liverSo you read the title and see the words “side effects” and I bet you are thinking that this is going to be about how spirulina is bad for your liver. Well this is actually the opposite. Spirulina and liver health go together in a good way and there are clinical studies to back this claim up. There are only a few reasons why it “might” be bad for your liver which I cover at the end.

Spirulina can help out your liver in a couple of different ways. It can reduce fatty liver (steatohepatitis), regulates liver enzymes (increases function), and can help with liver fibrosis.

Spirulina reduces Fatty Liver

Fatty Liver Disease is when you have to much fat in your liver. Your triglyceride level is too high. In order to treat this disease you need to lower it right? Spirulina can help with that. But first, f you are a heavy drinker (alcohol) then the first thing you need to do for treatment is to STOP the drinking. One of the 2 causes of Fatty Liver Disease is excessive alcohol consumption.

Once you have stopped then consider supplementing spirulina. There have been various animal studies that show spirulina is effective at reducing this disease but lets stick to the human studies.

One of these studies is published in the Journal of Medical Case Reports and measured ALT, triglyceride, and cholesterol levels before and after spirulina supplementation. Spirulina supplementation consisted of 4.5g/day and lasted for three months [1].

The results were great. The triglyceride levels decreased an average of 19% and LDL cholesterol (bad) decreased 16%. ALT levels in the blood were also measured and showed a decrease by an average of 41% (High ALT levels in the blood are a sign of liver damage) [1].

Spirulina can help decrease fatty liver even without any other diet changes. But of course if you better your diet the combined effects of this along with spirulina supplementation will be much greater.

Spirulina also helps regulate your liver enzymes, increasing liver function

The amount of liver enzymes correlates with the amount of liver damage you have somewhat. Having a higher number of enzymes in your blood usually means your liver is more damaged and doesn’t function as good as it should.

Spirulina is shown to help regulate liver enzymes, which suggests it improves liver health. In a study performed on rats 0.33g/kg of spirulina per day showed a decrease in the liver enzymes SGOT by 33.42% and SGPT by 24.78% [2]. Thats a pretty significant decrease and indicates much less liver damage.

And yes there have been studies on humans as well. One of which showed that a spirulina supplentation of 1g/kg a day slowed down the increase of the liver enzymes: SGOT, SGPT, and ALP after having Cisplatin injections. Normally Cisplatin injections would have resulted in much higher enzyme levels [3].

In this same study it was also found that supplementing spirulina (1g/kg) and vitamin C (500mg/kg) together returned the enzyme levels back to normal after Cisplatin injections [3].

I will say though that this is an extremely high amount of spirulina to eat. At 1g/kg a 200 pound person would have to eat 90.7 grams of spirulina! Thats a lot and not very realistic for most people’s diets.

Besides this Spirulina also helps with liver fibrosisfibrosis

Liver fibrosis is when your liver becomes covered in scar tissue. It occurs in a lot of chronic liver diseases and can be very harmful. One treatment for this condition is to inhibit the increase of hepatic stellate cell (HSC) and to speed up the life cycle of these cells so that they die off faster.

And spirulina is shown to do exactly this. This is believed to be due to spirulina’s strong antioxidant properties.

In one study the effects of both spirulina and chlorella extracts on live human cancer cells were studied. Both spirulina and chlorella decreased the cell growth rates of HSC but spirulina inhibited the cells more due to its higher antioxidant content [4]. It did not completely stop HSC growth but it did slow it down which in turn should slow down fibrosis.

Why spirulina COULD be bad for your liver

This is probably what you have all been waiting for. Is it bad at all for your liver. The answer is potentially and this is for 2 reasons.

First, spirulina absorbs heavy metals easily from its environment. If you consume spirulina that has high heavy metal content this can be VERY hard on your liver. As it would be working harder than normal to remove these toxins.

However, the fix for this is simple. JUST BUY FROM A CREDIBLE QUALITY SOURCE! There are plenty of spirulina products out there that are clean and are regularly tested for heavy metal content.

==> Click Here to see high quality products that I have reviewed <==

The second reason why spirulina could be bad is due to the fact that it contains microcystins, which are groups of amino acids and can be toxic according to Purdue University if you take TOO MUCH. Scientists have not yet figured out a specific limit as to how much microcrystins are too much and it is widely unregulated.

There are a couple states that regulate spirulina’s microcrystin content before sale however the majority don’t. For this reason I am led to believe that it is probably not that concerning, but I could be wrong. We will just have to wait and see what new scientific results come out on this matter.

Sources

  1. 1)Ferreira-Hermosillo A, Torres-Duran PV, Juarez-Oropeza MA Hepatoprotective effects of Spirulina maxima in patients with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease: a case series . J Med Case Rep. (2010)

2) Jarouliya U, et al Alleviation of metabolic abnormalities induced by excessive fructose administration in Wistar rats by Spirulina maxima . Indian J Med Res. (2012)

3) Bhattacharyya S, Mehta P The hepatoprotective potential of Spirulina and vitamin C supplemention in cisplatin toxicity . Food Funct. (2012)

4) Wu LC, Ho JA, Shieh MC, Lu IW. Antioxidant and antiproliferative activities of Spirulina and Chlorella water extracts. J Agric Food Chem. (2005)

 

24 Comments

  • Shawn

    I have been reading about this all day it seems and it sounds like some kind of miracle working substance.
    Is it really as good for you as it seems?
    I am concerned by the warnings to find a credible source and I know you recommend one but how do you know that one is safe?
    Just asking :)

    Shawn>>

    • admin

      The products I recommend come from very credible sources. They all have spirulina grown and packaged in the USA and are subject to high regulation from the FDA. Many of them also have 3rd party certifications to show their quality.

  • G.C.Horton

    Since my sister died last August of liver cancer, I’ve been keenly interested in liver health. Just this past week, novelist Pat Conroy also died of liver cancer.

    The important thing I have learned is that our liver needs to be cared for with a healthy lifestyle, just like the rest of our body.

    Because the liver detoxes everything we eat and drink, plus toxins that are absorbed through our skin and lungs, it suffers the most from an unhealthy lifestyle.

    The boost that spirulina gives the liver is well documented, but it is essential to get the best quality Spirulina possible. There are many inferior brands that may actually do more harm than good.

    The product you recommend has a stellar reputation and is one of only a handful of Spirulina products I trust. I use the powder and make my own capsules.

    • admin

      The liver has an extremely and difficult job indeed. Especially for those with unhealthy lifestyles.

      I have never made my own spirulina capsules before but I will have to give that a try. I already have a small capsule packing machine.

      I bet you save a good bit of money making your own because the spirulina capsules are usually much more expensive per weight than the powder.

  • Glenn

    Thanks for sharing this article.

    I am very interested in nutrition and am continually looking at anything that benefits your health.

    After reading your article I would have to agree that Spirulina seems to have heaps of health benefits for your liver and well worth looking into further. I’m glad that you mentioned the possible side effects as it is always good to be aware of the positives and negatives (if any) of any product.

    Just one question. Which product do you think is better – powder, capsules or tablets?

    • admin

      Thank you very much and I’m glad you enjoyed my article. I would say that powder is the best, just because it is the cheapest per weight. But then again, spirulina has a fowl taste so the powder isn’t the best choice for everyone.

      The capsules and tablets are both good and digest well. Sometimes you hear stories about tablets that don’t break down during digestion but I have never had a problem with that nor have I heard of anyone having that problem.

  • Raymond

    I like your brief thesis about Spirulina. I keep hearing about it that it’s good for health. I just didn’t know what it really does. It makes good common sense that the best way to cure problems is to stop doing the unhealthy lifestyle. However it’s not easy for an alchoholic to do that.
    As you said, thanks for the warning that it has a side effect if we picked the wrong source to buy spirulina. However, I don’t really trust FDA these days lately. Correct me if this sounds stupid, would there be like an Organic Spirulina?
    Cheers!

  • Erica

    Both my sisters have recently been told they have ‘fatty liver’ and so I have been researching to find the best and most natural way they could deal with it. I came across your article and was interested to read about the studies that have been done. I am now convinced that spirulina is the right choice for treating this condition.

    I had no idea that spirulina could contain heavy metals! Thanks for the warning about this – I can imagine just how counterproductive that would be, making your liver work harder than ever. I will check out the products you recommend.

    • Kyle

      Hi there,

      Spirulina is a great natural choice for fatty liver treatment. And yes you need to be careful where you get your spirulina due to its ability to absorb toxins from the environment. The products I recommend are all trusted and some of the best available.

  • Sophie

    Can someone take this supplement if they are also a heavy drinker? I know you say that it is best for a person to choose to stop drinking to improve liver function, but could this be supplement be used by a recovering alcoholic? Would there be negative effects of taking spirulina if a person is also heavily drinking? Or would this just cancel out any positive effects?

    • Kyle

      Spirulina would still help improve liver function even if you are a heavy drinker although it may not be able to improve it as much. It is suggested that after you take spirulina you wait at least an hour before drinking alcohol, due to the delicate nutrients in spirulina.

  • Gina

    Really informative post.

    No matter what you take into your body, you must do research. You outline the positives and negatives clearly and concisely. I am always concerned about what I take and the possible effect on my liver.

    Did you come across any research on it possibly helping or harming people with Hepatitis C? I have a friend who has it. I was just wondering if it would benefit her.

    Really great post.

    Gina

    • Kyle

      Hi Gina,

      Spirulina is actually helpful and can be used as a treatment for people with Hepatitis C. I plan on writing an article about this in the near future.

  • Lucas

    This ingredient seems like it has some great health benefits for your liver. I’m wondering what kind of side effects there could possibly be if too much is taken in? It seems like liver toxicity could be a risk if too much is taken in. It sounds like you have a good grip on this ingredient and it’s uses. Thanks for the information.

    • Kyle

      Well as long as you are taking good quality spirulina that hasn’t absorbed toxins, you shouldn’t really have to worry about taking too much. I have seen medical studies where subjects were given up to 50 grams per day for an extended period of time. And there were no adverse effects. The typical dosage for spirulina product is anywhere from 2-10 grams.

  • Jared

    This is a really good overview of the benefits of spirulina. When you consider all that the liver has to do for the body, it just makes sense to treat it right and make sure that it gets all of the nutrition that it needs to function properly. Given its importance, you’d think that you’d see more emphasis among the medical and fitness communities to endorse products like the ones on your site.

  • Marcus

    You are absolutely right, I was expecting this article to be about how spirulina is bad for your liver. I’m so glad it’s not, because I’ve used spirulina a lot in the past, especially in smoothies.

    I never realised spirulina reduced fatty liver. That’s good to know because that can be a common problem for people if they have had a bad diet in the past, right?

    One thing I want to ask you about, though: what about the chlorophyll content of spirulina? For example, if I was to swallow a few spirulina tablets after a meal heavy on the garlic and onions, do you think it would prevent garlic breath and onion breath?

    • Kyle

      Spirulina smoothies are the best.

      I’m not really sure about the whole bad breath thing. Chlorophyll does reduce some types of bad breath and spirulina does contain chlorophyll, so in theory it should work at least some. I’ll have to test this out for myself. I’ve never even thought of this before.

  • Ruel

    I take Spirulina but i had a side effect such as red spot in skin and most fearful is my stool
    have blood. So when i taking the side effect gone. Just try if safe for you.

  • Deepen

    I have taken certified organic spirulina 500mg table from last 30 days and I’ve plan to continue upto 6 to 12 months. Can I continue it?

    • Yes as long as you aren’t having any bad reactions to it. I personally am taking about 6g of spirulina per day and have been doing so for the past year or so.

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