Today we’re going to look at beta glucans and your immune system. If you’re interested in optimal health, then you need to supplement your diet with beta glucans.
But before we talk about beta glucans and your immune system, you need to understand that your body does not produce this natural compound. It can only be attained through diet or supplementation. If you choose to use diet as your source for beta glucans, then the following are your best choices:
Mushrooms such as Maitake and Reishi
Cereal Grains such as Oats, Bran, Wheat, and Barley
Beta glucans are natural polysaccharides that are also soluble fibers. As a soluble fiber it aids in slowing down digestion while helping to regulate blood sugar levels.
There are excellent research studies slowing how beta glucans benefit heart health. One such study conducted by the US Department of Agriculture’s Beltsville Human Nutrition Research Center in Maryland, showed how a diet rich in beta glucans can significantly lower total cholesterol and low density lipoprotein (LDL cholesterol).
This is significant because oxidized LDL cholesterol causes vascular inflammation that leads to plaque formation and atherosclerosis.
But since this article is about beta glucans and your immune system let’s focus on this area of improving your health.
When it comes to your immune system, beta glucans are classified as Immuno-Modulators. This means that beta glucans help to make positive improvements in your immune system.
Specifically, they stimulate the activity of macrophages. Macrophages are immune cells that ingest and help destroy invading pathogens. Macrophages also stimulate other components of your immune system, which aid in attacking these disease causing pathogens.
One critical way that macrophages help your immune system is through the release of cytokines. Cytokines are chemicals, or signaling molecules, that enable the various immune cells to communicate with each other. This improves your immune system’s ability to locate and properly identify pathogens so that your immune cells target them and not healthy cells.
Additionally, beta glucans stimulate white blood cells called lymphocytes. White blood cells will then bind to tumors and viruses to release chemicals that will then destroy these pathogens.
Since 1980, Japan has used beta glucans as an immunoadjuvant therapy for cancer. One specific form of beta glucans is called Lentinan. This is found in shiitake mushrooms. According the the authors of this study,
“Results of the clinical application of lentinan have proven prolongation of life span of the patients with advanced and recurrent stomach, colorectal, and breast cancer with only little side effect.”
Part of the effectiveness of lentinan’s was their ability to restore and boost the responsiveness of cytokines, which improves the communication response of immune cells to target pathogens that cause disease.
Plus there are numerous research studies that show the effectiveness of beta glucans in helping the immune system fight:
antibiotic resistant bacteria
Escherichia coli responsible for traveler’s diarrhea
and the common cold
In fact, in a single blind, randomized trial done on firefighters, researchers found that those taking a beta glucan supplement had 23% fewer upper respiratory tract infections when compared to the placebo.
As you can see from this information bata glucans and your immune system work together to strengthen your overall health. Like vitamin C and D3, beta glucans are a key component in helping to optimize your immune system and its response of unwanted pathogens.
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