READ YOUR LABELS: Carrageenan: A very common, but Dangerous Additive

I have been reading labels for most of my adult life, and I do attribute my lack of health problems, at age 76, to this practice.  One of the first things I do with my clients is to go through their pantry's to determine what items need to be eliminated, and so this weeks topic is dedicated to one of the worst offenders...  Carrageenan.

Most people read labels for the fat, sodium & sugar content, but do not fully comprehend the meaning of some of the other ingredients, to their own detriment.

If you eat processed foods, you are most likely ingesting Carrageenan. This ubiquitous additive is found in foods such as. ice cream, half & half, cream, cottage cheese, chocolate milk, some hemp milks, rice milk, almond milk, soy milk, cheesecake, processed meats, hot dogs, frozen desserts, apple cider, jellies, prepared sauces, pies, puddings and baby “formulas.” It is in other processed foods, but it may not be listed on the label, because it is part of another ingredient.


Why is carrageenan dangerous? Here is what a number of doctors and health researchers have to say.

Per Dr. Ray Peat, PhD, It has been found to cause colitis(inflammation of the large intestine/colon) and anaphylaxis (life threatening allergic reaction) in humans.

Dr. Andrew Weil says, “Carrageenan can cause ulcerations and cancers of the gastrointestinal tract.”

Dr. Russell Blaylock in his book “Health and Nutrition Secrets that can save your life” Pg. 196 writes "Carrageenan is a complex polysaccaride made from seaweed and is used as a binding agent. Experimentally carrageenan is used as an agent to induce, intense inflammation in experimental animals. A recent study found that when carrageenan was injected in animals along with a cancer causing chemical, tumors appeared more rapidly…than in control animals injected with the carcinogen alone. The same was seen when human breast cancers were implanted in animals along with carrageenan. The combination made the tumors grow faster and spread more rapidly than in control animals. As a result carrageenan is classified as a tumor promoter.” Dr Blaylock named carrageenan as an additive that may contain MSG.

Dr. Joann Tobacman, M.D., University of Iowa Assistant Professor of Clinical Internal Medicine did a number of studies on carrageenan. She said, “Evidence from animal models has demonstrated that degraded carrageenan causes ulcerations and malignancies in the gastro intestinal tract.” After conducting epidemiological and laboratory research on carrageenan, Dr. Tobacman published an extensive review of 45 investigations on harmful gastrointestinal effects of carrageenan in animal experiments. The article was published in an issue of Environmental Health Perspectives, the journal of the National Institute for Environmental Health Sciences. In the studies she found that carrageenan is taken up by the intestinal cells rather easily, but the cells are unable to metabolize it. As carrageenan accumulates in cells, it may cause them to break down, and over time this process could lead to ulceration.

In the past I came across information that carrageenan was an emulsifier and it caused the pores in the intestinal tract to become larger; permitting larger molecules of undigested food to enter the bloodstream.

This would cause a burden on the lymphatic system, whose main function is to clear out “foreign invaders” from the bloodstream.

Dr. Mercola writes: “A number of studies have found that the widely used food additive carrageenan causes cancer in food animals and its use in human foods should be reconsidered…enough evidence exists about the cancer-causing effects of carrageenan to limit the use of this food additive.

During the latter half of the 20th century inflammatory bowel disease and gastro intestinal malignancy have been major causes of morbidity and mortality in the United States. Even with improvement in treatment and cancer screening, colorectal cancer remains the second leading cause of cancer mortality in the United States. The Western Diet has been considered a possible source of inflammatory bowel disease and colorectal malignancy, and intensive efforts have been undertaken to study the impact of specific constituents of the Western Diet, such as, fiber and fat.

In 1972, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) proposed limiting the type of carrageenan that could be used in food. But the regulatory effort was rescinded in 1979.

For decades carrageenan was presumed safe to eat, but new research has shown that it can cause health problems - and should be avoided. The method by which it is processed - using strong alkali solvents is also questionable. These solvents could remove the tissues and skin from your hands - it is that toxic.

There are other questionable additives that are being used in our food supply and the only way to avoid them is to eat unprocessed foods.

I started reading labels back in 1961. I was guided, not to buy something, if I couldn’t pronounce it, but I didn’t know about the dangers of eating carrageenan, locust bean gum, guar gum, xanthan, etc. All of these

additives have side effects that can cause gastrointestinal problems. Most doctors treat your symptoms with medications, instead of, determining what is causing the symptoms. They are blissfully unaware that many of the foods and substances you are eating - have caused your health problems.

If you suffer from flatulence, bloating, diarrhea, loose stools or even blood in your stool, it could be related to the foods or substances that are irritating your intestinal tract.

Just because seaweed is natural - does not mean it is a healthy food for human beings. The red seaweed from which carrageenan has been derived from - should be avoided. It isn’t worth the possibility of gastrointestinal disease or cancer.

Healthfully Yours,

Barbara Charis


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  • 10/23/2010 9:55 PM Tara B wrote:
    For years, I have been trying to figure out what has caused the swelling I experience after eating certain things. I thought it was salt, then I thought sugar, but could never figure out a common denominator - until this article! Thank you! I am sure it's the carrageenan. I knew it was derived from seaweed so I never gave it a second thought. I had no idea it was dangerous until now. Thank you!!
    Tara B
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  • 12/29/2010 9:57 AM JoH wrote:
    Following the rule of not eating anything I can't pronounce would have saved ME from carrageenan. LOL!     Seriously, though, it makes me appreciate your basic belief that there are some foods that simply weren't meant for us humans to eat. Red seaweed seems to be one of those. I appreciate all of this helpful (and health-promoting)info. If you keep blogging, I'll keep reading.. Jo.H.
    Reply to this
  • 4/12/2011 3:34 PM Alcaponee wrote:
    Your blog is cool. Keep posting buddy !

    Reply to this
  • 4/12/2011 7:00 PM LaraKT wrote:
    I discovered that carrageenan causes huge intestinal problems for me after reading about it in small artical somewhere. It struck a chord and I began to read labels and when I removed all carrageenan-containing foods from my diet, my symptoms eventually went away. It took a while, but they did. I have since discovered that I cannot tolerate it in any amount anymore. Thank you for your article. I know I'm not crazy now!
    Reply to this
  • 5/5/2011 5:41 AM valiejev wrote:
    Really interesting topic Carrageenan:brought up. 
    Reply to this
  • 5/16/2011 10:28 AM Amber wrote:
    You gave out great points there on the dangers of carrageenan, that's why I always love checking out your blog. 
    Reply to this
  • 6/23/2011 5:37 AM Alex S wrote:
    Super Site...
    Reply to this
  • 8/7/2011 11:58 PM consumercide wrote:
    Well written article with useful information... Read Your Labels: Carrageenan a very common, but dangerous additive...  Thank you.
    Reply to this
  • 1/30/2012 7:32 AM Lisa E Hartley wrote:
    The article on Carrageenan was very informative...please put me on your mailings.
    Note: Please sign up on blog page, if you want to get on the automatic mailing list.
    Reply to this
  • 2/15/2012 2:34 PM esther abrams wrote:
    I am very happy for your article on carrageenan. Always wanted to know what was its derivitive. Now I know that there are side effects, I shall give special attention to the ingredients listed on packages especially since I am a vegan many of my packaged food selections, I would assume contain it.
    Reply to this
  • 4/2/2012 8:11 AM michaelh wrote:
    When I felt ill, I had to really dissect what I was eating that caused it, so I went through every ingredient in my Almond Breeze (almond milk). I chose this product because after half an hour I'd experience really foul odor flatulence, gassy bloatedness and an overall sick feeling; and for 24 hrs too! Who would've known. As I came upon Carageenan research I could not believe what I was reading..and have since switched to a product without Carageenan. Be careful folks, rice milks, almond breeze drinks and many foods contain this deadly, potentially cancerous product...And I do NOT visit doctors because of the following comment, it is on point: "Most doctors treat your symptoms with medications, instead of, determining what is causing the symptoms. They are blissfully unaware that many of the foods and substances you are eating - have caused your health problems." Great stuff, Barbara!
    Reply to this
    1. 4/13/2013 7:48 AM Problem with carrageenan wrote:
      what milk do you drink now?  
      Answer from Barbara:   Whole Foods Organic Unsweetened Vanilla Almond Milk works.  I use it in my smoothies and in my daily cup of coffee.  When I make my coffee I use 1 teaspoon of instant coffee and add 12 oz of ionized water.  I add 4 oz of almond milk and sweeten it with stevia.   There are just 20 calories in this 4 oz of almond milk...and none in the stevia,  It is very important to get enough water daily.  I start my morning out with at least 1z of water in a lemon-lime drink that I make. I also drink another 10 oz of water with my supplements.

      Reply to this
  • 8/13/2012 8:20 AM Jen wrote:
    Consuming carrageenan causes one of my breasts to swell and ache. I also got hives on that breast and have difficulty breathing. After months of breast cancer screening because of these symptoms. I realized what caused it after fasting (and feeling some relief) and then having heavy cream in my coffee that contained carrageenan. The symptoms flared up again. I then removed all carrageenan from my diet and have felt 100% better. The other day I had a cookie that had soy milk as an ingredient and the symptoms returned with a vengeance. I emailed the company and they said  the soy milk contains carrageenan.  I am amazed that something that is in everything could cause such an extreme reaction. The whole experience has caused me to focus on consuming whole foods. I do much better without additives.
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  • 9/29/2012 8:28 AM jean wrote:
    I cannot believe what I am reading about carrageenan. I removed it from my diet today and hopefully I have found a substitute that will not bother me. I have been drinking Almond Breeze for years and never realized that it was bothering my stomach.
    Reply to this
    1. 3/25/2013 10:24 AM Belinda wrote:
      I would like to know what u replaced almond milk with, I too drink it and am concerned. 
       Answer:  Whole Foods Organic Unsweetened Vanilla Almond Milk  is a good choice.  It is low calorie, and low fat, too. It is in the cold section in half gallon containers.

      Reply to this
  • 10/5/2012 11:43 AM Leon R Henderson wrote:
    Excellent article covering carrageenan, Thank You
    Reply to this
  • 10/10/2012 9:04 AM bonniejean wrote:
    I think I just found the answer to a gut problem I've had for years. So glad to have found this site. Thanks.
    Reply to this
  • 11/28/2012 11:05 AM Beverly wrote:
    I started drinking a new iced coffee that came on the market. I drank this for about three months. My rheumatoid arthritis flared something awful. My doctor changed my meds 3 times. Nothing helped.
    I kept thinking what did I do differently in the past 3 months. I have not had a flare in over 10 years. Bingo: the new iced coffee. I looked up the ingredients and there was Carrageenan. I had not heard of this one. I looked it up and sure enough it can cause flares in RA. I was drinking this every day for 3 months. I stopped and within 3 days, I was 50% better. It has now been 3 weeks and I am about 85% better. Amazing what it can do to you.
    I just wanted to share my story so that others with RA might try to see if this is in their foods and eliminate a lot of pain
    Reply to this
  • 12/12/2012 6:33 AM Brenda wrote:
    Great article Read Your Labels regarding carrageenan/
    Reply to this
  • 12/14/2012 2:07 PM Andres Carrero wrote:
    Please subscribe me to this Blog so I can follow your posts!  Answer:  I added your name,,,,you havc to reply to the email.  Just reply that you want it.
    Reply to this
  • 1/13/2013 3:23 PM Murray wrote:
    Thank you. I see the Almond milk I've been using (from Pacific Foods and Blue Diamond) both contain carrageenan. Which brands would you recommend. Guar gum slows down my urine, but I can't find cottage cheese without Guar Gum. Can you help? Thank you very kindly. Answer; Pacific All natural Hemp MilkVanillla has no carrageena  Guar gum is a problem, but so is the dairy.   After reading Dr. N.W.alker'book on dairy and cottage cheese I gave ir up.  One cup of cottage cheese contains more protein than most people need in one day.  Excess protein can contribute to the growth of a tumor.  Calves need lots of protein to grow over 500 lbs their first nine months.  Humans don't need tht kind of growth.
    Reply to this
    1. 1/22/2013 11:12 PM peter12 wrote:
      I believe I have identified the cause of my painless unexplained, sometimes watery, kinda explosive, diarrhea, from which I have suffered episodically for many years. In my case it is due to food additives one of which is carrageenan, others are......
      Reply to this
  • 1/30/2013 11:31 PM Betty wrote:
    I always read labels, but never thought to read the label on "organic" heavy whipping cream, until I began to experience very uncomfortable bowel symptoms and started looking for clues. There it was...carrageenan.
    I am now looking forward to healing.
    Reply to this
  • 2/2/2013 8:04 PM Rhonda wrote:
    I started Dr. Oz's 21 day cleanse,and bought Hy-vee brand Almond milk.I can't have milk, anyway. But carrageenan isn't listed in the ingredients. I'm going to use this, but I'll watch carefully the ingredients in the next nondairy milk I buy.    ANSWER from Barbara:  Total Body Cleanse   is a reasonably priced 14 day cleanse.  I have been using it with organic flax seed and organic high fiber cereal twice daily.  It works fantastically well from the beginning.  I use Pacific Sales Vanilla Hemp Milk.  It is tasty., I use a little kAL Stevia liquid  to sweeten it. Carrageenan -free Hemp Milk (particularly, their Vanilla) is very good.
    Reply to this
    1. 2/2/2013 9:18 PM Rhonda wrote:
      Thanks Barabara! I'll use what I have now, but I'll buy the Pacific Sales Vanilla Hemp milk when I'm done. I found out they sell it at the grocery store I where I shop. I'll not be buying any more almond milk.  ANSWER:  Hemp Milk has better nutritional value.  I am sure you will like it better Rhonda..
      Reply to this
  • 2/20/2013 11:12 AM Debbie wrote:
    On June 11th, 2008, Dr. Joanne Tobacman petitioned the FDA to revoke the current regulations permitting use of carrageenan as a food additive.
    On June 11th, 2012 the FDA denied her petition, categorically addressing and ultimately dismissing all of her claims; their rebuttal supported by the results of several in-depth, scientific studies.  Barbara's Answer:  The FDA is in the pocket of industry and is promoting many items, which are detrimental.  Many people have contacted me amd told me that their intestinal problems stopped, when they eliminated the carrageenan.  I wouldn't touch it myself.  I appreciate good health.   I am not into promoting something for love nor money, which could pose harm to another.  I ask for guidance and have had many miracles happen to me.   I listen and I am guided to avoid carrageenan.
    Reply to this
  • 2/20/2013 2:36 PM Ginette wrote:
    My granddaughter and I react very badly My granddaughter and I react very badly when we ingest food containing carrageenan. I suspect many people are not aware of the cause of their problems and suffer because of it. I don't think we will win this battle with the FDA. I don't know how you manage to avoid it. It's in everything. Good luck. Leave your country, it's corrupt to the core.  Answer: Avoid processed foods.
    Reply to this
  • 3/1/2013 8:30 AM Heather wrote:
    I was just eating a girlscout cookie and then reading the label. I thought I remembered hearing carrageenan in a nutrition class I had taken but couldn't remember any details. I loved this blog and immediately threw away the box. I also hate that a product can say it has 0 grams of trans fat per serving but it still contains trans fat if it has partially hygrogenated oil.
    Reply to this
  • 4/1/2013 1:03 AM Deb Brownlee wrote:
    Excellent article, thank you.

    There is so much information coming forth now on carrageenan.  I do get emails from some who try to deny that carrageenan is harmful, but I am hearing from people who had intestinal problems - overcome them by simply eliminating carrageenan.  
    I ask for guidance in everything I do and I have been guided to avoid most seaweed.  There is some like dulse I can handle. Every person is unique, but this carrageenan is processed in such a way that uses chemicals to strip it - and it may not be a healthy seaweed to begin with.  Barbara Charis

    Reply to this
  • 4/14/2013 9:47 AM gloria wrote:
    Drinking almond milk and had no clue that it was the cause of my problems. I will stop and switch to hemp milk. Thank you for your information.
    NOTE: Whole Foods has a very good Organic Unsweetened Vanilla Almond Milk without carrageenan.  One has to read labels, because companies switch ingredients.  I was drinking hemp milk and carrageenan was added.  I found another hemp milk that did not have carrageenan and it suddenly became unavailable. Read labels!!!

    Reply to this
  • 6/2/2013 8:23 AM Murray wrote:
    Thank you kindly for this. Guar gum slows down my personal plumbing. And I'm wondering if carob bean gum causes any problems, the way guar gum and carrageenan do?
    Thank you in advance for any help.
    Hi Murray:  Carob candy, used in place of chocolate caused vision problems in my small son. When this happened, I discovered that carob contained a high amount of nickel.  When I stopped the more problems. 
    I also found out that carob bean gum contains tannins, which appear to be helpful in reducing blood sugar, insulin levels and cholesterol, but tannins are harmful to other micro organisms in the body; interfere with protein absorption; and inhibit digestion. 
    Drinks with dietary sources of tanins: tea, wine, orange colored drinks contain dye with tannins, beer.
    Foods/spices: pomegranites, persimmons, hazelnuts, walnuts, pecans, cloves, tarragon, cumin, thyme, cinnamon and vanilla.  Apple, grape and berry juices are all high in tannins. Almonds are lower than most nuts in tannins.
    I do hope you will find this information beneficial.
    Barbara Charis

    Reply to this
  • 6/7/2013 9:46 PM ann wrote:
    My cat had such terrible tummy problems the vet thought it was cancer.  My cat guru suggested feeding her a food with no carrageenan or guar gum. When I eliminated them, my cat was IMMEDIATELY fine. if she had continued on them, my cat would be dead by now.  She had been on these substances in her food for a long time. I hope it isn't too late for her to heal.
    Reply to this
  • 6/25/2013 1:10 AM toni wrote:
    If carageenan is from seaweed, does it mean that eating seaweed is as bad?
    Hi Toni: NO! It so happens that the red seaweed, which carrageenan is derived not recommended.  Also, when the carrageenan is extracted from it...a very strong solvent is used.  Remnants of the solvent is left in the extracted carrageenan. 
    Every person is biochemically unique and different seaweeds contain different minerals and vitamins.  Seaweed is usually high in sodium and iodine.  If you try using seaweed, just note if it agrees with you.  If you have a problem, stop.
    I had an experience with kelp years ago.  I used too much and it caused my arms to itch unbearably.  I stopped the kelp and it took days, until the itching stopped. 
     My personal favorite is dulse.  The health food stores carry it in a sealed 1 oz package.  It comes from Maine.
    Hope this answers your question.
    Barbara Charis

    Reply to this
  • 7/4/2013 7:44 PM Marco wrote:
    Does anybody know a brand of coconut milk that does not contain Carrageenan? I used to buy "SILK" and "SO Delicious" and also their almond milk, but both brands have Carrageenan added. The one SILK Almond milk that doesn't have Carrageenan has Carob and Guar Gum.. Is there anything one can get that doesn't have these in there? I really like organic Coconut milk, but even the organics contain questionable ingredients. What's left? Any suggestions? Thanks!
    Reply to this
  • 8/18/2013 2:19 PM michael wrote:
    i searched Trader Joe's and Whole Foods. I spent an hour reading all the labels to ensure this deadly cancer causing toxin isn't in my drink. All in vain - checked every brand from 360 to Pacific to Almond Breeze; the white flag went up however you can opt for Trader Joe's Rice Dream/milk - NO carragean, guar gum, no garbage binding agents; it's clean and easy on difestive system. Hi carbs but low calories - very decent choice for coffee, cereal, etc...Michael

    I need to check out the Rice Dream - I am using 365 Unsweetened Vanilla Almond milk. It works for me.

    Reply to this
  • 10/20/2013 7:45 AM pam jones wrote:
    I have been sick for over a year.  Pam says stomach hurts, sick at my stomach, I miss work, wanted to kill myself. Still nothing has helped. I pray to God for healing. Medicines do not help.    

      Perhaps you should try organic instant oatmeal with flax...I put it in a large cup and add 8 oz of hot water...then I fill it with 2 sm bananas....and stevia and also 1 - 2 oz of Almond milk.  This is easy on the stomach. i am sorry to hear you are suffering. Barbara

    Reply to this
  • 12/26/2013 8:02 PM Sharon wrote:
    Get ready for the new carrageenan - alginate or sodium / calcium / potassium alginate or algenic acid made from brown seaweed instead of red seaweed species like carrageenan. Caused me gluten like symptoms as carrageenan and seaweed does to so many celiac and nonceliac gluten sensitive folks. Could not believe two major gf manufacturers are using it in their products. Read those labels!
    Reply to this
  • 1/27/2014 10:37 AM Dianne Lincoln wrote:
    Very good to know and watch for..Just know they use a solvent on the carrageenan to strip out the fiber. Many have said that they experienced intestinal upset, when they digested it.
    Reply to this
  • 2/15/2014 6:44 PM Mario wrote:
    Red seaweed like carrageenan should be avoided. A solvent is used on it which is dangerous. Many people have let me know they have suffered extreme physical duress, after eating it. Dulse comes from a benefical  red seaweed' it has many good qualities and nutrient value. It should not be avoided.  Kelp has many benefical qualities and benefits the thyroid gland with its iodine.
    Reply to this
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