Marine Phytoplankton Benefits and Detoxification Properties

By: Michael Lam, MD, MPH

The sea is filled with innumerable organisms from which we can derive marine phytoplankton benefitsPhytoplankton are single-celled organisms that are able to use the sun’s energy to power their cellular processes through photosynthesis. Because of this, phytoplankton are always at the very bottom of aquatic food chains in both freshwater and saltwater ecosystems. Although very small, phytoplankton contain many helpful fatty acids, antioxidants, and micronutrients. Consumption of marine phytoplankton benefits the immune system, improves cellular function, and helps to detoxify the extracellular matrix throughout the body.

Unique Properties of Phytoplankton

Phytoplankton is unique as a supplement because each phytoplankton is only one cell and is therefore able to permeate cell membranes very easily. This means that instead of becoming stuck in the digestive tract and not being properly absorbed, or being broken down and purged through the liver cleansing system, marine phytoplankton benefts are able to be delivered directly to cells without interrupting the body’s normal functions.

Phytoplankton contain many nutrients, essential fatty acids, and antioxidants that help with cellular function, detoxification, and immune regulation. EPA and DHA, which are omega-3 fatty acids, are both present in phytoplankton. Usually, these fatty acids are obtained mostly through meat or fish oil, so this is good news for vegetarians and vegans who are most at risk for fatty acid deficiencies. Fatty acids are necessary for maintenance of the cell membrane, including its receptors and ion channels. Fatty acids also help decrease inflammation and in can work as antioxidants to bind free radicals in the body.

In addition, marine phytoplankton benefits also include inherent antioxidant capabilities due to superoxide dismutase and astaxanthin, as well as vitamin C, and vitamin E. Antioxidants are protective molecules that your body uses to protect itself. Most of these are obtained from nutrition sources such as fruits and vegetables. The colorful pigments of fruits and vegetables signify large amounts of antioxidants present in them, hence the new adage of “eat the rainbow.” Antioxidants protect the body against free radicals. Free radicals are single molecules with a free, unpaired electron. This electron, because it is “free” or “unpaired” can bind to anything and wreak havoc because it disrupts stable compounds. Antioxidants are important to the body because they are able to give up an electron to pair up with the free radical’s electron and neutralize it. Phytoplankton are a helpful, quick source of these antioxidants, which help preserve cellular health and enhance the cleansing of the extracellular matrix by binding these free radicals.

Phytoplankton and the Mitochondria

In order to fully understand how antioxidants in marine phytoplankton benefits the body, it is important to understand the mitochondria and body’s energy currency, adenosine triphosphate (ATP). ATP powers the cells, the cells power the organs, and the organs power the body. Mitochondria use the energy from food to generate ATP, which can then be used for various cellular functions. If ATP can’t be generated properly because of mitochondrial dysfunction, toxins build up in the cell and extracellular matrix, which inhibits the absorption and excretion of nutrients. This puts a burden on the entire body. In order to maintain optimal health, it is important to keep the circuit functioning properly, which means taking care of the mitochondria, the cell, and ATP generation.

During the generation of ATP, reactive oxygen species, also known as free radicals, are produced naturally and managed by antioxidants in the cell. In other words, free radicals are side products of ATP generation. This process also occurs when antioxidants aren’t readily available, but this causes the concentration of free radicals to increase, which can damage the mitochondria. This damages results in decreased efficiency in the mitochondria, so they have to work harder, and free radicals keep accumulating. Eventually, this causes more cellular damage and toxin buildup. As free radicals accumulate, antioxidants are insufficient protection, and the cell is destroyed. Marine phytoplankton benefits the body by providing a high concentration of antioxidants to manage the levels of free radical toxins. This detoxification helps maintain healthy cell function and keeps ATP levels high so that cells are able to perform their cleansing functions.

Phytoplankton and NEM Stress Response

The fatty acids and antioxidants contained in phytoplankton make their consumption helpful for cellular function. Fatty acids help maintain the fluid lipid bilayer of the cellular membrane. A strong cell membrane prevents toxins from breaking through the barrier and allows for proper cleansing of the matrix. Antioxidants allow for the decrease in free radicals, which decreases damage to the cell and prevents toxins from accumulating in the extracellular matrix. The free radicals, once bound to antioxidants, can be excreted from the cell and processed through the liver. All these functions enhance detoxification, especially of the extracellular matrix, which is the substrate that holds and nourishes the cells throughout your body.

Since marine phytoplankton benefits affect the body systemically, it benefits all body systems.The health of the extracellular matrix, cells, and mitochondria, are important aspects of maintaining balance and health in the NeuroEndocrineMetabolic (NEM) stress response. The NEM Stress Response is a holistic way of approaching how the body responds to chronic stress. There are two main components: the neuroendocrine, which involves the release of neurotransmitters and hormones and their effects on the body, and the metabolic, which includes the body’s methods of cleansing itself, providing the necessary energy, and regenerating what it needs. When in balance, the body is able to manage the signals and responses of the NEM system well. However, there are many steps along the way that may become unbalanced, sometimes leading to conditions such as Adrenal Fatigue. Such an imbalance can be a disruption in hormones, detoxification, or inflammatory pathways. Whatever the cause, when a disruption occurs, it is important to help all systems function well in order to address the root cause and restore balance to the whole system.

The detoxification circuit is often a cause of imbalance in the NEM stress response. There are many processes and systems involved in detoxification, including the liver, extracellular matrix, and immune system. In the case of increased free radicals and cellular damage, the extracellular matrix becomes full of free radicals and toxins and is unable to function optimally. This toxicity puts strain on the liver, and this further buildup puts more strain on the detoxification process and makes it harder for the body to recover from the damage. Because of the nutrients they provide and their small size, and thus their ability to penetrate cell membranes, marine phytoplankton benefits the cleansing of the extracellular matrix. By managing the levels of free radicals and toxins in the extracellular matrix, phytoplankton supplementation aids the detoxification process at the extracellular matrix level and relieves some of the potential strain on the liver.

Marine Phytoplankton Benefits and Adrenal Fatigue Recovery

In Adrenal Fatigue recovery, it is important that all of the systems in the body are working well together. The approach must therefore be holistic, as outlined by the NEM stress response. Marine phytoplankton benefits the body by helping with detoxification of the extracellular matrix, binding both the free radicals found in the cells and those that have escaped into the matrix. The matrix is systemic, so free radicals generated in the intestines are able to move through your body. Luckily, phytoplankton is small, so it can penetrate and bind free radicals where needed. This detoxification is very important in Adrenal Fatigue recovery.

In Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome (AFS), the body is under constant stress. This stress can be external, such as work or life events, or internal, such as a chronic illness. This constant stress puts demands on your adrenal glands to produce cortisol. Cortisol is a hormone that helps your body to manage and react to stressful stimuli. When reacting to a short-term issue, cortisol is beneficial. When stress is chronic, however, the effects of cortisol can be detrimental. One of these effects is decreased production of the extracellular matrix, which is the nutrient rich substance between cells. This substance connects your entire body. As mentioned above, it must be cleansed and properly detoxified in order to function properly and prevent toxins from entering your cells and remove toxins that have accumulated.

When excess cortisol is produced, the extracellular matrix is diminished. This means, along with decreasing the availability of nutrients to the cells, it is also easier for toxins to accumulate in the matrix. Because there is less matrix, the concentration of toxins increases, which increases the risk of spreading to other cells. In the case of free radicals, this could be detrimental because a highly reactive molecule can move rapidly through the body and damage many cells along the way. This will further exacerbate the issues already caused by Adrenal Fatigue because more cells will be damaged, which causes more damage to the body as a whole. A congested extracellular matrix can lead to paradoxical reactions, hypersensitivities, and even EMF intolerance.

The cell membrane can be a barrier to some supplements, but marine phytoplankton benefits can pass through. Supplementation for marine phytoplankton benefits, while it can’t directly improve adrenal function or alter cortisol levels, helps to detoxify the extracellular matrix by binding free radicals and improving cellular membrane function to protect the cells. This is important because the supplement is able to minimize the damage caused by excess cortisol in early stages of Adrenal Fatigue.

The fatty acids that are in the phytoplankton also play a role in providing more structure for cellular membranes. This membrane maintenance helps the toxins in the cell remain in the cell until neutralized; it also keeps the toxins in the extracellular matrix in the extracellular matrix and out of the cell.

Phytoplankton Supplementation

As with any supplement, it is important to inform your health care provider of what you are taking and ensure that the supplement is working to aid in detoxification. You should also report any adverse side effects.

Not all phytoplankton supplements contain the same species. There are many forms of phytoplankton, so be sure to find the combination of species to provide the marine phytoplankton benefits that works for you. While there are no reported adverse side effects of phytoplankton, it is possible that phytoplankton could produce toxins and some harmful byproducts, given that phytoplankton in the ocean sometimes generates toxic blooms because of waste accumulation in the ocean. While this might not be true of the phytoplankton in the supplement, it is necessary to consider the source. It is important to know and understand what form of phytoplankton you are taking and where and how it was grown.

There is much that is still unkown about marine phytoplankton benefits, and new research is constantly unlocking more secrets. For those in advanced stages of Adrenal Fatigue, detoxing too quickly can cause a retoxification reaction. Be sure to consult a health care provider regarding an appropriate dosage for optimum effect and safety.


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© Copyright 2016 Michael Lam, M.D. All Rights Reserved.

The sea is filled with innumerable organisms from which we can derive marine phytoplankton benefits
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