How Chlorella May Improve Gut Health

How Chlorella May Improve Gut Health

Gut health is undoubtedly an important element of overall health. An ever-increasing amount of research is continually investigating factors that influence it, and the further effects they have on the body. One of the specific research avenues of recent interest is how the algae chlorella may interact with and benefit bacteria in the gut. (van der Linde, 20211) Chlorella has been known to help with immunity, nutrient deficiencies, and detoxification. (Bito, 20202) Those benefits are well documented and may be related to its use for gut health as well.

 

In regards to gut health more generally; research has thus far connected it to mental health, auto-immune diseases, food allergies, general energy levels, metabolism, obesity, inflammation related chronic diseases, and more (Zhang 20153). It seems that the connections are endless, and most, if not all health processes in the body can be linked to it. This is not surprising, since the body does not function as a collection of individual parts, but rather as an interconnected system that relies on each component. If there is weakness in one place, there is almost always a chain-like reaction affecting the rest of the body to some extent.

 

Considering how complex a system the human body is, it can be overwhelming to know where to begin when assessing health issues. However, when attempting to trace illness back to its origin, the gut is often a likely contender. A reasonable explanation for this is because the gut is the body's largest source of contact with the outside world. The surface area of the human digestive tract is an average of 32m2, or the equivalent of two tennis courts (Helander 20144). This is far larger than the surface area of skin tissue, the other important barrier between the internal body and the outside world. While it may be an unusual way to imagine it, the body is essentially a tube beginning from the mouth through to the anus. The outer portion of the tube consists of a bodies outside appearance, and the inner portion is the digestive tract. Both the environment physically outside of the body as well as the inside of the digestive tract are therefore separate from the body and serve as a point of contact with the outside world. Food that passes through the digestive tract can only become part of the body if it passes through the gut barrier (Zhang 20153).

 

The innermost layer of the digestive tract is comprised of a single layer of cells the thickness of half of one human hair (Kong 20185). These cells are held together by seals called tight junctions. The integrity of these tight junctions can be one of the most important aspects in preserving good gut health and preventing a cascade of problems affecting other areas of the body (Lee 20186). Since this layer is so thin and comes into near constant contact with potentially harmful materials from the outside world, it is naturally a high-risk area where health issues can arise. The gut lining is not supposed to be absolutely impermeable since it's also where helpful substances enter the body, but problems arise when the permeability is not functioning as selectively as it should (Zhang 20153).

 

This excessive permeability is referred to as "leaky gut". Leaky gut is linked to a number of diseases, though cause and effect are not yet thoroughly proven in all of them (Camilleri 20197). Regardless, when harmful bacteria, toxins or undigested food pass through the gut lining and enter the bloodstream, the immune system is activated to respond to the foreign substances, which can lead to chronic inflammation (Camilleri 20197). 80% of the body's immune cells reside in the gut ready to respond to outside invaders, signifying just how high the stakes are when the gut barrier is compromised (Wiertsema 20218).

 

There are several ways gut health can go awry and a multitude of factors that contribute to those outcomes. Before delving into specific issues, it's first important to understand how the gut functions when it's working properly. The gut is essentially an ecosystem of living microbes, with the human body as their host (Hills 20199). These microbes outnumber human cells, and are not only helpful, but even essential for human health (Sender 201610). Humans quite literally cannot survive without them. The vast population of microbes in the digestive tract is called the "gut microbiome", and it has a unique makeup in every individual known as a "microbial fingerprint" (Tims 201011). This microbial fingerprint is so distinctive that it can even be used to identify persons instead of DNA (Tims 201011).

 

Many things affect what a person's unique microbiome looks like. This includes many substances that pass through the digestive tract or come into contact with skin, as well as exercise, sun exposure, stress levels and sleep habits (Matenchuk 202012, Khmaladze 202013). The major substances that affect the gut microbiome through the digestive tract include not only food, but also medications, herbicide or pesticide remnants, and toxin contaminants (Tsiaoussis 201914). From current evidence, it appears that what passes through the digestive tract may be the largest piece of the puzzle in determining the state of an individual's gut health. Chlorella has been one food of interest with positive results showing increased helpful gut bacteria after digestion (van der Linde, 20211).

 

Many common gut health issues fall under the umbrella of "dysbiosis". Dysbiosis is defined as a loss of microbial variety, leading to imbalances and irregular gut function (Capuco 202015). SIBO is one such condition that has joined mainstream lexicon in recent years. SIBO stands for "small intestine bacterial overgrowth", which can lead to numerous unpleasant symptoms. Those suffering from SIBO often experience abdominal pain, nausea, bloating, loss of appetite, and other debilitating effects (Quigley 201916). This bacterial overgrowth is harmful because it crowds out helpful microbes that perform helpful roles in human digestion. One of those essential roles is assisting with breaking down food and absorbing certain nutrients. Therefore, when there is bacterial overgrowth, the body can develop deficiencies from being unable to properly synthesise or absorb some vitamins and minerals. Those deficiencies could include vitamins A, D, E, K, or calcium (Adike 201717). SIBO also can cause poor digestion of fats, proteins and carbohydrates with the outcome of poor energy and potential unintended weight loss (Adike 201717). In addition to this, leaky gut is a frequent byproduct of SIBO which impairs the gut barrier and creates an entirely new set of systemic issues (Hartmann 201218).

 

SIBO is still a relatively new diagnosis in most medical care systems, and is still subject to some controversy because of this (Capuco 202015). The spotlight on gut health is a relatively new focus for many forms of healthcare, so thoroughly performed scientific studies are still catching up to provide a sufficient body of literature to understand gut issues. Some healthcare practitioners still require a greater number of studies on SIBO to view it as a legitimate disorder, and therefore will not yet diagnose and treat it. Luckily, this area of research is rapidly evolving and there are now accurate and easily done tests just from breath samples to determine if bacterial overgrowth is present or not (Saad 201419). The exact causes of SIBO are still not known, but it's currently thought that medicines (especially antibiotics), pre-existing medical conditions, and even anatomical variance in the digestive tract may all play a role in its development (Hartmann 201218).

 

There are many other types of gut imbalances aside from SIBO. A more general term for microbe dysregulation in the gut is often simply referred to as microbiome imbalance (Kho 201420). Technically, SIBO would fall into this category, but it also includes either a lack of good microbes, or simply a poor ratio of helpful microbes balanced against harmful ones. Again, this area is developing so current findings are not conclusive, but it is known that both antibiotics and diet play a huge role in determining whether and which types of microbes thrive in the gut. Antibiotics can essentially wipe out gut bacteria populations, which is a vulnerable state for the gut to be in since the good microbes protect the body from the proliferation of harmful ones (Konstanitinidis 202021).

 

In regards to foods that can potentially damage the gut, alcohol, highly processed foods, artificial sweeteners, as well as foods that a person may have allergies or sensitivities to are frequently pointed to as culprits (Laudisi 201922). Interestingly, it is not only the foods that an individual consumes that can cause harm, but likewise the absence of certain foods from the diet may damage the health of their gut microbiome. This is because the microbes in the gut require sustenance from "prebiotics". Prebiotics are food that the microbes consume and create beneficial by-products from. Most commonly this consists of plant fibres (Hills 20199).

 

Plant fibres are diverse, and they correspondingly feed a diverse range of microbes (Hills 20199). A certain type of fibre may be food to one type of microbe but offer no nourishment to another. This points to how much more is left for nutrition scientists and medical researchers to discover about the various ways different prebiotics affect different microbes. What is known currently, is that prebiotics as a whole are essential for a thriving gut population, and that a variety of different forms is the best practice for sustaining a diverse population of gut microbes (Hills 20199). Chlorella is among several substances currently being assessed for the functionality of its unique plant fibres and their impacts on gut health (Gouda 202223) (Lv, 2022)

 

It's clear that poor gut health can lead to several issues in the body, but on the other side of the equation, proper gut integrity has a huge number of benefits for human health. The microbes in the gut assist with digesting, synthesising, and absorbing many nutrients as previously mentioned (Lloyd-Price 201624). Beyond this, microbes have been shown to create a specific by-product when digesting fibre from plants including chlorella with an impressive list of health benefits (Blasio 202125). This by-product is short chain fatty acids. Short chain fatty acids are able to support the immune system and decrease inflammation; a major marker of and risk factor for most chronic diseases (Nogal 202126). Short chain fatty acids have also been shown to prevent insulin resistance and therefore may decrease diabetes risk (Nogal 202126).

 

The long list of benefits continues with studies showing short chain fatty acids ability to repair the blood brain barrier, which protects the highly sensitive brain from toxins and provides nutrients for its optimal function (Michel 201627). This may potentially explain some of the promising research that has shown short chain fatty acids to have protective effects against Alzheimer’s, and the ability to improve cognition parameters like memory (Chen 202228). Short chain fatty acids other benefits related to the brain are its results in correcting certain mood disorders. In particular, studies on depressed patients have shown that short chain fatty acids can have antidepressant-like effects with dramatic results (Dalile 201929). It is important to also consider the bioavailability of these nutrients which can vary. Chlorella has been studied and shown high bioavailability of its short chain fatty acid nutrients (Neumann 201830).

 

Immunity, blood, and brain health can all be improved by short chain fatty acids, but there is another important element to consider that may affect all of those health factors. As it has been established, the root of many illnesses often begins in the gut. The gut is connected to every other aspect of the body since it plays an important role in determining what can and cannot pass into the body. Short chain fatty acids have been shown to improve the integrity of the tight junction protein structures that hold the gut lining together and act as this essential barrier (Suzuki 202031). This means that short chain fatty acids can potentially reverse leaky gut and combat a major source of chronic inflammation and many illnesses (Suzuki 202031).

 

With all of these profound benefits from a well-balanced gut population in mind, as well as the equally detrimental effects of poor gut health, it's clear that supporting the gut is an essential component for achieving overall good health. Chlorella is one food of particular interest for improving gut health that has a growing body of scientific support behind its use. Chlorella is helpful due to its high concentrations of prebiotic fibre which feed microbes that create beneficial short chain fatty acids (Jin 202032). In addition to the highly valuable prebiotic fibre, chlorella also contains significant amounts of omega 3 fatty acids (Yunes 201633).

 

Omega 3 fatty acids are similarly helpful for gut health because they are also considered prebiotics that help "good" microbes to thrive (Noriega 201634). Omega 3 fatty acids can be directly broken down into short chain fatty acids and serve as a direct path for increasing these extremely useful substances. Chlorella therefore contains two important sources of nutrition for feeding microbes in the gut, but its helpfulness for improving gut health may extend beyond this still.

 

Chlorella is also known to contain a unique substance called "chlorella growth factor". Chlorella growth factor is significantly less well studied than fibre and omega 3 fatty acids, so its effects are less certain. That being said, it's known to have regenerative abilities by helping the body to repair and create new proteins at a rapid rate (An 201635). This may imply use within the gut lining which is under a constant state of cell turnover. Chlorella growth factors regenerative abilities could potentially keep this lining intact and help prevent issues like leaky gut (Gunther 201436).

 

A final aspect of chlorella that has implications for improving gut health are its detoxifying abilities (Lee 201537). The gut comes into direct contact with many toxins that pass through the digestive tract. Overtime, if there is an excessive or particularly harmful load of toxins, it can harm the integrity of the gut lining and cause leaky gut and other associated illnesses (Giambo 202138). Since chlorella is a known detoxifying agent, it's fair to assume it can lessen the toxic load the gut membrane is exposed to, and help to preserve its function.

 

Overall, chlorella provides a wealth of vitamins, minerals, and energy providing nutrients. The specific ways those nutrients can improve gut health are very promising, but it's still important to keep in mind the broader picture of gut health. Gut health has a number of determinants, and its health status has wide sweeping effects throughout the body. Chlorella is an overall fantastic nutritional support which supports general health, and since bodily processes are vitally interconnected, it may have even further benefits for gut health beyond what is currently known. The world is clearly in need of better solutions for preserving and repairing an ever-deteriorating standard of gut health, so as science continues to delve into the evolving topics of both chlorella and gut function, clearer answers will be eagerly studied by healthcare practitioners and gut health enthusiasts alike.

 

BioGenesis Chlorella is organically grown in the pristine Great Barrier Reef region of northern Australia. Bathed in golden sunshine the Chlorella thrive in the fresh spring water ponds. We have developed an innovative advanced energy efficient hydrodynamic growth system that replicates a natural river flow. When harvested we apply an advanced biodynamic technology to gently crack the hard outer cell wall making the nutrients fully available.

Australia’s only Licenced Chlorella grower. No.9298. Produced in a USA FDA accredited Bio Secure site.

 

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