Seaweed for immune health and protein synthesis

Embracing the 'omes - PART III: Swallow that proteome

The protein factory in you

Your genome  directs some fundamental types of proteins that are essential to us all, and unique to you. Your epigenome  increases the diversity of the protein designs, based on things that happen to you in life, and dictates when, what and how many proteins your body should make. Basically your body is a protein manufacturing factory, making 100,000s of different types. This is why there is now a whole field of science called proteomics, to measure and map our proteomes. 

Muscle strength, skin health and viral defence systems

Proteins are used for many different things. Most commonly understood is your muscle tissue, where two proteins, actin and myosin, help muscles to relax and contract. Many of us are also aware of proteins in skin tissue, where collagen and elastin support the strength and flexibility. However, proteins are also important communicators throughout our bodies. Our immune system is made up of many vital proteins that are our first line of defence. So much so that proteomics is one of the hottest fields of research today in our defence strategies against Corona Virus.

Immune system proteins

One group of proteins that are important to us in the fight against viruses exist in our mucous membranes. From our saliva to our gut linings, we are constantly making, swallowing and transporting immune system proteins. One of these proteins immunoglobulin, IgA for short, sends signals to maintain the right kind of microbe environment from the mouth to the digestive tract. In fact, we may be making up to 5g of this protein each day, to support our immune system. It is the largest immune system molecule produced in our bodies making up about 70% of all immune response proteins.

Immune proteins and diets

There is growing research indicating that the lowest infection rates of COVID19 are in people and countries where IgA levels are adequate. Deficiency in IgA seems to lead to higher risk of infection, however this is complicated because there are many factors that contribute to the infection rates, including government policies. But if there are lifestyle defences that help in the fight, then this is why this field of research that is gaining more attention. Japanese people for example, have more amounts of IgA compared to many western nations with a highly processed food system. 

With a focus on gut health as central to our overall health, where do proteins sit?

This same IgA immune protein is a front line of defence in our guts, and there is a direct line of communication between our guts and our salivary glands that regulate how much IgA we need. This communication helps us to ward off bad bacteria, and to support the good and probiotic bacteria, and it is even important in regulating glucose and controlling obesity. However, sometimes these systems don’t function well or get the wrong signals through inadequate diets, and this can lead to some of the chronic gut health issues that people face. This protein signalling is thought to be out of whack, for example, in people who experience SIBO, or small intestinal bacterial overgrowth, and IBS, irritable bowel syndrome.

Shifting the proteome

One natural way to increase your IgA levels is moderate exercise. However, there is increasing evidence that your diet is important in triggering your production of IgA. Recent research has shown that the type of seaweed we grow can also increase IgA levels. Maybe seaweed has got something to do with why the Japanese have higher IgA levels than people on modern western diets, but these are complex questions to answer. Currently, extracts from similar seaweeds to ours have been used to increase IgA levels in pig milk production, which is a strategy used to reduce the use of antibiotics and improve the gut health of piglets. Although we have undertaken 2 clinical studies to demonstrate the effect of our seaweed extract on the gut microbiome and inflammation in people, we are yet to study the levels of IgA proteins. So, we will now include this in our future research.

Special proteome forces for wound healing

Further to the immune system proteins in mucosa, there is a massively complex network of 10's of different proteins that all get turned on to deal with wound healing. The proteins in skin wounds are very different to those in normal skin, indicating that there are a lot of jobs for many different proteins to grow new tissue. Proteins in this wound healing process and all of the proteins in your body rely on your diet. Proteins require certain dietary nutrients to be able to be made by our bodies, including essential amino acids and vitamins like D and A. As outlined in our article on collagen proteins, it doesn't really matter too much about where you get your amino acids from, as long as you cover them all and get enough. Additionally, some sun exposure is important during wound healing as Vitamin D requires a touch of the sun, while antioxidant pigments like beta-carotene are important for Vitamin A and Retinoic acid. 

Can seaweed support your proteome?

Seaweed can be an important part of your diverse diet, to cover different types of amino acids (as featured in our Protein Pack), but also the precursor pigments to Vitamin A in our deep green products (Phukka, Phettuccine and Sea Cs), as well as Boron which is a trace element that protects your Vitamin D stores once you have made them. 

This is just some of the understanding that science has delivered us, and it should help us to make the daily decisions about the types of foods that we eat. Although we are years and decades away from understanding the complexity of our proteome network and tailoring specific treatments through diet, we can cover our bases by our broader diet and lifestyle choices. Eat diverse, wholefoods, different types of proteins to cover all the amino acids you need to build new proteins, and colour and plants from land and sea wherever you can. A touch of sun each day in lockdown is also important.