Healthy gut

During the past years, it has been well-addressed that having a healthy gut microbiome supports the digestive system, stimulates the immune system, and provides more health benefits.(1) The effects of prebiotics like polysaccharides and well-known probiotic strains have generally been recognized as nutrients that deliver these health benefits. One unique polysaccharide is Fucoidan, obtained from brown seaweeds like Mozuku, Mekabu, and Fucus. This incredible ingredient has been acknowledged as a prebiotic, and it has also been researched for various functions supported by thousands of data.

Understanding the importance of consuming Fucoidan and probiotics is essential to understanding the efficacy that this combination could bring to the body. Above all, the gut will adequately absorb nutrients by combining Fucoidan with other probiotic strains like Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium to provide the body with the health benefits it needs. Probiotics will help retain the gut’s health and improve Fucoidan’s absorption to ensure that the body will not flush out the elements necessary for other organs and body parts.

Therefore, when Fucoidan is fermented,(2) it helps several probiotic strains to multiply, the gut microbiome improves, and the *cytokine-inducing function of Fucoidan is stimulated,(3) thus improving overall host intestinal immunity, and your overall health is further strengthened. This is the synergistic effect of taking Fucoidan and probiotics simultaneously.

*Cytokine: They are small proteins crucial in controlling the growth and activity of other immune system cells and blood cells. When released, they signal the immune system to do its job.

(1) Bull, M.J., Plummer, N.T. (2014). The human gut microbiome in health and disease. Integr Med (Encinitas) 13:17-22.

(2) Zhang, T., et al. (2018). Beneficial Effect of Intestinal Fermentation of Natural Polysaccharides. Nutrients. 2018 Aug; 10(8): 1055.

(3) Apostolova, E., et al. (2020). Immunomodulatory and Anti-Inflammatory Effects of Fucoidan: A Review. Polymers (Basel). 2020 Oct; 12(10): 2338.


The Health Benefits of Fucoidan

Brown seaweeds contain an immune-enhancing sulfated polysaccharide known as a Fucoidan. This natural ingredient is mainly obtained from three main brown seaweed species: Mozuku (C. okamuranus), Mekabu (U. pinnatifida), and Fucus (F. vesiculosus). Fucoidan has been shown to promote a series of health benefits, including:

  • Immune support (4)
  • Antioxidant support (5)
  • Gut health support (6)

In addition to these properties, when Fucoidan is consumed, the body recognizes it as a prebiotic. Studies indicate that polysaccharides (like Fucoidan) and oligosaccharides derived from brown or other seaweeds can modulate intestinal metabolism, including fermentation, inhibit pathogen adhesion and evasion, and potentially treat inflammatory bowel disease. Therefore, since seaweeds are rich in polysaccharides, they are a clear prebiotic choice. There are many beneficial health properties attributed to the consumption of prebiotics and probiotics. Notably, the consumption of Fucoidan can maintain a healthy microbiome.

The gastrointestinal (GI) tract is a complex microbial ecosystem, and the colon is heavily colonized by ‘good’ bacteria from the species Lactobacillus, Bifidobacterium, Enterococcus, Streptococcus, and others. The consumption of dietary fiber has been known to support intestinal microflora, which can be achieved by taking probiotics and prebiotics. To be considered a prebiotic, an ingredient or compound must be resistant to digestion in the upper gastrointestinal tract and must be resistant to acid and enzymes. Simultaneously, it needs to be beneficial for the growth of ‘good’ bacteria, and it must promote beneficial properties to the human body.

In a study published in the International Journal of Molecular Medicine (7), Fucoidan enhanced several immune functions along with lactic acid bacteria (LAB). The oral administration of probiotics contributes to the maintenance of the immune system. Because Fucoidan improves cytokine responses, Fucoidan may be expected to augment other probiotic positive effects like immune responses, anti-inflammation, antiviral and antibacterial effects.

(4) Vetvicka, V., and Vetvickova, J. (2017). Fucoidans Stimulate Immune Reaction and Suppress Cancer Growth. Anticancer Research 37 (11) 6041-6046; 

(5) Yu, J., et al. (2021). Fucoidan Extracted From Sporophyll of Undaria pinnatifida Grown in Weihai, China – Chemical Composition and Comparison of Antioxidant Activity of Different Molecular Weight Fractions. Front. Nutr. 

(6) Yang, J.Y., and Lim, S.Y. (2021). Fucoidans and Bowel Health. Mar Drugs. 2021 Aug; 19(8): 436.

(7) Kawashima, T., Murakami, K., Nishimura, I., Nakano, T., and Obata, A. (2012). A sulfated polysaccharide, fucoidan, enhances the immunomodulatory effects of lactic acid bacteria. International Journal of Molecular Medicine. 29:447-453.

The Health Benefits of Probiotics

The word ‘probiotic’ is derived from the Latin preposition “pro,” which means “for,” and the Greek word “biotic,” meaning “bios” or “life.”

The term ‘probiotics’ was first introduced in 1965 by Lilly, D.M., and Stillwell, R.H.; in contrast to antibiotics, they are components that stimulate other organisms’ growth.(8) In 1989, Roy Fuller emphasized the requirement of viability for probiotics and introduced the idea that they benefit the host.

Probiotics are live microbes formulated into many products, including foods, beverages, pharmaceutical drugs, and dietary supplements. Species of Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium are probiotics, but the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae and some E. coli and Bacillus species are also probiotics.

Lactic acid bacteria, including Lactobacillus species, have been used to preserve food by fermentation for thousands of years. They can serve a dual function by acting as agents for food fermentation and, potentially, imparting health benefits. However, the term ‘probiotic’ is for live microbes shown in controlled human studies to provide some health benefits. Some of these health benefits include 1) balancing the ‘good’ bacteria in the digestive system, 2) preventing diarrhea and constipation, 3) improving brain health, 4) supporting heart health, 5) reducing the severity of allergies, 6) reducing the symptoms of certain digestive disorders, 7) enhancing the immune system.
Some of the strains that are most commonly taken include:

  • Lactobacillus acidophilus: They make lactic acid by breaking down carbohydrates.
  • Bifidobacterium breve: They may help break down food, absorb nutrients, and fight off harmful organisms that may affect the body.
  • Bifidobacterium lactis: They may improve digestion and enhance the immune system.
  • Lactobacillus casei subsp. Casei: They may prevent diarrhea and support the digestive system.
  • Lactobacillus fermentum: They may enhance the immune system and support the respiratory system.
  • Lactobacillus helveticus: They may prevent gastrointestinal infections, support the immune system, and protect against pathogens.
  • Lactobacillus paracasei: They may improve the absorption of nutrients and support the intestinal barrier.
  • Lactobacillus plantarum: They may support cardiovascular and liver functions.
  • Lactobacillus reuteri: They may restore the flora and improve digestion.
  • Lactobacillus rhamnosus: They may support the gastrointestinal system and support the immune system.
  • Lactobacillus salivarius: They may support dental hygiene.
  • Streptococcus thermophilus: They may help to absorb nutrients and fight off pathogens.

(8) Lilly, D.M. and Stillwell, R.H. (1965) Probiotics: growth promoting factors produced by microorganisms. Science, 147 747–8.

Fucoidan is More Effective When Probiotics are Taken to Improve Gut Microbiome

Prebiotics like Fucoidan need to be utilized by the body before the essential nutrients are absorbed by the human gut.(9) Brown seaweeds are crucial sources of polysaccharides, which have attracted great interest in their prebiotic potential. Enzymes in the upper gastrointestinal tract do not break down polysaccharides from brown seaweeds. Therefore, Fucoidan from brown seaweeds needs to be utilized first by the gut microbiome to improve immunity and overall health.(10)

A fascinating fact about Fucoidan is that it contains L-fucose and sulfate. It can act as an anticoagulant and anti-thrombotic, antimicrobial, antitumor and immunomodulatory, antioxidant, blood lipid reducer, anti-inflammatory, gastric protector, hepatoprotector, and prebiotic. As a result of its structure, Fucoidan cannot be digested by gastric and pancreatic enzymes, so it reaches the small bowel untouched, where it can have a favorable effect on the gut microbiome. Fucoidan also promotes an enrichment in Lactobacillus in the colon and stimulates the growth of Bifidobacterium.

By having a healthy gut microbiome and providing additional probiotic strains to the body, Fucoidan (a carbohydrate and essential prebiotic) can continue to allow the probiotics to multiply, and the immune system will be enhanced as well as the overall Quality of Life. The combination of the prebiotic and immune-enhancing effect of Fucoidan and the direct action from probiotics are promising to maintain a strong immunity, a healthier gastrointestinal tract, better digestion, and prevent other cardiovascular, digestive, and immune conditions.

(9)Zaporozhets, T.S.; Besednova, N.N.; Kuznetsova, T.A.; vyagintseva, T.N.; Makarenkova, I.D.; Kryzhanovsky, S.P.; Melnikov, V.G. (2014). The prebiotic potential of polysaccharides and extracts of seaweeds. Russ. J. Mar. Biol. 40, 1–9. 

(10) Han, Z.L.; Yang, M.; Fu, X.D.; Chen, M.; Su, Q.; Zhao, Y.H.; Mou, H.J. (2019). Evaluation of Prebiotic Potential of Three Marine Algae Oligosaccharides from Enzymatic Hydrolysis. Mar. Drugs 2019, 17, 173. 

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