Beta-Glucan: Supercharging Your Immune Defense and Offence

Posted by Lisa Moretti


When we think about fighting off viruses and bacteria, we are lucky - we have both modern and traditional resources at our fingertips.

From natural products to pharmaceutical interventions, they all have a place. One thing that’s often forgotten is that most pharmaceuticals have their roots – so to speak – in plants. What western medicine has done really well is to standardize and extract the active components in plants. Sometimes this is beneficial, but at other times it can be an overreach. In our quest for fast, we’ve tossed out the accompanying components that make “plant medicine” so effective.

The Secret of Plants?

Do plants hold a secret to health? YES! Especially the health benefits from beta-glucans! 

Active compounds in most herbal products that makes them so effective usually come from polysaccharides, or as they are sometimes called polycarbohydrates. These are carbohydrates like starch or cellulose, made up of giant chains of little beads; those beads are smaller molecules of sugar bonded together. Beta-glucan is a type of soluble fiber made up of polycarbohydrates strings.

Carbohydrates have been demonized in recent years, but they have a place and a purpose. Unfortunately, in our drive to remove carbs from our diets, we may have robbed ourselves of a critical resource for our respiratory health, allergy relief, antifungal defenses, and the balancing of our microbiome (the complex community of microflora in our gastrointestinal tract).

Foods That “Stick to Your Ribs”

Remember that phrase growing up? 

People who live in extreme environments, those who do heavy-duty physical work, or any of us who might get sick, as grandma used to say... “you need food that sticks to your ribs.” This was often something like oatmeal for breakfast or a hearty mushroom-barley soup. In truth, grandma was on to something!

Barley, oats, mushrooms (as well as fungi, bacteria, yeasts, algae, and lichens) have cell walls full of beta-glucans. Their soluble fiber is linked to lower cholesterol, improved heart health, and more robust immune defenses.

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) has also used medicinal mushrooms and grains for healing for centuries. And now, Western Medicine is discovering why they are so effective – and part of the secret lies in those beta-glucans. Scientists are finding that beta-glucans activate immune cells, including our natural killer (NK) cells. [1] When we include these valuable carbohydrates in our diet, we are actually fortifying our immune defenses!

 

Killer NK Cells have granules and enzymes that can help kill viruses

The Immune System’s PacMan Cells

Beta-glucans also stimulate macrophages; these versatile cells are part of your immune system’s fighting team. 

Macrophages are like PacMan cells, gobbling up invading pathogens and stimulating other immune cells to join in the defense. Macrophages also release cytokines. During the early stages of the COVID pandemic cytokines became regular topics in our news coverage when people with COVID infections experienced cytokine storms.  

Very simply, cytokines are chemical messengers that help immune cells communicate with each other. When we get a fast-moving invasion that our immune system has no reference for in its “rolodex of antibodies,” our macrophages can go into overdrive to ensure our survival. But sometimes, they release too many cytokines into the bloodstream. Cytokines are part of the body’s inflammatory response. We typically think of inflammation as bad.  Chronic inflammation is harmful to your body, but the inflammatory process in proper balance is part of our defense and healing processes. The complication of a cytokine storm is that this out-of-balance inflammatory response can kill tissue and damage organs.

Another benefit of beta-glucans in some of the latest research [2] is that they seem to help modulate the body’s immune response. They can up or down-regulate specific aspects of our bodies’ immune responses. That means they can tame an extreme event like a cytokine storm as well as help our bodies maintain a healthy, balanced response to everyday events. And, beta-glucans avoid being digested in the upper digestive tract, survive to reach the large intestine, and then help build the microbiome in the gut – the foundation of our immune system.[3]

Quite A Track Record

Beta-glucan supplements have been the subject of research for more than 50 years in wide-ranging applications from blood sugar, weight loss, respiratory health, and gut health to cancer therapies. With such broad applications, let’s take a look at how beta-glucans can help bolster your health.

Cholesterol:  The FDA allows food products and supplements to tout the cholesterol-lowering effects of beta-glucans and foods that are high in them. This is a big deal! Double-blind clinical studies demonstrated that daily consumption of beta-glucans lowered blood cholesterol by 5-8%.

 

Blood Sugar: Beta-glucan-rich foods and supplements have been shown to decrease the body’s glycemic response by 17-25% and may help support those with Type 2 Diabetes.

 

Weight loss: When beta-glucans begin to digest and ferment in the digestive system, they form a gel. This gel slows glucose delivery to the bloodstream from other foods but stimulates glucose metabolism (breakdown) by the liver. They also signal to the brain that we’ve eaten enough. The combination of insulin regulation and the message that we are full combine to support weight loss.

 

Respiratory Health and Allergy Relief:  The Montana Center for Work Physiology and Exercise Metabolism conducted a study in 2008 to look at the effects of beta-glucans on respiratory health. They followed firefighters because they are exposed to so many upper respiratory challenges. Firefighters who received beta-glucans vs. placebo had 23% less upper respiratory infections/complaints. Another study of generally healthy adults showed that using beta-glucan supplements helped reduce the severity of upper respiratory infections. [4]  And, for those who suffer from allergies, beta-glucans can be a godsend! 

 

Double-blind, placebo-controlled studies found that beta-glucans taken orally can decrease the symptoms of allergies, especially from the dreaded ragweed. [5]

 

Antibiotic Resistance: In animal studies, scientists in Boston found that beta-glucans can support the effectiveness of antibiotics and help overcome resistant bacteria and viruses. [6] In another study, human patients who received beta-glucans after surgery showed fewer infectious complications. [7]

 

Mutating Cells: Exciting new research has shown that beta-glucans can prevent the development of mutant cells that proliferate. [8]

 

Traveler’s Diarrhea: It is a huge relief for travelers that researchers found beta-glucans can help protect against Escherichia coli (ETEC), the cause of the dreaded traveler’s “runs”, if they’re taken before being exposed to the bacteria. No more spoiled vacations – bonus!

Beta-glucans are amazing and are the underlying secret to plant-based eating/medicine and health! The only downside? Our bodies can’t make them, so we have to get them from an outside source.

Okay, So Where Can I Get These Things??

Clearly beta-glucans are a great addition to our diets and our supplement regimens. They come from many different foods and you need a minimum of 3 grams a day to get the benefits documented in clinical research. Consuming even higher levels of beta-glucans has been shown to be even better. But, to get 3 grams of beta-glucans, you need to eat:

  • Barley Fiber – 1 and ½ cups of cooked barley
  • Oats – 1 and ½ cusp of cooked oatmeal
  • Whole Grains (Rye, Sorghum, Wheat, etc.) – 10-12 ounces
  • Reishi, Maitake, and Shiitake Mushrooms (wild mushrooms have higher beta-glucan levels, levels vary) at least 10 grams (about 1/8 cup packed)
  • Baker’s Yeast – 12 grams of purified yeast (about 4.5 teaspoons of active dry yeast or 9 teaspoons of fresh yeast)
  • Seaweed – 9 grams (but would result in taking over 800% the tolerable upper limit of iodine)
  • Algae – 6 grams of algae concentrate

Seriously, how much can you really eat E*V*E*R*Y day? 

Another wrinkle is getting a constant level of potency and purity. This is where supplements can really save the day. By extracting beta-glucans, we can make higher concentrations of the beneficial glucans without you having to eat lots of carbohydrate calories. Further, beta-glucans taken as a supplement also ensures that you can avoid contaminants and foreign toxins, especially in grains where molds can be a huge problem. 

Nobody wants to eat mold!

The power of beta-glucans to help protect and defend is why Health Direct has included the newest, cutting-edge form in Qubeco.

The Latest Next BIG Breakthrough

Exciting new developments from the world of science demonstrate that we can “prime” the immune system by training innate immune cells to recognize threats without needing a full-blown infection. Furthermore, scientists have shown that beta-glucans inspired the immune system’s T-cells and neutrophils to prevent the intrusion of or rapid attack by invading pathogenic cells. Beta-glucans were shown to improve recovery after life-saving interventions too. [9]  This new approach to immune health is called adaptive or trained immunity.

Concurrent with a new understanding of how to prime the immune system with beta-glucans, formulators have also developed a game-changing, more concentrated form of beta-glucan called Ultra-Pure Beta Glucan. Through a proprietary process, three types of oat and mushroom-derived beta-glucans are concentrated to be 30 to 50 times more potent. Further, the extracting and concentrating process ensures that this new form of beta-glucans is gluten-free, dairy-free, Non-GMO, and salicylate-free.

Another quality of beta-glucans that make them so attractive for immune health is that they are very hearty, unlike the delicate flora in probiotics. Beta-glucans can withstand heat, harsh processing, and a wide pH range. This means they’re “easy” to produce. Because beta-glucans are a “hot product” right now (especially in the wake of COVID-19), the marketplace is flooded with low-quality products without the potency or clean sources you want for your immune health. And, like most everything, not all beta-glucan products are created from the same sources. As a result, consumers are often in the dark about the source of the beta-glucans they’re considering and what all exactly is in those capsules. Frankly, some of the products are so watered down with fillers, you’re better off eating a huge bowl of mushrooms and another of oatmeal – you’d just have to do it every day.

The purity and potency of new Ultra-Pure Beta-glucan (P. ostreatus beta-1,3/1, 6-D glucan) is the secret as to why it’s a game-changer. Using research from over 10,000 studies on how beta-glucan stimulates and modulates the immune system, researchers in Norway have been able to create a concentrated, highly bio-available form of beta-glucans with a 93% purity rate as opposed to the typical 75% of most products. Beta-glucans are broken down (micronized) in Ultra-Pure Beta-Glucan-based products in a way that increases the potency in each capsule by 30 to 50 times the usual dosage in non-Ultra-Pure capsules.

The power of beta-glucans is that they can activate immune cells via the bloodstream

Using Beta-Glucans For Your Health

Beta-glucan was originally given as an intravenous “medicine”; but today, we know that oral supplements are as active and effective as an injected dose[10]. This puts beta-glucans in an unusual position of being as effective as a drug but still considered a nutritional supplement! Remember, we started out talking about the fact that every pharmaceutical product has its “roots” in the natural kingdom, typically plants. Now you can see how beta-glucans are a component of “functional foods” that we can use to protect our health.Qubeco - the latest in cutting edge science for your respiratory health

Priming your immune system is a groundbreaking, new approach to maintaining your health. Research has shown over and over again that beta-glucans effectively train our immune systems and give us a strong defense BEFORE an invader shows up. 

They also call out the guard when we do have an infection to ensure that our immune fighting defenses get to work fast and gobble up pathogens trying to take hold while ensuring our systems don’t overreact.

Putting the power of beta-glucans to work for your health is a fantastic choice; making sure you have the highest quality and highest potency is imperative. Ultra-Pure Beta-Glucan offers discerning consumers the perfect source that meets the purity, sources, bioavailability, and potency that meets the clinical research. 

Working in combination with other synergistic nutrients, beta-glucans are a vital part of the Qubeco formula and a potent source of beta-glucans for total health.

 

References:

[1] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/17895634/ Effects of Beta-glucans on the immune system. Medicina (Kaunas) 2007, 43 (8): 597-606.

[2]  https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33322069/   β-Glucan Metabolic and Immunomodulatory Properties and Potential for Clinical Application.  Fungi (Basel), Dec 10, 2020; ;6(4):356

[3]  https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33876798/  Effects of fungal beta-glucans on health - a systematic review of randomized controlled trials.  Food Function, April 26, 2021 12(8):3366-3380

[4] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30198828/   Effects of Yeast (1,3)-(1,6)-Beta-Glucan on Severity of Upper Respiratory Tract Infections: A Double-Blind, Randomized, Placebo-Controlled Study in Healthy Subjects.  J Am Coll Nutr. January 2019 38(1):40-50.

[5]  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3951572/  Talbott SM, Talbott JA, Talbott TL, Dingler E. β-Glucan supplementation, allergy symptoms, and quality of life in self-described ragweed allergy sufferers.  Food Sci Nutr. 2013;1(1):90-101.

[6]  https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/8993382/  Prophylaxis with the immunomodulator PGG glucan enhances antibiotic efficacy in rats infected with antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Ann NY Aca Sci. October 25, 1996 797:285-7

[7] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/7979607/   Randomized phase I/II trial of a macrophage-specific immunomodulator (PGG-glucan) in high-risk surgical patients. Ann. Surg. November 1994 220(5):601-9

[8]  https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/B978012811519000011X  Detection of Prevented DNA Damage by Therapeutic Foods, Chapter 11 - Detection of Prevented DNA Damage by Therapeutic Foods, 2018 281:309

[9] https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/10/201029115759.htm  Priming the immune system to attack cancer “Innate Immune Training of Granulopoiesis Promotes Anti-tumor Activity”Cell 2020 183 (3): 771

[10]  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6479769/  Beta Glucan: Supplement or Drug? From Laboratory to Clinical Trials.  Molecules (Basel, Switzerland) March 30, 2019 vol. 24,7 1251

 

 *These statements have not been evaluated by the Food & Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.