Digestion tip of the week: Carrageenan

So not to long ago I was made aware of a chemical compound that has been found more and more in different food variations. Who, of all people, pointed this out to me…my dad! Both he and my mother, who also sent me information on it, have been paying more attention to what is in the food they eat.

Now I know that there is always going to be something bad in every piece of food out there. And we can’t walk on egg shells all the time. But learning about this ingredient made me put on the brakes to a lot of things I’ve been consuming (or at least switching it up). Some of the information can be found at:  blog.nutri-living.com.

The blog stated this fact: “Carrageenan is extracted from red seaweed by powerful chemical alkali solvents – capable of removing skin as quick as any acid.  It’s used for food thickening and its fat and gelatin qualities. In its natural state it’s healthy; in its processed state, it’s highly antagonistic to humans. It’s the vegetarian equivalent of casein – protein isolated from milk to thicken foods. Carrageenan is the magic ingredient used to de-ice frozen airplanes sitting on tarmacs.” Besides food additive uses, carrageenan is in cosmetics, pesticides, pharmaceuticals, toothpaste, room deodorizers, ulcer medications, petrolatum, and cod liver oil. Predominantly it’s in food preparations as substitute for fat – combining with milk proteins, increases solubility and improves texture. Because of this, it’s used in low-calorie formulations– often combined with gums like locust bean or guar, to improve texture. It’s an indigestible additive.

In order to confirm the de-icing information I spoke with my husband, who is an engineer with military and defense airplanes. He confirmed that the component is used to de-ice planes among other uses of it.  He said there is a website that breaks down the components used for such things due to federal mandates. The website also mentioned this interesting fact:

“Research shows that if digested, carrageenan coats insides of the stomach like gooey honey – often causing digestive challenges. If a person consumes a soy product and reacts negatively, blaming soy for their stomach or lower gastrointestinal discomfort, it may be carrageenan they’re actually reacting to.
High weight molecular carrageenans are considered safe by the FDA. Low weight carrageenans are considered dangerous – even soy milk manufacturer SILK admits this.”
When I dove into this further, I found several things I had been eating that contained this ingredient. Among them are: Any half and half creamer, including ALL international delight and coffee mate creamers! My silk lactose free creamer had this ingredient, as well as all skinny cow products. Other products to include:
Danon yogurts/other yogurt (Chobani is not one of them-yeah!)
Processed sandwich meats (ham)
All soy milk products
Diet soda (no one should be drinking soda anymore anyway!)
Certain brands of “jared” sauces (this is why I make all of mine from scratch!)
infant formulas
whipped cream
cottage cheese
Ice cream (certain brands)
Wegmans brand Sorbet bars (any flavor)
I wonder if I had this information years ago, would I still have lactose issues or digestive sensitivities? For those with celiac disease, research shows that cutting out products with this additive may help decrease symptoms. I stress may, but it can’t hurt. I can say one thing for sure- if it’s being used to de-ice planes and in all forms of lubricants, it will not be going into my system.
I highly recommend making it a habit to look at the ingredients on your food products- all of them. You can’t avoid all things, but you should know which ones are worse than others.
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