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Benefits of Spirulina:

What you ought to know about benefits of spirulina?

Spirulina Family

Maybe you will ask to yourself, if there is any health benefit from eating some algae or Spirulina? The answer is... there are! In brief, there are many particular nutrients in spirulina, but the important fact is that it does provide a wide range of health benefits on itself. While being a source of vital nutrients that are commonly lacked in everyday's food, it is also rich in antioxidants and anti-inflammatories, it acts as a detoxifier, improves the immune function, and normalizes the blood sugar. Thus, spirulina provides an invaluable aid for our bodies, and it has been documented as effective against a number of diseases. Some poeple taking spirulina report to have an increased strength, and even an improved overall life quality. How is this so? We shall now find out! I will start with some quotes best describing its benefits, and then examine it more closely.

NASA has conducted studies  on Spirulina as a potential food for space travel. The goal was to provide the astronauts with the foods rich in nutrients but taking up little or no space, and they concluded as follows:

The nutritional quality of spirulina appears very high. In addition, being the richest known source of vitamin B12, also contains significant amounts of vitamins B1 and B2. Similarly, one gram of Spirulina contains one-half of the adult daily requirements of vitamin A (Beta-carotene). The trace elements and iodine found in cyanobacteria are also important when considering the nutritional quality of cyanobacteria...

And another study - “Update on the pharmacology of Spirulina, an unconventional food” , summarized:

This alga is a rich source of proteins, vitamins, amino acids, minerals, and other nutrients. Its main use, therefore, is as a food supplement. Over the last few years, however, it has been found to have many additional pharmacological properties. Thus, it has been experimentally proven, in vivo and in vitro that it is effective to treat certain allergies, anemia, cancer, hepatotoxicity, viral and cardiovascular diseases, hyperglycemia, hyperlipidemia, immunodeficiency, and inflammatory processes, among others. Several of these activities are attributed to Spirulina itself or to some of its components including fatty acids omega-3 or omega-6, beta-carotene, alpha-tocopherol, phycocyanin, phenol compounds, and a recently isolated complex, Ca-Spirulan (Ca-SP)*

What about importance of nutrition?

As we are living in an industrialized society, we often consume foods that not only fail us to meet the recommended daily intake volumes, but also contain the deliberately dangerous ingredients, such as artificial sweeteners, preservatives, thickeners, tasteners, color additives, flavorings, and trans fats. Also the foods are being processed by machines, which give little concern but speed and self-cost. No wonders why in our time the people are easily getting sick and suddenly die too early. Our lifestyle is different than before, and the thruth is... now it's not as easy to obtain foods without chemicals unless you've got your own garden, and as a result it is becoming more difficult for people to achieve the healthy eating habits. Our health, however, largely depends upon us, it is at stake each time we choose food and making a wrong choice may lead to chronic diseases and aggravated condition. To name some, apart from obesity, of course, there are many diseases attributed to artificial food additives , that may even inflict permanent brain damage, cancer and death.

On the other hand, we can choose the right food to heal ourselves, as was noted by Hippocrates, "Let the food be thy medicine" - who believed in the healing power of nature and the power of our bodies to heal and restore themselves, which holds still true. Often however, we cannot afford the right food, nor do we always know what we need, and as often the latter is opposed to what we're used to. And there comes handy the spirulina, replenishing the deficiency of nutrients in our food, and cleansing at the same time. Spirulina well suits the nutritional demand of the body, and as a result, the body regenerates faster, and becomes capable of healing deseases on it's own without begging for medicaments.

Spirulina is also easily digestable. Its unique cells-walls are mainly composed of soluble polysaccharides (chained-sugars) and protein, unlike the tough cell walls of Chlorella, composed of insoluble cellulose. The protein content is also very high - 65%, that is 3.5 times more than in fish, chicken or beef. 

Spirulina is a detoxifier and cleanser

Hemoglobin vs ChlorophyllGreen algae (which are thought to be the common ancestors of higher plants), and especially spirulina are the highest source of chlorophyll in the plant world. It is chlorophyll that gives them rich gross-green colour. Chlorophyll is critical in photosynthesis , which allows plants to absorb energy from light. On the other hand, the role of oxygen transportation in our bodies is attributed to hemoglobin . Chlorophyll and hemoglobin have similar structures. The main difference is that the porphyrin ring of hemoglobin is built around iron (Fe), whereas the porphyrin ring of chlorophyll is built around magnesium (Mg), an alkaline metal. It is interesting that humans inhale oxygen and expel carbon dioxide and plants do the opposite. Our survival seems uniquely dependant upon one another, and it isn’t surprising to think that the consumption of chlorophyll, or spirulina would benefit our own bodies.

Indeed... Chlorophyll attaches to toxins and heavy metals and removes them from your body. It also increases your blood's oxygen-carrying capacity by stimulating red blood cell production. Antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties of chlorophyll contribute to its cleansing effects. Aside from cleansing your blood, chlorophyll cleanses your liver, by preventing cancer-causing substances from attaching to cells. It also benefits your digestive tract by keeping you regular. Chlorophyll's magnesium content provides a calming effect, which helps decrease stress and promote healthy immune function, which in turn prevents toxins from accumulating in your body. Vitamins A, C and E in chlorophyll support your immune system by reducing oxidation and strengthening cell walls, your cells' first defense against toxins and pathogens 

Aside from chlorophyll and its blood cleansing properties, spirulina cleanses the digestive tract from accumulated wastes, and improves digestion, singnificantly increasing  the level of benefitial lacto-bacteria in the intestinal flora. These lacto-bacteries are vital for the assimilation of vitamins, proteins, fats, carbohydrates, and the manufacture of B-Vitamins, Vitamin K, and assorted amino acids. They also promote well-lubricated stools, relieving constipation, and alleviate the risks of certain types of cancers and colon problems, which are somewhat common today. At the same time, the beneficial lacto-bacteria also increases the immunity to pathogenic bacteria, yeasts and fungi such as Candida albicans, Salmonella, E. coli, and Staphylococcus aureus.

Also, a recent study on rats  found that spirulina has a protective activity against urolithiasis , a condition of forming stones in kidney, bladder or urinary tract.

Anti-cancer and immunopotentiator properties

Cancer and the immune system are related, in fact there is always some small volume of cancerous cells in the body, but the immune system fights back to these pathogenous cells and does not let them develop into desease, known as "cancer". When the immune system weakens, the growth of these cancerous cells becomes unregulated, and eventually they may spread to the nearby parts of the body, assimilating the normal cells.

Cancer can be compared to a house fire. It is the spreading of the cancer that kills cancer patients. Likewise, it is the spreading of a fire that destroys buildings. There are exceptions, of course. For example, pancreatic cancer can kill a person even if it does not spread. But in general it is the spreading of cancer that kills cancer patients.

Now, the spirulina is a known immune builder, and by inhancing the immune function it helps to prevent the spreading of cancerous cells - that is why it is thought to be effective against cancer. And it has already been proven to cure oral carcinogenesis , in a study of tobacco chewers in Kerala, India. Another in vivo chemopreventive effect of Spirulina Platensis has been documented in a rat-study  against liver cytotoxicity and carcinogenesis, suggesting its potential use in chemoprevention  of cancer. A study on genotoxicity  in germ cells of rats has proved the chemopreventive efficacy against skin tumor, and also concluded it as safe and effectivene for chemotherapeutic strategy in general. Interestingly, both studies point out to the detoxifying qualities of spirulina, and confirm a significant toxicity decrease when it is administered along with chemotherapy, and thus making this combined treatment much more effective than by chemotherapy along, due to its destructive nature.

As to why spirulina actually stimulates the immune system, there in these algae has been found a whole compound of nutrients attributing to it:

Phycocyanin, a rare, brillant-blue pigment that is only found in cyanobacteria (green-blue algae). Phycocyanin is related to the human pigment bilirubin, which is important to healthy liver function and digestion of amino acids, and it was confirmed to effectively protect the liver  on its own. Phycocyanin is also simmilar to chlorophyll, in respect that it also stimulates the production of red-blood cells, though the mechanism of action is different: phycocyanin appears to emulate  the hormone erythropoetin (EPO), which is produced by healthy kidneys and controls the production of red blood cells.

Polysaccharides, that is, composite sugar-chains - actively studied  for their immunopotentiator qualities. They are generally believed to stimulate the immune response towards invading pathogens like bacteria, fungi, and yeast during the recognition by the immune system of their polysaccharide sugar-chains, that sort of cloak and protect them. For this reason, the mixtures of polysaccharides are also used as vaccines  against different bacteria. Though more research is needed on particular content of polysaccharides in spirulina and their activity, some in-vitro studies  addressed to it as being "between 100 and 1000 times more effective for monocyte [Ed. note: which is a type of white cell] activation than polysaccharide preparations that are currently used clinically for cancer immunotherapy". When talking about polysaccharides, we need to assume a very huge number of different structural variations, which may not be as easily classified. A heavier fraction of polysaccharides, however, has been isolated from spirulina platensis, labeled as 'Immulina', and reported as a potent stimulator  of the expression of an array of genes encoding proinflammatory cytokines and chemokines in THP-1 cells, and suggesting the stimulation of cells of the macrophage/monocyte system. *There was also isolated a particular polysaccharide that contained a sulfate group and calcuim, and has been named Ca-Spirulan . It was proven as a potent antiviral inhibitor  of the replication of enveloped viruses such as herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1), human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1), measles, and Influenza, commonly known as the flu.

Beta carotene, an antioxidant, dietary intake of which can enhance cell-mediated immune responses  within a relatively short period of time, providing anticarcinogenic properties. Beta carotene is a precursor form of vitamin A, which is essential for vision. Also it is being selectively converted into retinoids, essential for skin health, teeth remineralization and bone growth. A beta carotene is contained in abundance in its natural form in spirulina, and is respobsible for a tint of orange in it.

Spirulina for weight loss & beauty

How does it contribute to weight loss? First of all, due to absorbtion of nutrients, which are densely packed in spirulina. When we eat foods with low nutritional value, the hunger simply doesn't go away that easily, making us eat more food than we actually need, and resulting in overweight. On the other hand a balanced and nutritios diet naturally reduces the appetite, at the same contributing to its proper digestion. So when taking spirulina before the meal, and allowing for it some time to digest, you will quickly notice that your appetite is reduced. The second reason is that it promotes the digestion, and improves the bowel function. As was noted above, this effect is mainly attributed to a high concentration of chlorophyll that contributes to a healthy intestinal flora, normalizes production of digestive fluids and stimulates peristaltic action in the colon. Chlorophyll, though in lesser amounts is otherwise containted in all sorts of raw, green leafy vegetables, and is one of the reasons that makes vegeterians slimmer. As usual though, it won't make you slim in an instant, and yet if combined with fasting, a proper diet or exercise it can make a big difference. Finally, a spirulina is a tonic, that will make you more energetic and active that may also contribute to decomposition of fats.

Spirulina Mask
Spirulina face mask application 

Needless to say, to look healthy our food must be healthy too. Period. In addition, thanks to its immunopotentiator properties it serves as a great aid against various dermathology-related issues, such as acnes or pimples, rashes, and hives. Furthermore, beta-carotene noureshes hair and especially skin, making it smooth and soft, that may even bring it a younger look, and is also being absorbed when applied externally. For this reason is often used in topical creams as well as hair treatments, though in its synthetic and potentially harmful form.

Another quality of spirulina, as it is a living algae, it strongly absorbs water, which makes it ideal for skin-peeling and masks. And then again, it also cleanses the pores and nourishes skin. When you use quality spirulina, you will easily notice this effect, as if a cement was applied to your skin, whereas a fake, expired, or othwise 'dead' spirulina is hardly soluble in water showing little to no effect. Spirulina mask is never a waste of money, for even in little amounts like 1 capsule, it's being sufficient due to high concentration of content.

Conclusion

After examining this whole range of health benefits associated with spirulina, I was somewhat impressed. It appears to be well documented and actively studied, and it well deserves its attention, for it's being quite effective for a number of purposes. Now, providing that spirulina is also known to be relatively safe, and having no significant side effects - even when taken in high doses, we may probably name it as one of the best food supplements ever.

- written by Sarge D2