Let’s take a tip from the Japanese and snack on seaweed as much as we can “stomach.” Japanese life expectancy ranks among the highest in the world, especially in Okinawa, an island made famous for the long life span of its residents. This longevity is attributed to the Okinawan belief that food is medicine, and supported by a diet rich in unfermented soy, green tea, and seaweed!
Get Healthy with Brown Seaweed
Four percent of the dry weight of brown seaweed is made up of a healthful sulfated polysaccharide called fucoidan. According to the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, fucoidan possesses anti-tumor, anti-cancer, and neuroprotective properties. The health benefits of seaweed fucoidan have been published in more than 600 articles in the National Library of Medicine. According to these studies fucoidan:
- Provides relief for digestive and intestinal disorders
- Controls allergies
- Improves liver function
- Protects with antioxidants
- Lowers bad cholesterol and blood sugar levels
- Regulates high blood pressure
- Promotes healthy skin and hair
- Strengthens the immune system
Strengthen Your Immune System
Fucoidan builds up immunity and helps to protect against infection, and at the same time suppresses an overactive immune response, thereby keeping chronic inflammation in check. Chronic inflammation is one of the primary causes of many diseases, including osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, autoimmune myocarditis, and irritable bowel syndrome.
Fucoidan strengthens the immune system in several ways. It helps awaken immune cells called dendritic cells. These cells transmit information to other cells and help prepare them for an attack against invading infections. Fucoidan also activates T cells, a type of white blood cell vital to immunity, and boosts the immune system’s antiviral and anti-cancer actions.
Protect Against Cancer
Numerous studies show that fucoidan exhibits cancer-fighting potential in a very big way. Cancer becomes deadly when metastasis (the migration of cancer cells from the infected site to other parts of the body) kicks in. Fucoidan may hinder the spread of cancer cells by blocking molecules called selectins. The cells in your body use selectins to interact and move…but so do cancer cells. Selectins cause cancer cells to stick to blood vessel walls where they leave the bloodstream and infiltrate once healthy tissues in your body. Fucoidan may help block this action, thereby inhibiting metastasis.
Fucoidan may also help suppress protein-melting enzymes that cancer cells use to invade and infect healthy tissues. Studies also suggest that fucoidan may help slow cancer cell growth and trigger apoptosis (cancer cell death). A 2011 study published in the International Journal of Oncology showed that liver cancer cells treated with fucoidan aged and died faster than liver cancer cells not treated with fucoidan. The effect on healthy cells was the exact opposite! Fucoidan appeared to reduce the signs of cellular aging in non-cancer cells. Top that off with a 2015 study that demonstrated that fucoidan treatment is effective against certain lines of leukemia cells, and we have a possible cancer cure on the horizon pending more investigation!
Snacking on Seaweed
Different types of seaweed are good for different conditions. According to the University of Michigan Health System, bladderwack is good for treating wounds and infections…and the University of Pittsburgh recommends using kelp for viral infections such has herpes, influenza, and the common cold.
Unfortunately, we have to be careful where we get our fucoidan from. Brown seaweeds such as kelp, bladderwrack, kombu, and wakame are all rich in fucoidan, but the 2011 Fukushima nuclear reactor catastrophe contaminated Japanese waters all the way to British Columbia. Make sure your seaweed is sourced from pristine waters, such as those off the shores of Patagonia on the southeastern coast of Argentina.