For people who battle the debilitating condition known as inflammatory bowel disease, there is a new ray of hope. Scientists have found promising health benefits in an unlikely source: seaweed.
Researchers at the University of Florida are studying compounds found in a certain kind of seaweed found near the Florida Keys that, in preliminary results in animal models, have proved to be effective against inflammatory diseases of the digestive tract.
That’s welcome news for those living with inflammatory bowel disease, Crohn’s disease and colon cancer. In addition, the seaweed increased the level of gut bacteria beneficial for colon health.
Mineral-rich seaweeds are an important part of human diets, especially for people living in Asia and the Pacific Islands. Scientists have long thought that seaweed consumption has contributed to lower cancer rates among these populations, but there has been limited research in this area.
The team focused on a particular seaweed that originates in the Caribbean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean. They pinpointed compounds responsible for most of the microbial activity and identified signaling pathways by which molecules activate each other when they need to pass along a message, such as protecting against inflammation.
The study also found this seaweed enhances bacteria in the digestive tract that increases responsiveness to immunotherapy for cancer. Consuming this seaweed might prime a patient for a successful outcome with colon cancer therapy.
The next time you’re on a beach complaining about the seaweed washing ashore, pause and give thanks. You may be looking at the next big medical breakthrough for millions of suffering people.