For A Naturally Healthy Pet
Spirulina, Blue-Green Algae and Chlorella:
We are fortunate to have a wide variety of supplements available to nourish our birds’ and help them to maintain an optimum level of health. There was a time, not too long ago, when the only types of nutritional supplements that we could offer our birds were synthetic preparations. These chemical substitutes for the real nutrients in foods were popular because synthetic substances could be patented and earn the pharmaceutical companies huge profits. We now have an abundance of whole food supplements that can be easily purchased at most any health food market.
What It Is – Spirulina is a single-celled, spiral-shaped blue-green microalgae that is often called a "superfood" because of its nutrient-density. It thrives in warm lakes such as Lake Chad in Africa and Lake Texcoco in Mexico. However, it is found in many environments, in soils, sands, alkaline lakes, brackish water, seawater and freshwater from the tropics to the North Sea. It is also cultivated by artificial farming methods.
Nutritional Value - Spirulina provides vitamins, many minerals, essential amino acids, carbohydrates and enzymes. A highly digestible food, spirulina is at least 60% vegetable protein, which is predigested by the algae. It is higher in protein than any other food. Its outstanding nutritional profile also includes the essential fatty acids, GLA fatty acid, lipids, the nucleic acids (RNA and DNA), B complex, vitamin C and E and phytochemicals, such as carotenoids, chlorophyll (blood purifier), and phycocyanin (a blue pigment), which is a protein that is known to inhibit cancer. The carotenoids and chlorophyll may also contribute to Spirulina’s anticancer effects. Researchers are studying phytochemicals to further understand their role in disease amelioration and prevention.
Healing Claims - Spirulina is thought to be a very useful supplement for those with a compromised immune system. It stimulates immune system cells that help fight infection. It may increase the growth of friendly bacteria in the intestines thus preventing or minimizing infection. It may also be helpful in removing toxic metals from the body. It has been used for the treatment of anemia, high cholesterol, internal inflammations, intestinal difficulties, arthritis, gout, malnutrition, allergies, cancer, radiation poisoning, diabetes, liver disease, kidney damage and hypoglycemia. Its chlorophyll content has been found to aid in tissue repair for healing wounds and burns. In animal studies, chlorophyll has reduced the absorption of dietary carcinogens and kept tumors from developing. A human study showed that it helped eliminate precancerous mouth lesions. Your health food store carries many different brands of Spirulina.
What It Is - Aphanizomenon flos-aquae (AFA), more commonly known as blue-green algae, is an aquatic bacteria (cyanobacteria). Several companies harvest the AFA from Upper Klamath Lake in Southern Oregon and then sell it to natural food stores or through multilevel marketing.
Problems? - The potential problem associated with AFA is that it may be contaminated with a neurotoxin and hepatotoxin. Some marine ecologists and residents near Klamath Lake say that the lake is polluted with agricultural run-off. Others who have visited Klamath Lake have remarked on the lake's beauty and how clean looking the water appears. The companies who sell blue-green algae claim to have tested each batch for toxins and pesticides before marketing. Who do we believe?
With the current controversy surrounding the blue-green algae, it is difficult to say whether the blue-green algae products are safe. Just as with any supplement you are considering for your birds’ diets, I think the best thing you can do is to stay informed of any new safety reports on these products.
Nutritional Value - Blue-green algae, like spirulina, is nutrient-rich and highly digestible. It contains 60% high quality protein, carbohydrates, nucleic acids and enzymes. It is an excellent source of beta-carotene and many vitamins, minerals, and trace elements. Like all algae, it is a rich source of chlorophyll.
Healing Claims – The benefits obtained by using blue-green algae are very similar to the ones listed above under healing claims of spirulina.
What It Is – Chlorella, a small, round, unicellular fresh water, green algae, is an excellent source of nutrition. It grows in fresh water all over the world and is cultivated by artificial farming methods. The original manufacturing process began in Japan in the 1950’s. However, a Dutch scientist first identified it in 1890. Chlorella tends to be a little more costly than other algae due to its need for special processing to break down its strong cell walls to make it digestible. Its digestibility is anywhere from 50%-85%. It is considered digestible enough for infants. Additionally, due to its small size harvesting requires centrifuge-type processing and this adds to its cost.
Nutritional Value - Chlorella is a nutritional powerhouse. It is richer in chlorophyll than spirulina or blue-green algae, contains nearly 60% protein and all of the essential amino acids. It contains beta carotene, B complex, vitamin C and E, K, minerals, carbohydrates, fatty acids and lipoic acid.
Healing Claims - Chlorella is known for its ability to stimulate the growth of beneficial bacteria in the intestines and detoxify chemicals and heavy metals from the body. It has been reported to stimulate interferon production and increase the activity of B and T cells, thus enhancing the body’s natural defense system. It may be helpful for treating fungal infections, such as C. albicans and other types of infection and strengthens resistance to disease. Many reports and clinical trials have shown that chlorella has antitumor activity against a variety of cancers, both in animals and humans. It may also prevent liver disease and regulate cholesterol. Chlorella can be found in a health food store in the "green food" area of the supplement section.
Conclusion - I believe that algae supplementation plays a significant role in improving our birds’ health, but may not be a perfect food for all birds. Just as with anything, whether it is a food or supplement, you must determine if it is right for each of your birds.
Algae is nutrient-rich and an energy producing food that increases the body’s metabolic rate. For some birds, the feeding of such foods may result in various nervous conditions, such as feather-plucking, pacing or other abnormal behavior. An algae supplement will be especially useful for breeder birds, any bird requiring extra nutrition during illness or disease and those birds that are molting or malnourished.
Algae contains a high level of iron, therefore should be used with caution. It should not be used in the diets of those birds that have a tendency toward developing iron storage disease.
The use of algae on a limited basis in small amounts may be fine for the majority of birds, but you must be observant and take notice if in fact the use of algae is not appropriate for certain individuals or species of birds in your care.
How I Use Algae - Blue-green algae is an ingredient in the Nutritional Psittacine Diet (NPD) recipe. I rotate the usage of blue-green algae with alfalfa powder every 10 days (10 days off/10 days on). I consider it a healthy supplement to add to my birds’ diets if given on a rotation basis.
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