Spirulina is a type of blue-green algae 1. It is available dried or in pill form as a supplement. You can use dried spirulina as an add-on to smoothies or salads, or you can use it in meals and recipes. The FDA considers spirulina a supplement, not a drug, so there’s no strict control over its sale and use. If you want to add it to your regimen of health supplements and vitamins, talk to a health practitioner for advice 6.
Spirulina is actually a good complement to a multivitamin because it provides certain nutrients you can’t get from a multivitamin. For example, spirulina provides eight essential amino acids, which you could get from meat or soy, but not from vitamins. Spirulina also provides gamma-linolenic acids, an omega-6 fatty acid not present in multivitamins. GLAs can help maintain bone health, protect your heart and may help reduce high blood pressure.
- Spirulina is actually a good complement to a multivitamin because it provides certain nutrients you can’t get from a multivitamin.
Spirulina Side Effects
Spirulina also contains chlorophyll, which can help improve the processing and use of vitamins by the body. Chlorophyll also binds with iron, improving anemia faster than just taking iron alone, according to nutrition expert David Sandoval in his book “The Green Foods Bible. 1”
Spirulina contains very high amounts of vitamin E and carotenoids. While too much vitamin A can be toxic, carotenoids are converted into vitamin A only as needed by the body. The body excretes any excesses, thus avoiding toxicity. Vitamin E toxicity is rare and only occurs with very large dosages of more than 1,000 mg per day over long periods of time. If your multivitamin also contains very large amounts of vitamin E, talk to your doctor about combining these supplements.
- Spirulina contains very high amounts of vitamin E and carotenoids.
- While too much vitamin A can be toxic, carotenoids are converted into vitamin A only as needed by the body.
Spirulina Pros & Cons
If you have a sensitive stomach, you might experience stomach upset or heartburn after taking pills. If you combine several pills, such as a few spirulina tablets plus a multivitamin, you might worsen that effect. Iron is a likely culprit of stomach upset. Spirulina is already high in iron, so try switching to an iron-free multivitamin and see if that makes a difference.
- If you have a sensitive stomach, you might experience stomach upset or heartburn after taking pills.
Spirulina Side Effects
Spirulina Pros & Cons
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- “The Green Foods Bible: Everything You Need to Know About Barley Grass, Wheatgrass, Kamut, Chlorella, Spirulina And More”; David Sandoval; 2007
- Merck Manual; Vitamin E; Larry E. Johnson, MD, PhD; April 2007
- Natural Ways: Spirulina's Nutritional Analysis
- Beauty Magazine Online; Spirulina; Senga Barrett N.D.; 2011
- University of Maryland Medical Center; Gamma-linolenic Acid; Steven D. Ehrlich, NMD; June 2009
- Share Care; How Can I Take Vitamins and Supplements Without Getting an Upset Stomach?; Dominique Adair, MS, RD; 2011
- Park HJ, Lee YJ, Ryu HK, Kim MH, Chung HW, Kim WY. A randomized double-blind, placebo-controlled study to establish the effects of spirulina in elderly Koreans. Ann Nutr Metab. 2008;52(4):322-8. doi:10.1159/000151486
- Man LX. Complementary and alternative medicine for allergic rhinitis. Curr Opin Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 2009 17(3):226-31. doi:10.1097/MOO.0b013e3283295791
- Cingi C, Conk-Dalay M, Cakli H, Bal C. The effects of spirulina on allergic rhinitis. Eur Arch Otorhinolaryngol. 2008 265(10):1219-23. doi:10.1007/s00405-008-0642-8
- Lee EH, Park JE, Choi YJ, Huh KB, Kim WY. A randomized study to establish the effects of spirulina in type 2 diabetes mellitus patients. Nutr Res Pract. 2008 2(4):295-300. doi:10.4162/nrp.2008.2.4.295
- Mani UV, Desai S, Iyer U. Studies on the Long-Term Effect of Spirulina Supplementation on Serum Lipid Profile and Glycated Proteins in NIDDM Patients. Journal of Nutraceuticals, Functional & Medical Foods, 2000;2:3, 25-32. doi:10.1300/J133v02n03_03
- Mathew B, Sankaranarayanan R, Nair PP, et al. Evaluation of chemoprevention of oral cancer with Spirulina fusiformis. Nutr Cancer. 1995;24(2):197-202. doi:10.1080/01635589509514407
- Torres-duran PV, Ferreira-hermosillo A, Juarez-oropeza MA. Antihyperlipemic and antihypertensive effects of Spirulina maxima in an open sample of Mexican population: a preliminary report. Lipids Health Dis. 2007;6:33. doi:10.1186/1476-511X-6-33
- U. V. Mani, S. Desai & U. Iyer (2000) Studies on the Long-Term Effect of Spirulina Supplementation on Serum Lipid Profile and Glycated Proteins in NIDDM Patients. Journal of Nutraceuticals, Functional & Medical Foods, 2:3, 25-32. doi:10.1300/J133v02n03_03
- Miczke A, Szulińska M, Hansdorfer-Korzon R, et al. Effects of spirulina consumption on body weight, blood pressure, and endothelial function in overweight hypertensive Caucasians: a double-blind, placebo-controlled, randomized trial. Eur Rev Med Pharmacol Sci. 2016;20(1):150-6.
Tammy Dray has been writing since 1996. She specializes in health, wellness and travel topics and has credits in various publications including Woman's Day, Marie Claire, Adirondack Life and Self. She is also a seasoned independent traveler and a certified personal trainer and nutrition consultant. Dray is pursuing a criminal justice degree at Penn Foster College.