Much of 21st century chronic disease is due to a breakdown in the coordination and balance of the immune system. Immunomodulation is a key term that refers to the control and coordination of the immune system. Specific herbs, nutrients and botanical co-factors help to improve the immunodulatory systems of the body. Beta glucans have been shown to be one of the best immunomodulation substances with powerful health benefits.
The immune system is designed to be highly sensitive to the presence of pathogenic microorganisms that pose a threat to the body. It is also designed to produce a strong inflammatory reaction with minimal collateral damage to the body.
When the body becomes overstressed it impairs the coordination of the immune system. This can lead to lowered or elevated immune activity. One with a lowered immune activity is at risk for various infections and cancer cell development. An individual with elevated immune activity is at risk for chronic inflammatory disorders such as allergies and asthma and auto-immune disorders.
Beta glucan and the immune system
Beta glucan (B-glucan) is a powerful immune stimulating compound found in several mushrooms, yeasts and other foods. Beta glucan is a polysaccharide that is made up of multiple sugar molecules linked together. The major beta glucan molecule is called 1,3-D glucan.
B-glucans are known by scientists as “biological response modifiers” that bind to the surface of innate immune cells which allows the cells to have better coordination in their attack. This reduces the tendency toward auto-immune reactions and hyperinflammatory activity when the body is under attack.
Beta glucan and cancer
This compound activates certain immune cells such as key T-cells, macrophages, natural killer (NK) cells and the cytokines interleukin (IL) 1 and 2. Studies have shown that it inhibits the growth of cancer and strengthens the immune response to microbial invaders.
B-glucans have been studied for their ability to mitigate cancer cell growth and reduce the symptoms of the common cold. In one report by the Montana Center for Work Physiology and Exercise Metabolism they studied firefighters and tracked their cold/flu symptoms. Firefighters have very physically and emotionally stressful positions that demand a lot out of them.
The results of the study showed that those who took B-glucans instead of the placebo had a 23 percent reduction in upper respiratory tract infections. “These results are consistent with previous clinical research involving marathoners, individuals with high stress lifestyles and the general population,” wrote Brent C. Rudy, the director of the Montana Center for Work Physiology and Exercise Metabolism.
How are B-glucans harvested?
B-glucans are naturally occurring polysaccharide molecules that are extracted from the cell walls of yeast. Insoluble (1,3/1,6) B-glucans are found in brewers yeast or saccharomyces boulardii and medicinal mushrooms such as maitake, reishi and agaricus blazei murrill mushrooms. Oats and barley contain soluble (1,3/1,4) B-glucans in their undigestable soluble fiber. This fiber has an anti-inflammatory effect on the body.
Research has demonstrated that insoluble (1,3/1,6) B-glucans have greater biological activity and immune modulating effects than the soluble form. Many individuals will benefit from consuming these through fermented foods and medicinal mushrooms.
It is also recommended to supplement with this insoluble B-glucan in order to enhance your immune system function. The specific supplemental versions of B-glucans are isolates that have removed all the potentially harmful proteins for those who are sensitive or allergic to yeast.