Can Ice Cream Cause Ulcers?

January 12, 2009

Dropped Ice Cream
Ice Cream. It seems so innocent, doesn’t it? Unfortunately, food manufacturers often add unsavory ingredients that can cause intestinal trouble. One additive to watch out for is carrageenan, which has been linked to ulcers. Unfortunately, it’s extremely common: you can find it in ice cream, hot cocoa, even soymilk.  Here’s the low down.

What is carrageenan?

Carageenan is a gum extracted from red seeweeds.  Many manufacturers use it as a thickener. It’s very common.  You can find it in:

  • puddings
  • jams
  • milk shakes
  • sauces
  • ice cream
  • cottage cheese
  • yogurt
  • baked goods
  • soy milk

Quite a list, isn’t it?

What’s so bad about carageenan?

Carageenan triggers intestinal ulcers, often leading to inflammatory diseases, like colitis.   Scientists found that giving mice drinking water with a 10% carrageenan solution caused colitis within 10 days.

Published in Digestion 1984;29(4):197-203. Study “Degraded carrageenan – induced colitis in CF-1 mice”.

In an unrelated study by Drs. Marcus and Watt, 1.2% and 3% carrageenan solutions were given to guinea pigs for 2 weeks. 100% of the animals developed colon ulcerations, some “as early as the second day”.

Published in Lancet 1970 Aug 22; 2 (7669):414. Study “Rapid production of ulcerative colitis of the colon in the newly-weaned guinea pigs.”

How are these Animal Studies Related to Humans?

In both studies, carageenan upset the natural bacteria balance of the intestines.  A specific strain (Bacteroides vulgatus) was linked to ulcers in the animals.

Interestingly, high numbers of the same bacteria have been found in humans who have ulcers – specifically, in the stool cultures of UC (Ulcerative Colitis) patients.

So, if this bacteria is linked to ulcers in humans and animals, and carageenan is linked to this bacteria, then it would make sense to avoid carageenan. Until research on humans proves carrageenan is safe, patients with IBD (e.g. Colitis and Crohn’s disease), Celiac Disease and IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome) should carefully read food labels and avoid foods containing carrageenan.

What are Some Carrageenan-Free Alternatives?

These days, you can often find natural alternatives to additive-heavy foods. Here are some enticing carrageenan-free alternatives:

What if I have to avoid milk and sugar?

Generally, IBS(irritable bowel syndrome)/IBD(inflammatory bowel disease) patients should avoid products containing milk and sugar.  So, if you want to be absolutely sure of the purity of your food, creating recipes at home is a great “alternative to the alternative”.

Hot Cocoa Recipe

If you can tolerate cocoa, mix plain cocoa with unsweetened soymilk. A little honey can be added if you have no yeast problems (candida albica). I like using Rapunzel Organic Cocoa, it’s rich, velvety, and delicious!

Keep It Real

Food is always best consumed in its most natural state. So keep your magnifying glass close to you, and always check the ingredients of your food. Your gut will thank you for it!

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