Kelp supplements may be effective against yeast infections, but may also cause thyroid problems.
Fungal and yeast infections (candidiasis) ae common, ranging from the superficial thrush infections of the mouth and genito-urinary areas, to systemic yeast infection that may affect the whole body. Kelp, which is a seaweed containing iodine as well as many essential nutrients, is said to be effective in treating candidiasis. Too much kelp, however, can lead to thyroid problems.
Candidiasis is caused by an over-proliferation of Candida yeasts, especially Candida albicans. Candida albicans grows commonly in the gastro-intestinal tract, and in a healthy subject should cause no harm, but in those with lowered immunity it may proliferate and cause health problems. Studies show that a lack of “good” bacteria in the gut may allow Candida albicans yeast to proliferate and create unpleasant symptoms.
Iodine is strongly effective against many pathogenic microbes, including fungi and yeasts. Povidone-iodine has been shown to be effective against candidiasis and in developing countries is cited as a cost-effective alternative to more expensive anti-fungal treatments. Moreover, iodine-based treatment is also shown to be effective against mutating strains of Candida, unlike many branded treatments.
Because Candida occurs naturally in the gastro-intestinal tract, many natural health practitioners advocate treatments based on dietary changes. A typical anti-Candida diet tries to eliminate sugars and yeasts from the diet and substitutes foods thought to have anti-fungal properties, or that otherwise boost the immune system. Seaweed and particularly kelp, which is known to contain iodine as well as other essential minerals and trace elements, is for this reason often recommended by natural health practitioners as part of a dietary treatment for candidiasis.
Paul Pitchford, in his 1996 book, “Healing with Whole Foods: Asian Traditions and Modern Nutrition,” advocates kelp (which is traditionally used in much Asian cooking) as part of a strategy against both Candida and weight gain, since the iodine in kelp has an additional action on the thyroid which in turn regulates metabolism. He also cites the rich selenium content of kelp as essential in rebuilding immunity, which is frequently compromised in cases of Candida overgrowth.
Although the iodine in kelp may be effective against Candida, iodine also has a known effect on the thyroid gland, and an excess can lead to the potentially serious conditions of either hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid) or hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid). Studies have shown that too much dietary kelp can cause thyrotoxicosis, and patients with thyroid conditions are not advised to take kelp. Other studies suggest that kelp consumption can lead to thyroid disorders even where no pre-existing condition existed, so users should take care.