In today’s world some of us may have heard about the health benefits of Beta Glucans (𝜷-Glucans) however, many have never really taken into consideration how potent this polysaccharide is for improving and protecting the body from many chronic health conditions including diabetes, leaky gut syndrome, cancer and overall immune deficiencies to name a few. 𝜷-Glucans can be found in products such as oats, barley, seaweed, yeast and edible mushrooms such as reishi, shiitake, maitake, lion’s mane and chaga.
What are Beta Glucans? According to scientific definition, ‘𝜷-Glucans is a non-starch polysaccharide, prebiotic fiber formed primarily by 𝜷 -1,3 and 1,6 glycosidic bonds that are known to possess numerous health benefits depending on the molecular structure of each type.’ In essence, it is a form of fiber that is found in the cell wall of a plant. For the plant, it is utilized as a defense mechanism to foreign elements. When obtained from the food sources listed above, scientifically, 𝜷-Glucans have been proven to support the following health conditions:
- Supports Healthy Blood Sugar Levels: Based on scientific research, 𝜷-Glucans assist the formation of “viscosity” solutions in the digestive tract and this formation is the basis of some of its health benefits. These health benefits include lowering after meal glucose and insulin responses, decreasing cholesterol and increasing a feeling of satiety. Some studies indicate that this feeling of satiety has also been attributed to assisting in weight management/weight loss.
These viscous solutions allow food to pass through the upper part of our GI tract (small intestine) in a slower healthier manner while providing our body’s natural blood sugar regulation to occur. In relation to other forms of fiber, 𝜷-Glucans has substantial effects on the regulation of glycemic responses. Slower digestion correlates to slower sugar absorption therefore, reducing the likelihood of blood glucose spikes and assisting to maintain blood glucose levels stable. In fact, 𝜷-Glucans are considered a soluble fiber with multiple functional and bio-active properties. Due to its indigestible properties, it travels through the entire digestive tract clearing excess waste from the body.
According to Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, a six-year study of over 65,000 women found that a diet high in dietary fiber including 𝜷-Glucans, showed significant effects on the prevention and treatment of Type 2 diabetes. Additional findings indicated that ‘although Mushroom 𝜷-Glucans differ in molecular structure than barley and oats, mushrooms have the potential to decrease glycemic responses between 17% – 25%’.
- 𝜷-Glucans Improve Immunomodulation: There is overwhelming studies supporting the physiological and bio-mechanical relationship between a healthy immune system and good nutrition. Immune cells are made of and utilize Amino Acids we obtain from our foods. Both, Essential and Non-Essential Amino Acids assist to increase the effectiveness of our immune response system. Therefore, when nourishing our body with organic foods, clean water and high-grade supplementation, we are assisting the effectiveness of our immune system to fight against antigens.
𝜷-Glucans acts on several immune receptors that stimulate immune cell activity including T-Cells, Macrophages, Neutrophil, Monocytes, Natural Killer Cells and Dendritic Cells. Therefore, the biochemistry of the immune system is improved by nourishing our body with Amino Acids and 𝜷-Glucan rich organic foods.
An example of how our immune system is interrelated to the foods we eat, and formation of Amino Acids is as follows:
- Mast Cells (also considered “special tissue cells”) mark the site in which cellular damage occurred and are located primarily along the bloodstream. These cells secrete Histamine which is made of the Essential Amino Acid Histidine (essential means our body does not make this Amino Acid and must be obtained from our food).
- Neutrophil Immune Cells, important cells in preventing bacterial infections, then follow Histamine trails that are left by the “cellular injury/Mast Cells”. Although Neutrophil cells are the most abundant immune cell in our body, they are not considered the most efficient. However, research has found that 𝜷-Glucans increase Neutrophils effectiveness and efficiency by assisting these cells to “identify” the antigen in question. Remember, cellular damage is cellular damage no matter if experienced via an injury, disease, stress etc. The body views it all the same and the immune system acts systematically to repair the cellular injury.
- Macrophage Immune Cells / Monocyte Cells are the garbage collectors and are responsible for triggering immune response. Also considered “special tissue cells”) these cells are the body’s major immune defenders, located in the liver, spleen and lymph nodes and come into play after the antigen has been identified.
In this stage the body produces Cytokines in order to orchestrate immune activity by phagocytize/breaking down the antigen in order to deliver it to the B-Cell / T-Cell antibodies for identifying and processing it; either to recycle what the body can utilize or find its way for elimination via sweat, excretion, urine.
- B-Cells / T-Cells/Natural Killer Cells are the body’s most efficient “killers” of antigens known as Lymphocytes. All antibody cells are made from Amino Acids. For example, T-Cells and Natural Killer Cells require the Amino Acid Serine in order to bind it to the antigen/injured cell. Among other functions, the T-Cells are thymus derived lymphocytes that secrete a substance known as Interferon which binds and blocks the potential replication of other harmful micro-organisms. The effects of 𝜷-Glucans have traditionally been associated during the macrophage and dendritic cells however, new studies indicate that B-Cells, T-Cells and Natural Killer Cells are activated and work more efficient when 𝜷-Glucans are present in the system.
- 𝜷-Glucans Improve Heart Health: There is an ample amount of scientific studies that support the understanding of 𝜷-Glucans and a healthy heart. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) along with Canada, Sweden, Finland and the UK has approved “healthy-heart” food labels for foods that contain high amounts of 𝜷-Glucans. According to studies, consuming 3 grams of 𝜷-Glucans per day from oats or barley can lower cholesterol levels by 5-8%.
- 𝜷-Glucans Supports Intestinal Health: 𝜷-Glucans are considered a prebiotic dietary fiber that has been shown to improve gastrointestinal health by stimulating beneficial bacteria and the production of healthy short-chain fatty acids. Not all fibers are considered prebiotics. Prebiotics, such as 𝜷-Glucans, have been shown to resist the low pH of the stomach therefore increasing the stimulation and growth of good intestinal bacteria.
In essence, consumption of organic foods enriched with 𝜷-Glucans has a wide range of beneficial health effects on the body.
As a reminder, the energetics of the Immune System is in direct relation with our emotional, nervous system function and the immune system termed “Psychoneuroimmunology (PNI)”. An individual’s internal dialogue, moods and overall attitude towards life has an extreme correlation to the health and function of their immune system. For example, stress and depression cause tremendous cellular damage that is not “seen” however, can significantly impact, and in chronic cases, suppress immune function leading an individual into a rabbit hole of possible life-threatening diseases.
A positive emotional state and a healthful lifestyle has been shown to assist individuals with chronic life-threatening diseases to overcome it, along with good nutritional guidelines. Another important factor to remember is the body’s Lymphatic System is directly correlated to the Immune System. The only way to keep the Lymphatic System in a healthy condition is through movement/exercise; preferably 30 minutes after the occurrence of the first sign of sweat. Exercise/movement is the only way to keep our Lymphatic System healthy. Exercise also assists to stimulate the production of “happy” hormones such as Serotonin and Endorphins. Therefore, keeping the Lymphatic System activated and healthy creates added immune support function.
In addition, in order to provide the body with the necessary elements for achieving the 7 Stages of Healing ( Cellular Damage / Sympathetic Activation / Inflammation / Immune Activation / Immune Completion & Cortisol / Scar Tissue Formation / Final Healing) we must provide our immune system with the nutrients needed. A holistic approach to healing is to leave the body with the least amount of scar tissue therefore, organic nutrient dense high ORAC foods rich in Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Zinc, 𝜷-Glucans, healthy oils such as Omega 3/6, sleep and exercise are essential elements to healing and supporting a vital healthy body.
Prior to any treatment, it is also important to address any Delayed Food Allergens via an IgG test. Delayed Food Allergens can create chronic immune depletion if not addressed therefore, leading to other chronic health conditions. People with conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, multiple sclerosis, asthma, and inflammatory bowel disease may need to use caution with foods high in 𝜷-Glucans and/or supplements due to their immune system’s over-activation.
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