab testing even more important‚ÄĚ

Dr. Arsalan Aspires

Conclusion: Does Spirulina Detox the Body?


Various studies indicate that Spirulina shows great promise in removing heavy metals from the body. Additionally, some research suggests it can also eliminate other toxins, though further studies are needed to confirm these findings. To ensure safety and efficacy, 


it is best to purchase organic Spirulina from a trusted manufacturer to avoid the risk of contamination.

References and Further Reading:

1. The Role of Spirulina (Arthrospira) in the Mitigation of Heavy-Metal Toxicity:


Summary: This review evaluates Spirulina (Arthrospira) in mitigating heavy-metal toxicity, focusing on cadmium, mercury, lead, and arsenic. The review covers 58 preclinical studies showing Spirulina's alleviative effects on these toxicities and five clinical studies demonstrating its protective effect against arsenic toxicity in humans. The studies attribute these effects primarily to Spirulina's intrinsic antioxidant activity, suggesting it as a promising agent for heavy-metal toxicity mitigation, particularly where conventional chelating agents fall short.


Author:  Sanjib Bhattacharya


2. Spirulina in Clinical Practice: Evidence-Based Human Applications


Summary: This review article evaluates the evidence-based clinical applications of Spirulina (Arthrospira), focusing on its antioxidant, immune-modulating, and detoxification properties. Spirulina is rich in proteins, vitamins, and minerals, particularly iron, and has been used as a dietary supplement with no significant side effects. The article highlights Spirulina's potential benefits in treating chronic fatigue, allergic rhinitis, and chronic arsenic poisoning, among other conditions. Despite promising preclinical and clinical studies, larger trials are required to confirm its efficacy in various applications. Spirulina's ability to chelate heavy metals and reduce toxin-induced damage through its antioxidant properties is also discussed.

Authors: P. D. Karkos, S. C. Leong, C. D. Karkos, N. Sivaji, D. A. Assimakopoulos.


3. Preclinical antitoxic properties of Spirulina (Arthrospira):


Summary: This review article explores the preclinical antitoxic properties of Spirulina (Arthrospira), focusing on its ability to counteract the toxic effects of various environmental pollutants, including arsenic, cadmium, carbon tetrachloride, deltamethrin, fluoride, hexachlorocyclohexane, iron, lead, lindane, and mercury. The study highlights Spirulina's significant antioxidant capacity, which is attributed to its high content of compounds such as C-phycocyanin, carotenoids, and phenolic acids. These antioxidants play a crucial role in reducing oxidative stress and enhancing detoxification processes. The review concludes that Spirulina has potential as a coadjuvant agent in clinical practice for treating poisoning from these contaminants.


Authors: Elizdath Martínez-Galero, Ricardo Pérez-Pastén, Angélica Perez-Juarez, Luis Fabila-Castillo, Gabriela Gutiérrez-Salmeán, German Chamorro


4. Potential Protective Effects of Spirulina (Spirulina platensis) against In Vitro Toxicity Induced by Heavy Metals (Cadmium, Mercury, and Lead) on SH-SY5Y Neuroblastoma Cells


Summary: This study investigates the potential protective effects of Spirulina (Spirulina platensis) against in vitro toxicity induced by heavy metals (cadmium, mercury, and lead) on SH-SY5Y neuroblastoma cells. The study found that heavy metals decreased cell viability in a dose- and time-dependent manner, with cadmium being the most toxic, followed by mercury and lead. Spirulina treatment significantly increased cell viability and decreased lactate dehydrogenase (LDH) release, indicating reduced cell membrane damage and necrosis. The protective effects are attributed to Spirulina's antioxidant properties and its ability to chelate heavy metals, thereby reducing their toxicity.


Authors: Rosanna Mallamaci, Maria Maddalena Storelli, Alexia Barbarossa, Giovanni Messina, Anna Valenzano, Daniela Meleleo


5. Spirulina fusiformis provides protection against mercuric chloride induced oxidative stress in Swiss albino mice


Summary: This study evaluates the protective effects of Spirulina fusiformis against oxidative stress induced by mercuric chloride in Swiss albino mice. Mercuric chloride exposure (5 mg/kg body weight) significantly increased lipid peroxidation levels and serum transaminase activities while decreasing reduced glutathione and various antioxidant enzymes in the liver. Spirulina supplementation (800 mg/kg body weight) for 40 days reduced lipid peroxidation and serum transaminase activities and restored liver glutathione levels and antioxidant enzyme activities. The results suggest that Spirulina augments the antioxidant defense mechanism, providing therapeutic potential against mercury-induced oxidative stress and liver injury. Authors: Mukesh Kumar Sharma, Ambika Sharma, Ashok Kumar, Madhu Kumar


6. Spirulina platensis Alleviated the Oxidative Damage in the Gills, Liver, and Kidney Organs of Nile Tilapia Intoxicated with Sodium Sulphate


Summary This study investigates the protective effects of Spirulina platensis against sodium sulphate (SS)-induced oxidative damage in the gills, liver, and kidney of Nile tilapia. Over an eight-week period, fish were divided into four groups: control, SS exposure, Spirulina supplementation, and Spirulina plus SS exposure. The results showed that SS exposure significantly decreased the activities of antioxidant enzymes (catalase, superoxide dismutase, glutathione peroxidase) and total antioxidant capacity in tissues. Spirulina supplementation mitigated these effects, restoring antioxidant enzyme activities and upregulating the expression of hepatic antioxidant genes (SOD, GST, GSH-Px). The study concludes that dietary Spirulina platensis can effectively counteract oxidative stress induced by sodium sulphate toxicity in fish.


Authors: Eman M. Awed, Kadry M. Sadek, Magdy K. Soliman, Riad H. Khalil, Elsayed M. Younis, Abdel-Wahab A. Abdel-Warith, Hien Van Doan, Mahmoud A.O. Dawood, Hany M.R. Abdel-Latif.


7. Biological detoxification of mycotoxins: Emphasizing the role of algae


Summary: This review article highlights the role of algae, particularly Spirulina, in the biological detoxification of mycotoxins. Algae, with their abundant polysaccharides and antioxidants, provide a sustainable and cost-effective method for detoxifying mycotoxins like aflatoxins and Fusarium toxins. The study emphasizes the effectiveness of sulphated polysaccharides and antioxidants found in algae in neutralizing mycotoxins. Spirulina platensis, in particular, is noted for its ability to degrade aflatoxins through enzymatic activity, providing a potential method for detoxification in food and feed production.


Authors: Rajasri Yadavalli, Praharshita Valluru, Roshni Raj, C. Nagendranatha Reddy, Bishwambhar Mishra


8. Antioxidant and phytonutrient activities of Spirulina platensis:


Summary: This study explores the antioxidant and phytonutrient activities of Spirulina platensis, focusing on its potential as a dietary supplement to combat malnutrition. Spirulina samples were analyzed for their enzymatic (catalase, SOD, GPx) and non-enzymatic (Vitamin C, Vitamin E, GSH) antioxidant activities, as well as phytonutrient content (phenols, flavonoids, tannins, proteins, and carbohydrates). The results showed significant antioxidant properties and high phytonutrient contents, particularly in the aqueous extract, suggesting Spirulina's potential in dietary supplements and functional foods for improving health and preventing diseases.


Authors: Agam Kumar, Duraisamy Ramamoorthy, Daneshver Kumar Verma, Arvind Kumar, Naveen Kumar, Kanak Raj Kanak, Binny Mary Marwein, Kalai Mohan

Frequently Asked Questions:

What toxins can Spirulina help remove?

Studies show Spirulina is effective in removing heavy metals like arsenic, cadmium, lead, and mercury.

Limited other studies show that it can also remove other toxins such as including carbon tetrachloride, deltamethrin, fluoride, hexachlorocyclohexane, iron, lead, lindane, and mycotoxins - although more research is required to confirm these findings.

Is there scientific evidence supporting Spirulina’s detox benefits?

Yes, numerous studies indicate Spirulina's efficacy in detoxifying heavy metals and suggest potential for removing other toxins. Please check my scientific reviews in the "references and further reading" tab above.

How should Spirulina be consumed for detox benefits?

Spirulina can be consumed in powder, tablet, or capsule form. Follow dosage instructions on the product label.

Can Spirulina help with liver detoxification?

Yes, Spirulina supports liver function by boosting antioxidant enzyme levels and protecting liver cells from damage.

How long does it take for Spirulina to detox the body?

The detox process varies; consistent use over weeks to months is typically recommended for noticeable effects.

What should I look for when buying Spirulina?

Choose organic Spirulina from trusted manufacturers to avoid contamination and ensure high quality.

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