What is Beta-D-Glucan?

What is Beta-D-Glucan?

September 04, 2023

How Can it Help Fight Infections?

Beta-D-Glucan—or more simply, beta glucan—is a form of soluble fiber.

You have probably heard that fiber is good for you – good for your heart and good for your digestive system.  All that is true, but beta glucan can also stimulate and support the immune system. Let’s get into a few more details about how beta glucan can work for you.

Insoluble Fiber & Soluble Fiber

There are two basic types of fiber—soluble and insoluble. These are both types of carbohydrates.  Your body can digest these forms of carbohydrates.

Insoluble fiber won’t dissolve in water but helps “bulk up” food in the digestive system and can help improve and promote regular bowel movements and prevent constipation. Insoluble fiber is found in whole grains and in many vegetables.

Soluble fiber dissolves in water and is found in foods like oats, oatmeal, peas, beans, nuts, beans, lentils, apples, blueberries, citrus fruits, carrots and barley.

Beta Glucan

Beta glucan is a type of soluble fiber found in high levels in barley, oats, oatmeal, other whole grains, seaweed and especially in mushrooms like reishi, maitake and shitake.

It is especially interesting to know that medicinal mushrooms—like reishi, maitake and shitake mushrooms—have been used for centuries in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and other traditional medical systems to treat infections and cancer. It is believed that the reason these types of mushrooms have been useful in these traditional systems is the high content of beta glucan found in them. Cancer immunotherapy using beta glucan-containing fractions of these medicinal mushrooms have been used in Japan since the 1970s and in China since the 1980s.  The types of cancer treated with these beta-glucan based therapies include gastric, esophageal, colorectal, breast and lung cancers. These same therapies have also been investigated in immune deficient diseases like HIV/AIDs and in elderly patients.

Beta glucan has many  benefits including:

  • Lowering and stabilizing blood sugar levels
    • Beta glucan is not broken down or digested by humans—instead, it may slow down overall digestion. This means that sugars from foods are released more slowly.  And THAT means that blood sugar levels tend to be lower and tend to avoid the high peaks that occurs with other types of carbohydrates.
  • Lowering blood cholesterol levels, especially by lowering LDL-cholesterol (aka “bad” cholesterol)
    • Beta glucan can “drag” cholesterol along with it as it passes through the digestive system
  • Promoting regular and easier bowel movements
    • This is primarily by bulking up the intestinal material
  • Reduce blood pressure and the risk of heart disease
    • This may be due to the cholesterol-lowering actions of beta glucan
  • Accelerate and promote wound healing
  • Stimulate and support the immune system
    • Animal studies indicate that beta glucans can increase the inflammatory response to infections, increase the movement of immune cells to the site of an infection and increase the production of substances that can directly kill infected cells.
    • Human studies have provided evidence that beta glucan can improve the function of the immune system and reduce the susceptibility and risk of both infections and cancer. Other studies have indicated that beta glucan can inhibit the growth of tumors.

Beta glucan has not been reported to have any safety issues.

Beta glucans are used around the world as adjuvant cancer therapies and in cancer vaccines—stand by for more information as it becomes available!

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