Tag Archives: allergies

What is Carrageenan?

what-is-carrageenan

So I just got through having a very interesting conversation with a fellow tubie mom.  She was looking for advice because her son had suddenly been vomiting his morning blends.  At first she thought it might be a cold but no other symptoms arose.  He was tolerating broth and baby food so it did not sound like a flu bug.  Then she mentioned a change in the coconut milk she had been buying for her blends.  She went from using Silk coconut milk to using Simple Truth coconut milk.  She questioned whether or not it might be a particular additive in the Simple Truth that was not in the Silk.  That additive was Carrageenen.  Since I make my milks fresh, I hadn’t thought about additives and the side effects they might have. I vaguely remember hearing the name but had no idea what it was so I hung up the phone and went looking.

After clicking on the first website that spoke about it and reading the contents, a light bulb went off.  There was a quote from an article that made me feel that this mom had hit the nail on the head:

“Although derived from a natural source, carrageenan appears to be particularly destructive to the digestive system, triggering an immune response similar to that your body has when invaded by pathogens like Salmonella. The result: “Carrageenan predictably causes inflammation, which can lead to ulcerations and bleeding,” explains veteran carrageenan researcher Joanne Tobacman, MD, associate professor of clinical medicine at the University of Illinois School of Medicine at Chicago. She says the food ingredient irritates by activating an immune response that dials up inflammation. Her previous work showed a concerning connection between carrageenan and gastrointestinal cancer in lab animals, and she’s involved with ongoing research funded through the National Institutes of Health that is investigating carrageenan’s effect on ulcerative colitis and other diseases like diabetes.”

And what do pathogens like Salmonella trigger the body to do?  You guessed it.  Vomit.  Unfortunately a lot of organic foods add these ingredients to stabilize their products and add shelf life.  So it could be that or a number of different additives that could be causing this little tubie’s tummy troubles.  The best answer is to go back to what was working.  If the vomiting stops, you’ve at least solved the immediate problem.  Then, keep a list of ingredients of the problem item in a file.  If a similar problem arises from another product compare the ingredients to see what they have in common.   Then research the side effects of those ingredients so that you can narrow down the list culprits.

It is best, whenever possible to make your own milks.  That way you know exactly what is in it and what, if anything, needs to be removed.  It is also much more cost effective.  I do understand that not everyone has the time to do this.  But, if you are cooking and/or blending for someone on a specialized diet or has multiple allergies/sensitivities, it is well worth the time and effort.

If you are interested in reading more about Carrageenan this article contains a lot of interesting information.