Article at a glance:
- Lung disease is one of the leading causes of death. With increased exposure to airborne toxins and the threat of respiratory diseases like COVID-19 and COPD, it is imperative to look for natural ways to protect our lungs and respiratory system.
- Chlorella is a tiny but mighty superfood known for its many amazing health benefits. This includes the ability to promote lung function and protect against lung diseases.
- How is chlorella good for the lungs? Chlorella has an impressive nutritional profile, including vitamins, minerals, and other natural substances crucial for good lung health.
Optimal respiratory health is mainly dependent on your immune function. Since chlorella is known for its immune-boosting effects and many other impressive health benefits, you may be asking: Is chlorella good for the lungs and respiratory system? We’ll answer that now!
Is Chlorella Good for the Respiratory System?
As chlorella supplements continue to grow in popularity, numerous scientific studies have delved into the different chlorella benefits for the lungs.
These blue-green freshwater algae may offer health benefits throughout the respiratory system. In particular, in our airways — part of the upper respiratory tract (URT) — and lungs — part of the lower respiratory tract (LRT).
As a nutrient-dense superfood, chlorella may boost respiratory function and help protect against serious respiratory diseases like asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and lung cancer.
Chlorella Benefits for the Lungs and Respiratory System
Chlorella has many known health benefits, and the respiratory system is no different. Here, let’s talk about some of the common questions you may have and learn more about how chlorella benefits the lungs and the respiratory system.
Does Chlorella Reduce the Risk of Respiratory Infections?
The more toxic air pollutants we breathe daily, the higher the risk of respiratory distress or disease. This is where the health benefits of chlorella come in. Studies have found that chlorella may boost immunity in the mucosa, the moist fluid lining our airways, lungs, and stomach. This is crucial since the mucosa prevents the entry of respiratory toxins and pathogens.
In one study, participants were instructed to take 30 placebo tablets and 30 chlorella tablets for four weeks. This was separated by a 12-week washout period. Chlorella supplementation resulted in a significant increase in salivary SIgA concentrations compared to baseline levels. No such effect was observed with the placebo.
Secretory IgA (SIgA) is a special substance that helps to protect the lining of our intestines from harmful toxins and disease-causing germs. It acts as the first barrier to keep our intestines safe.
According to experts, SIgA prevents pathogens from adhering to mucosal surfaces. The higher the SIgA, the lower the risk of pathogenic colonization. On the other hand, when SIgA concentrations decrease, it can lead to respiratory infections and compromised pulmonary function. This is also particularly relevant for those with respiratory diseases.
Asthma and COPD, for instance, are characterized by airway remodeling. These diseases impact airflow and may also lead to impairments in SIgA production and increase the levels of pathogens in the mucosa. This may further increase their risk of infections and exacerbate symptoms of respiratory disease.
As such, increased salivary SIgA concentrations can be considered one of the most important chlorella benefits for the lungs and the respiratory system. It can prevent the entry of pathogens and protect against immunodepression, reducing the risk of respiratory infections and diseases.
Does Chlorella Increase Oxygen?
Our lungs are overbuilt for oxygen uptake. Initially, it can hold about 6 liters of air. However, oxygen uptake tends to decrease with age. Pulmonary diseases may also limit maximal oxygen uptake, making breathing significantly harder.
Researchers say microalgae like chlorella are known as oxygen generators due to their good photosynthetic activity. As such, taking chlorella tablets may help promote better lung function.
In a Japanese study, male university students with micronutrient deficiencies received four-week chlorella-derived multicomponent supplementation. Results showed a significant increase in maximal oxygen uptake compared to the placebo group. Participants in the chlorella group had increased levels of iron, niacin, and vitamins B2, D, and K.
Increased oxygen levels may benefit those with respiratory conditions marked by difficulty breathing or getting enough oxygen to the body.
Does Chlorella Enhance Aerobic Endurance?
Due to increasing oxygen levels, chlorella may also enhance aerobic performance.
In animal studies, murine participants had 0.5% chlorella powder added to their normal diets. They also engaged in high-intensity intermittent exercise for six weeks. According to results, chlorella supplementation pronounced affected exercise performance and lactate metabolism.
Meanwhile, in a clinical trial with young adults, chlorella tablets were given twice daily for four weeks. Exercise testing was done one day after the final chlorella intake and another after a 6-week washout period. Results showed that the chlorella group had significantly increased peak oxygen uptake during exercise testing, contributing to better aerobic endurance capacity than the control group.
In a similar study, healthy young males were given 10 chlorella tablets (4g) twice daily. The tablets were taken before and after a high-intensity intermittent training (HIIT) program, which lasted for 3 weeks. Researchers found that chlorella intake improved anaerobic and aerobic exercise capacity compared to the placebo group.
Since we tend to use up more oxygen during exercise, chlorella’s ability to replenish oxygen levels may lead to better energy production, longer physical endurance, and better muscle recovery.
Does Chlorella Help Inflammation in the Lungs?
Inflammation in the lungs is a key characteristic of pulmonary diseases like COPD and asthma. This leads to airway remodeling, which causes irreversible structural changes to the respiratory system. Since chlorella is known for its anti-inflammatory properties, taking it may help reduce lung inflammation and, thus, help manage respiratory symptoms or conditions.
In one study, patients with COPD or asthma were given 2,700 mg of chlorella vulgaris daily for eight weeks. Researchers noted that participants had increased antioxidant status and activity. While there were no major changes to lung parameters, chlorella may have helped reduce the frequency of coughing, wheezing, sputum, and shortness of breath. Improvements in sputum and wheezing were also significantly greater in the chlorella group compared to the placebo group.
In an animal study, chlorella extract was found to suppress airway inflammation. Specifically, it inhibited airway hyperresponsiveness, smooth muscle hypertrophy, and goblet cell hyperplasia — which are features of airway remodeling in COPD and asthma.
Researchers noted that these beneficial effects may be via suppression of Th2 cytokines. A Th1/Th2 imbalance, specifically a Th2 dominance, has been linked with chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases.
Th2 cytokines are a group of proteins produced by a type of immune cells called T-helper 2 (Th2) cells. These cytokines play a role in regulating the immune response, particularly in allergic and inflammatory reactions. They help stimulate and coordinate certain immune cells to respond to foreign substances or pathogens in the body. Th2 cytokines promote allergic responses, such as allergic asthma or hay fever, and are associated with certain autoimmune disorders.
As such, chlorella supplements may be a promising adjunctive therapy for managing respiratory conditions.
Does Chlorella Remove Toxins from the Lungs?
Airborne toxins such as cigarette smoke, asbestos, silica, heavy metals, mycotoxins, and other harmful chemicals have been linked to lung inflammation. These harmful chemicals are also known to cause oxidative stress, which is another characteristic of pulmonary diseases.
Thankfully, chlorella is known for its amazing detox power — making it one of the most important chlorella benefits for the lungs and respiratory system. Studies have shown that chlorella can bind to most toxic heavy metals such as mercury, lead, and cadmium. Heavy metal toxicity has been linked to lung disease. Chlorella can also bind with other harmful chemicals like asbestos, silica, and mycotoxins from molds.
This binding ability is attributed to an adhesive cell wall and metal-binding peptides at its surface. Chlorella is also rich in chlorophyll, which has antioxidant properties and can help improve oxidative stress tolerance.
In one study, chronic cigarette smokers were given 3,600 mg of chlorella daily for six weeks. Results show a significant elevation in serum antioxidant levels and a reduction of toxic malondialdehyde levels, which is a measure of lipid peroxidation.
A study among Korean male smokers saw a similar increase in antioxidant levels. Participants also saw a decrease in lymphocyte DNA damage, which is a marker for oxidative stress. According to researchers, antioxidants may protect lung tissue from the effects of inhaling toxic substances such as cigarette smoke. They scavenge and neutralize toxins, reducing the oxidative burden on the lungs that can lead to chronic bronchitis, emphysema, fibrosis, and other lung diseases.
Which Nutrients Are Good for the Lungs?
As tiny as chlorella is, this blue-green alga is densely packed with essential nutrients like chlorophyll, vitamin C, beta-carotene, fatty acids, antioxidants, and important vitamins and minerals. This is why chlorella is associated with many health benefits, including the aforementioned chlorella benefits for the lungs and respiratory system.
Researchers have identified the following nutrients responsible for the lung health benefits of chlorella:
Chlorella is rich in polysaccharides, including beta-glucans, which are potent immunomodulators. They also have anti-inflammatory and anti-infection activities.
This is reflected in scientific studies, wherein the administration of beta-glucans was found to help reduce symptoms or incidence of respiratory tract infections among children, adults, and athletes.
Polysaccharides exert beneficial effects through the following mechanisms:
- Activation and stimulation of immune cells
- Modulation of antigen-presenting cells
- Support of Th1 lymphocytes
- Modulation of antibody production
- Support of natural killer cells, cytokines, and chemokines
In particular, polysaccharides help promote an optimal Th1/Th2 balance, which may help inhibit airway hyperresponsiveness and airway remodeling in COPD and asthma.
Chlorella is a rich source of antioxidants, including vitamin C, beta carotene, lycopene, and lutein. Studies have shown that antioxidants, especially dietary carotenoids, play an important role in maintaining respiratory health.
According to a meta-analysis, carotenoids may have protective effects on lung function through inhibition of airway hyperresponsiveness, mitigation of inflammatory mediators, activation of Th1 cytokines, reduction of Th2 cytokines, and reduction of lipid peroxidation, among others.
In an 8-year study, beta-carotene protected against forced expiratory volume (FEV) decline among heavy smokers and the general population. FEV refers to the volume of air a person can whale when doing a forced breath for a specific number of seconds.
Higher carotenoid concentrations were also found to protect against pulmonary function deterioration among older women.
Branched-chain amino acids are essential for aerobic performance and muscle growth.
Since chronic wasting and muscle loss are associated with COPD, chlorella supplementation may help improve muscle metabolism. Patients with COPD are also known to have low concentrations of branched-chain amino acids.
This can be rectified by supplementing with chlorella, which has branched-chain amino acids such as leucine, isoleucine, and valine. It also has arginine and other essential amino acids that can promote lung homeostasis, restore the mucosal barrier, and inhibit cell apoptosis/death.
Chlorella has essential vitamins that boost the immune system, enhance mucosal immunity, and promote lung homeostasis. It includes the following:
Vitamin A helps modulate the immune response, which is crucial for inflammatory diseases. Vitamin A deficiency has also increased Th2 cytokines and lung inflammation. Meanwhile, vitamin D helps regulate antimicrobial peptides to protect against respiratory viruses. Vitamin D has also been associated with more severe COPD.
In addition, studies found that folic acid and other B vitamins help improve lung function. Folic acid also helps reduce COPD symptoms, specifically breathlessness. Vitamin E, on the other hand, improves pulmonary inflammation, reduces Th2 cytokines, and decreases airway constriction.
Chlorella also has naturally occurring elements like zinc, which helps modulate oxidative stress during the inflammatory response; and selenium, which boosts the immune system and reduces the risk of respiratory infections.
Chlorella: Good For Your Lungs and So Much More!
Apart from the many chlorella benefits for the lungs we’ve discussed, this amazing superfood is also linked with many health benefits.
Chlorella can help boost the immune system; lower high blood pressure and improve cardiac health; promote brain health, reduce the risk of cerebral stroke lesions and neurodegenerative diseases; lower cholesterol levels; regulate bowel movements and boost gut health; and much more.
By having an impressive nutritional profile, chlorella can boost overall health. So, if you want something good for your lungs and more, consider taking chlorella supplements as part of your daily regimen.
Whether you prefer chlorella powder or chlorella tablets, what’s most important is choosing a chlorella supplement that’s grown, harvested, and processed with the utmost regard for quality. This is the best way to ensure you get the best that chlorella offers!
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