Most of us are aware of the constant barrage of toxins and other challenges endured by our immune systems every day. The sources of these challenges are several and the majority of them are man-made. From the pollutants in our waters and air, to the additives and preservatives in our food, to the various prescription drugs we take, to the mental and physical stresses we inflict upon ourselves, we have presented our bodies with the ultimate task of identifying and removing these harmful substances from our bodies every day. This is on top of the incredible job it is already doing to maintain our cardiovascular, neurological, musculoskeletal, and metabolic systems on a constant basis. Few things can be more essential to the proper functioning of these systems than the health of our immune system.
Now that we are aware of the challenge, how do we manage it? We can eat all of the organic foods and filtered water and breathe all of the purified air we want, but are these things really enough? Studies suggest they are not. We need to commit to certain lifestyle habits like daily exercise and take in substances that are specifically designed to support our immune systems and even then the healthiest among us at some point experience deficiencies in this system and acquire a virus or a bacterial infection, or worse yet, an auto-immune disorder of some kind.
Many of us have heard of some of these immune-boosting agents: antioxidants such as vitamins A and C and green tea extract; garlic; fish oil; super-green algae; and even superfoods from other cultures such as noni juice.
But the most intriguing and promising member of this class of nutrients is fucoidan. Since its discovery, this unique substance has already captured the intense interest within the world's scientific community. It has already been cited in more than 500 research studies, including numerous in-vitro and animal studies published in such publications as the Journal of Molecular Immunology, Anticancer Research, Parasitology, Blood, Infectious Immunology, and the British Journal of Pharmacology to name just a few. Many of these studies may be found in the National Library of Medicine's PubMed database at www.pubmed.gov. These studies suggest that fucoidan may just be the most exciting immune-supporting nutrient ever discovered.
What exactly is fucoidan? It is a uniquely-structured, sulfated polysaccharide (complex carbohydrate molecule) that is found within the cell walls of certain types of brown seaweed. Its moisturizing property is what gives these seaweeds their slippery, sticky, protective texture. This moisture barrier protects the algae, even when it is exposed to strong sunlight and allows the brown sea plant to survive in its harsh environment. It is important to note that fucoidan is not found in land-based plants. In fact, of the sea-based plants that contain this substance, a little-known species called Limu Moui is the world's richest source of fucoidan. Limu Moui is found in the pristine waters of the South Pacific Island of Tonga, and its health benefits are legendary among its people.
The precise mechanism by which fucoidan affects the immune system is not yet clear, but the plethora of existing studies do shed some light on the subject. Several studies do suggest that fucoidan has natural antiviral properties, much like virgin coconut oil. It also somehow enhances the disease-fighting properties of macrophages which promotes anti-tumor activity and blocks C-reactive protein activity. In a few studies, it even demonstrates anti-inflammatory and anticoagulant (blood thinning) properties, which can impact arthritis conditions and atherosclerosis.
Some of the other health conditions for which fucoidan may be effective are: i) HIV/AIDS ii) cancer iii) bacterial infections iv) meningitis v) gastrointestinal disorders vi) stroke vii) hypertension viii) hypoglycemia ix) diabetes x) elevated cholesterol xi) elevated triglycerides xii) herpes xiii) allergies xiv) liver dysfunction
It just so happens that the body uses the different parts of fucoidan regularly. One of its components, galactose, for example is a sugar, which is used for energy and eventually brain function. Other components, such as xylose and glucuronic acid, are found in the make-up of cell walls. In fact, the components of fucoidan are so good for the body that Japanese research scientists have compared it to mother's milk for its powerful and healing anti-bodies.
The traditional use of the Limu Moui plant for its curative powers attests to fucoidan's efficacy. Native Tongans have used this plant as a topical ointment and as an integrated part of their diet for the treatment of illness. And the Tongans are known to be a particularly healthy and robust people. In fact, the Tongan culture boasts one of the highest percentages of centenarians (people over 100 years of age) in the world. In Tonga, the Limu Moui plant is considered a sacred food, and as such, we would consider it a true 'Superfood' in our culture.
As we have seen here, fucoidan could be yet another one of many powerful tools to use in our effort to achieve and maintain optimum health — to feel good every day!