Seaweed and your microbiome by PhycoHealth

Embracing the ‘omes – PART VI - The microbiome; your own personal ecosystem

Through the "embracing the 'omes" series, we started at the GENOME, to learning that there is a blueprint you are born with that makes you unique from the start.

On top of that there is your EPIGENOME fingerprint, that you are in partial control of designing through your choices in life. Indeed, the methyl nutrients that you choose to eat can turn on epigenetic switches that trigger responses to disease and control your state of inflammation.

Your genome and epigenome help you to create your signature PROTEOME, together with the diet that you choose. This isn’t just about muscles, but 100,000s of protein molecules that form a complex immune system that works hard from gut signaling to wound healing.

From there we journeyed to your LIPIDOME, with molecules that keep every single cell of your body intact. We are bound to life on earth through these molecules which are essential building blocks of our cell structures that we can only get through our food. If we ever travel to Mars, we will have to bring these other lifeforms with us, in order to get access to some of the molecules we need in our lipidome.

Then the complexity of the glue of life, the dark matter of biology with its secret molecular signatures, is your GLYCOME. Across your whole series of ‘omes and how you work, rest, play and eat, drives your special signature of glycans that make your glycome. These molecules hold us together, heal us, warn us of threats and what needs to be done, and are the most complex map of your individual blueprint. In this way, the glycome you create will determine how you feel and perform in life.

The chain of 'omes and you

This chain of increasingly complex ‘omes make up the building blocks of you, but you are definitely not alone with your ‘omes. Let’s take a leap into further complexity and multiply the GENOME 200 times! That is how many genomes are added when you consider your MICROBIOME. You have close to as many microbial cells in our body as human cells, making up at least 5 categories of micro-ecosystems. These microbiomes give and take back from us and are an essential part of our lives that we could not live without. How your microbiomes are made up is a function of all of the ‘omes combined, as well as your life experiences.

GUT microbiome

The gut microbiome is the obvious microbiome that many of us have become familiar with as research in this space has exploded. There are so many books and products on the market looking to help us improve the status of our microbiome, as the industrialized diet hasn’t been too friendly towards it. However, the solution may lie in simply moving back towards a diet of real foods and making your diet more diverse. Yet again, the diversity of your gut microbiome is known to be the key to healthier guts.

In 2017, we ran a clinical study using our PhycoDigest SeaFibre, seaweed extract. Some of you may have read about this in the Clever Guts diet book, by Dr. Michael Mosley. We were able to measure a significantly larger shift in the gut microbiome in people taking the seaweed extract versus those on a placebo who didn’t take SeaFibre. When we looked at which microbe species increased the most overall, we found that these were assumed to be beneficial species for gut health. Some of them included Bifidobacteria, Akkermansia and Pseudobutyrivibrio.

Seaweed and the gut microbiome by PhycoHealth

Things like abdominal pain are linked to inadequate numbers of Bifidobacteria. When Bifidobacteria eat natural sources of glutamate from our diets, for example in mushrooms, seaweed and tomatoes, they produce a compound known as GABA. GABA is a neurotransmitter that prevents oversensitivity of the gut lining and is one of the key signals in our gut brain axis and brain neuron communication. This is why GABA is also known as the calming chemical of our brains.

Species like Akkermansia are thought to reduce gut permeability (leaky gut) to inflammation triggers. Species like Pseudobutyrivibrio are known to be good for colon health, as they are a producer of the main energy source for colon cells; butyrate. So, you can see how important diversity is in the gut microbiome. There are so many different parts to play for a fully functioning digestive system, and a diversity of food, including a bit of seaweed, will help to maintain a diversity of gut flora.

SKIN microbiome

A research frontier that is underway is better understanding the microbiome of our skin. Skin is not as moist an environment as the guts, and so the microbiome is very different, but it is also very different depending on where your skin is. For example, an oily forehead is abundant in the lipid eating Propionibacterium, while there is hardly any of this microbe between your toes. The skin between your toes is more abundant in Corynebacterium and Staphylococcus, as these species prefer a more moist environment.

Skin microbiome and seaweed by PhycoHealth

The skin microbiome, just like the gut microbiome, can run into imbalances in the otherwise normal and healthy skin flora. These changes can be caused by too much chemical exposure, or even what we eat can lead to certain skin imbalances. For example, certain strains of Propionibacterium in the presence of oilier skin and certain nutrients are a cause for acne; despite this abundant bacteria being normal on healthy skin. On a similar note but for a different skin concern, eczema is linked with overabundance of Staphylococcus. Interestingly, we know that Staphylococcus can become a dangerous infectious bacterium if it enters broken skin, but the ill effects are quashed in the presence of Corynebacterium; which acts something like the superintendent for the behavior of skin microbes.

This field of research is very exciting, and some of our seaweed extracts have been shown to reduce the biofilm formation of sometimes toxic bacteria, as well as promote the growth of beneficial bacteria. So, watch this space as our research on our PhycoDerm skin care products and the skin microbiome develops.


This very moist environment can become imbalanced sometimes, when the water loving yeast that are a natural part of our microbiome start to over dominate. This is something that many of us might have experienced as thrush, when antibiotics wipe out the balance of bacteria that are important in the genitals. One of the bacteria that are so abundant here and that balance the microbiome towards more normal yeast populations, is Lactobacillus. We are excited to know that one particular species of Lactobacillus grows very well on some of our seaweed extracts, and so we will keep you abreast of the research that we start in this area.


Your mouth and nose are actually a garden for all sorts of species of Streptococcus, alongside other bacteria and yeasts. Some of these are important in creating an acidic environment in your mouth which keeps away some pathogens, while other Streptococcus species are important to rebalance that acid so that you don’t get caries. Streptococcus species are very sticky creatures as they need to be kept in place in such a moving and dynamic environment as the mouth and nose, and they operate as a frontline of defence.

The oral microbiome can of course be affected very much by what you eat, which is why it is important that we don’t eat the same types of food throughout the day. Feeding your oral microbiome in the morning should be different to what you eat during the day and at night, or you can get an imbalance of the microbiome. We are so lucky now to be able to access the cuisine and foods of many cultures, and this is a good thing for the oral microbiome, and especially if it leads us back to eating more fibres which are good prebiotics for the oral microbiome, and wholefoods that take longer to chew; as chewing is an important exercise for the microbiome of your mouth.

Nuture the nature in you Microbiome

Like any garden, our microbiomes need to be nurtured. Neglect will create weeds and wreak havoc in and on our bodies. Too much of any nutrient will put our microbiome out of balance. Not enough of key nutrients will lead to losses of important flora. You have to tend to it, but we also have to allow it the freedom to work in its own special way, and in the way that all of your other ’omes support it, uniquely for you. You are the ultimate sensor of how things are going on in your microbiome, and it is time you are given the liberty to tune in and have faith that you can learn to listen and respond better to nurturing this ecosystem. Knowing now that there is no single answer, no single nutrient, no single diet regime in life, and above all no constant state as we are always evolving and changing. How exciting that life will always benefit from being richer and more diverse on many levels in the unique lives that we lead.

Now that we can appreciate how our lifestyle choices support us through all of our ‘omes, by what we eat, how we exercise, our quality of sleep, and what we choose to avoid. On so many levels, the core takeaway message from me is amazement and appreciation of the complexity of life that we are in. It is more complex than any computer network or mathematical model that we can design, so let’s gently nurture our ‘omes every day with a diversity of foods, on top of a good lifestyle, and let the ‘omes develop on the best foundations and in your unique way.

I hope you will embrace your ‘omes.