7 Interesting Benefits of Sea Kelp Beyond the Thyroid
Today we’re going to talk about sea kelp and its health benefits. These go beyond just the thyroid: sea kelp can also help boost IQ, balance your hormones, and provide you with essential minerals and amino acids.
Let’s dive into those benefits and how you can begin incorporating sea kelp into your diet.
In this article, I will cover how sea kelp:
The majority of sea kelp’s benefits ultimately link back to the plant’s high iodine content.
So sea kelp, or seaweed, will concentrate iodine from seawater by 30,000 times. So it’s a super-concentrated plant-based iodine source, so your body can utilize it very easily. You just need a little bit of it, and I would recommend taking it in the morning when you wake up - and not before you go to bed. Before bed, it can give you too much energy.
Why is this iodine helpful? Well, Iodine is a very important mineral in the human body. Most famously, the thyroid needs iodine to make its hormones. To understand this, though, you first have to understand normal thyroid and endocrine function:
How The Thyroid Works
The thyroid is ultimately controlled by the hypothalamus, a small structure in the brain that’s responsible for:
Regulating body temperature
Maintaining daily physiological cycles
Managing of sexual behavior
Regulating emotional responses
The hypothalamus makes a hormone called thyroid-releasing hormone (TRH). It also tells the nearby pituitary gland to release a hormone called thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH).
Those hormones then go down to the thyroid and tell the thyroid to produce and release thyroxine (T4) and a little bit of triiodothyronine (T3).
T4 is an inactive thyroid hormone, while T3 is the active version. Both are essential for brain development in infants and for metabolic activity in adults. Specifically, these hormones help the brain, heart, liver, muscles, and other organs of the body function properly.
In order for T4 to work in the body, it has to be converted into T3. This actually works through several organs, including the liver and the kidneys. 80% of T4 is converted through the liver, and 20% is converted through the kidneys to make T3.
Then, T3 goes into all the cells and it affects metabolism and many other things. Once it’s done its job, there’s a signal that’s sent back to the pituitary and the hypothalamus, turning these off. So you have a negative feedback loop.
Iodine Is Necessary For T4 to Convert to T3
When you see the T4 convert to T3, the numbers here actually represent the number of iodine molecules that make up that hormone. No iodine, no hormones. No hormones, no functioning of the human body.
That said iodine goes beyond just the thyroid. It’s also really beneficial for:
1. Balancing estrogen
If a woman has too much estrogen, she might develop issues like ovarian cysts or fibrocystic breast problems.
On the flip side, too little estrogen can actually weaken the system and lead to issues like hypothyroidism or Hashimoto’s. In fact, a high percentage of people with Hashimoto’s develop it three to eight months postpartum. Also, there are five to eight times more women who develop Hashimoto’s than men.
This is because, oftentimes, postpartum women are going to have a drop in their estrogen levels. This could create a weakness and set them up for getting this autoimmune condition.
If they take iodine, that could help balance either estrogen dominance or low estrogen levels.
This is important for a number of reasons. First, balanced estrogen levels just help your body function optimally. On top of that, estrogen is also a very powerful antioxidant. That’s one of the reasons why women live longer than men; since women have higher concentrations of antioxidants in their bodies, they have fewer free radicals (and thus, less free radical damage). So having the right levels of this antioxidant can be really helpful at battling free radicals that could damage the body.
2. Enhanced IQ
Iodine enhances IQ and cognitive performance. This is especially true in a growing child. If you’re pregnant, then, I definitely recommend that you take sea kelp to get that iodine.
Conversely, a lack of iodine will reduce IQ, and an iodine-deficient baby could actually come out with a smaller brain. In fact, according to one study, iodine deficiency can be defined as the world’s greatest single cause of preventable brain damage.
What’s more, severe iodine deficiency before or during pregnancy can cause a range of issues, including:
Trophoblastic or embryonic damage
Stillbirth or increased infant mortality
So iodine is really important for the growing brain and for growth in general.
3. 10x more calcium than milk
We all know that there are a lot of problems with milk and the hormones it contains, so it’s not the most ideal form of calcium. Sea kelp, on the other hand, is a fantastic source of calcium without any of the drawbacks of milk.
There are approximately 168 milligrams of calcium per 100 grams of sea kelp (or about 3.5 oz) and the Institute of Medicine recommends about 1,000 milligrams of calcium a day for the average adult.
Getting the right amount of calcium can:
Help maintain bone health and prevent osteoporosis
Reduce the risk of developing high blood pressure
Reduce the risk of preeclampsia during pregnancy
4. Other Vital Nutrients
There are many other nutrients in sea kelp that are vital to a healthy body. These include:
Magnesium/manganese: Magnesium is important for many processes in the body, including regulating muscle and nerve function, blood sugar levels, and blood pressure and making protein, bone, and DNA. Sea kelp has 121 mg of magnesium per 100 grams, which is about 31% of your recommended daily intake (DV).
Potassium: Your body needs potassium for almost everything it does, including proper kidney and heart function, muscle contraction, and nerve transmission. Sea kelp contains about 89 mg of potassium per 100 grams or 3% of your DV.
Iron: Your body uses iron to make hemoglobin, a protein in red blood cells that carries oxygen from the lungs to all parts of the body, and myoglobin, a protein that provides oxygen to muscles. Your body also needs iron to make some hormones. Sea kelp has about 2% of your DV per 100 grams.
Vitamin C: Vitamin C, also known as ascorbic acid, is a water-soluble nutrient found in some foods. In the body, it acts as an antioxidant, helping to protect cells from the damage caused by free radicals. The body also needs vitamin C to make collagen, a protein required to help wounds heal. In addition, vitamin C improves the absorption of iron from plant-based foods and helps the immune system work properly to protect the body from disease. Sea kelp contains 1% your DV of vitamin C per 100 grams.
Zinc: Zinc helps the immune system fight off invading bacteria and viruses. The body also needs zinc to make proteins and DNA. During pregnancy, infancy, and childhood, the body needs zinc to grow and develop properly. Zinc also helps wounds heal and is important for proper senses of taste and smell. Sea kelp contains 1% your DV of zinc per 100 grams.
This is a phytochemical with really powerful anti-cancer effects. Specifically, it’s been shown to possibly help prevent the spread of lung cancer and prostate cancer. It’s also an antioxidant and it has anti-inflammatory properties.
In short, it’s great to add to your diet and you won’t find it in many foods common in the Standard American Diet (SAD).
Vanadium is a trace mineral. You don’t need it in large amounts, but it can help your blood sugars. In particular, it helps with Fat Storing Hormone resistance, which is a very real concern for many people on the SAD.
7. Amino acids
Lastly, sea kelp actually contains amino acids. Of course, you would have to consume a high amount of seaweed (and people rarely do that because they’re usually consuming small amounts or milligrams) to get a huge amount, but just realize that there are amino acids in this product.
Overall, then, sea kelp is a healthy source of amino acids, trace minerals, vitamins, and phytonutrients. It’s a really good sea vegetable that has benefits that go way beyond thyroid support, and it can be incorporated into any diet.
Disclaimer: Our educational content is not meant or intended for medical advice or treatment.
Editor’s Note: This post has been updated for quality and relevancy.