One of the reasons I became interested in medicinal mushrooms are how science research and studies explain beta-glucan as immune support and mushrooms are one food it contains beta-glucan.
That is why many individuals choose the supplement beta-glucan for strengthening their immune systems before using any vitamins or other nutrients on the market.
What is Beta Glucan?
Beta-glucan is a polysaccharide nutrient found in seaweed, fungi, and yeast. Polysaccharides are not simple carbohydrates like glucose and fructose which are called monosaccharides. And they are even more complex than disaccharides such as sucrose and lactose (milk sugar) because of the long chain of sugar molecules that are glued or bonded together they are called a polysaccharide.
Brief Historical View of Glucans
Dr. Vaclav Vetvicka explains in his book, Beta Glucan: Nature's Secret, about this less known nutrient where research was done notably in three regions of the world, the United States, Japan, and Europe. And how they discovered the immunomodulatory effect of glucan in the immune system.
He continues explaining about the research in Europe and the U.S. examining the immunomodulatory impact of the polysaccharide zymosan taken from baker’s yeast and later identifying that glucan is the primary nutrient providing this modulatory effect on the immune function. In Japan, the researchers found similar results however using mushrooms such as reishi, chaga, and shiitake, where the beta-glucan compound is in these mushrooms, play a major role in enhancing immunity.
Beta Glucan Immune System Support
There are many possible benefits of using glucan and not only for immune system support. It is established in medical research that glucan enhances the response of the immune cells to pathogenic microbes and fighting off cancer cells(1). Dr. Vetvicka talks about how the immune cells called Neutrophils are normally specialized in dealing with cancer cells but with the presence of glucan is ingested it, therefore, activates these white blood cells to kill cancer cells (2).
Individuals who suffer from cancer disease and dealing with chemotherapy or irradiation treatment is the side effects of immune system suppression by decreasing certain type of immune cells such as immunocytes.
The wonderful benefit that beta-glucans show is the ability to enhance the recovery of the patient (3).
When you have a healthy immune system, then it can fight off cancerous cells efficiently. However, when your defense mechanism is overwhelmed by one or more of the following: stress, lack of sleep, poor choices of food, or environmental toxins, then supplementing with vitamins, antioxidants, or, in this case, using beta-glucan seems to a wise choice.
Microbes like bacteria and viruses cause infection in the body and glucan is an active nutrient that works against these pathogens by stimulating the immune function ability to kills these microbes.
And beta-glucans create the synergistic effect when it is also taken with antibiotic treatment in particular against antibiotic-resistant bacteria and fungi (4). As beta-glucan immune system supporter has been showing health benefits, there is an increased demand for this incredible healing nutrient. And here is a summary of some possible benefits of glucans that scientific studies and Dr. Vetvicka reveal to the public.
Taking Beta Glucan Immune System Supplement
There are usually three different types of sources that Beta-glucan supplement is derived from such as yeast or Baker's yeast, mushrooms, and seaweed. Although beta glucan nutrient has been extensively studied and demonstrates immune system benefits, I have not used beta-glucan as an isolated nutrient.
Be Cautious Though!
As I shared with you before in Medicinal Mushrooms for the Immune System article that I take Reishi and chaga mushrooms for one reason is that they contain beta-glucan them. There are two reasons I take beta-glucan in whole foods:
Professor Vaclav Vetvicka, Ph.D. says in his book that not all glucans have the same enhancing immunity effects regarding glucans biological potency and purity, so find the best quality from a reputable company.
The second reason is that I tend to stick to taking nutrients or vitamins, not in isolated forms, like ascorbic acid (so-called vitamin C), Vitamin A, or Vitamin D.
I am not saying they are not effective however I like to take them with other minerals and cofactors, enzymes, as the whole spectrum of nutrients working together synergistically and prevent or minimize any adverse effects when taking isolated nutrients.
So if you ask me, I would first recommend immune system supplements as chaga for their healing effect which includes beta-glucan and numerous beneficial compounds. Or do your homework thoroughly finding quality beta-glucan supplements to boost your immune system.