When using medical mushrooms, one of the first things to have in mind is beta-d-glucan. This is because of the numerous scientific research and evidence supporting how powerful these polysaccharides are. Today, there are more than 80 positive clinical studies that support the use of beta-d-glucans. It’s only a matter of time before these compounds are fully incorporated into pharmaceuticals.
The big question is how beta-d-glucan can help you.
In this article, we’ll take you through everything you should know about beta-d-glucan, including how it works and how it can enhance your immune response. You’ll also learn more about why medicinal mushrooms are a rich source of beta-d-glucans and their therapeutic potential.
What Is Beta-D-Glucan?
For a basic understanding, here’s what you should know about polysaccharides:
- Polysaccharides: These are carbohydrates that have long simple sugar molecule chains and provide support for cells or tissues involved in energy storage. Examples include fructose, glucose, and cellulose.
- Beta-d-glucan: This is a common polysaccharide present in mushroom cell walls.
Beta-d-glucans are mostly regarded as Biological Response Modifiers (BRMs). They work by providing support to the immune system. This includes helping to stimulate the increased immune response required to fight off infections. They are also handy when it comes to downregulating immune responses, and this is through anti-inflammatory cytokine modulation.
It’s important to note that these effects are not the same across all mushroom species. In most cases, it depends on the solubility, complexity, extraction method, size, and shape of the compound. Therefore, it’s always important that the level of the compound is validated scientifically in mushroom supplements relative to the overall polysaccharide content in the supplement. This is because supplements are not all created equally, and you should always check the label of the mushroom product you buy so that you can be sure that you’re getting the highest quality product.
Mechanism of Action of Beta-D-Glucan in the Body
To fully understand how the compound works in the body, it’s important to also understand how innate and adaptive immunity works with respect to beta-d-glucans. The first line of defense against bacteria, viruses, and other foreign invaders in the body is innate immunity. Examples of innate immunity in the body include cilia in the respiratory tract, chemicals in the blood, eyelashes, and the skin.
Basically, innate immunity is a rudimentary immune response, while adaptive immunity is a sophisticated and more refined immune response that is triggered when there’s a need for support to innate immunity.
There are proteins within the immune system, and they are called Pattern-recognition receptors. These proteins help in recognizing pathogen molecules known as pathogen-associated molecular patterns. Studies have shown that beta-d-glucans are pathogen-associated molecular patterns that can affect immune cells.
After ingestion, beta-d-glucan gets absorbed in the intestine, where it gets attached to fungal receptors present in immune cells. It is then broken into smaller polysaccharide units. There are also immune cells in the body with polysaccharide-specific receptors on them. This then moves to the lymph tissues, bone marrow, and spleen. The beta-d-glucan that has already been broken down facilitates immune cells, including natural killer cells.
Dectin-1 is also another vital polysaccharide receptor to note. Beta-d-glucan in mushrooms has a unique chain structure that attaches to Dectin-1. This is usually activated in white blood cells like monocytes, macrophages, and granulocytes, all of which play a role in providing support for the repair of damaged tissues and defense against infections in the body.
With that, it’s worth noting that beta-d-glucans can affect the process of neutralizing foreign pathogens in the body. They can also offer support for processes involved during innate and adaptive immune responses.
Another interesting thing to note is that beta-d-glucans stimulate dendritic cells, which are also called Antigen Presenting Cells. These are cells that engulf, detect, and inform the adaptive immune system whenever there’s an infection.
Benefits of Beta-D-Glucans
The compound plays a key role in the following:
- Adaptive immunity
- Innate immunity
- Blood sugar and cholesterol regulation
- Immune regulation
- Gut health
Basically, beta-d-glucans influence immune responses in many ways. With that in mind, let us go through the different ways it can target areas of the body to boost your immune system, metabolic system, and gut health, and even in its application as an adjunct oncology treatment.
The microbiome is made of microbes living in the gut, and when there’s an imbalance, it can trigger an overgrowth of harmful microorganisms. This can then cause disruption in natural body processes. The microbiome is influenced by beta-d-glucans via the following means:
- Increasing short-chain fatty acids to decrease inflammation and support healthy cholesterol levels.
- Improving the biomarkers associated with the immune system and gut microbiota.
- Alters the growth of bacteria species.
- Functions as a prebiotic.
A regular intake of good-quality mushroom supplements is a great way to tap into these benefits.
Microbiome and the Immune System
One of the main foundations for a healthy immune system is a healthy microbiome, and this leads the maturation of immune cells. For instance, when there are bacteria in the gastrointestinal system, IgA gets activated, and this is the immunoglobulin that mediates mucosal immunity. There are bacteria within the gut that release microbe-associated molecular patterns (MAMPs), and this assists the immune system in building tolerance to bacteria presence in the microbiome. With that, the body will not fight against healthy microorganisms.
Metabolic disorders and obesity are usually related to changes in metabolic health, gene expression, and gut structure, as seen in animal models. Basically, it was found that protein-bound beta-d-glucan has the potential to increase Akkermansia muciniphilia. This is the bacteria involved in metabolic health and weight gain.
Another key thing to note is that your gut bacteria play a key role in building a robust immune system, and this can impact how your body fights different infections. With quality mushroom supplements, you get high levels of beta-glucans, in addition to other useful compounds. This can be the key you need to unlock different benefits for your immune system.
There are different clinical trials from the Harvard Medical School showing that post-surgical infections can be prevented by consuming 2g of beta-glucans. Irritable Bowel Disease comprises ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease. In animal models, it was discovered that beta-glucans can lower intestine-induced inflammatory damages associated with irritable bowel disease.
There are many available data suggesting the importance of fiber in the diet. Medicinal mushrooms and beta-glucans both offer insoluble and soluble fiber that can provide support to cholesterol and blood sugar regulation. When these fibers combine with water, they can improve digestion, slow absorption time, and modulate cholesterol and blood sugar levels. The key thing to note is that the use of beta-glucans to modulate cholesterol levels usually requires higher doses.
A dosing strategy you might want to consider because of the metabolic support it provides is to consume beta-glucans at mealtime. This is because both beta-glucans and fibers have anti-inflammatory properties, and this helps in reducing the level of inflammation in your body. Another thing to note is that one of the risk factors for cardiovascular diseases and metabolic syndrome is inflammation. Therefore, using therapeutic fiber in medicinal mushrooms is a great way to support metabolic health.
Immune and Integrative Therapy Support
Beta-glucans present in medicinal mushrooms are widely used as supplements for people receiving treatments for chronic diseases and immune-related conditions. Basically, their effects on healthy microbiomes can cause improved immune responses that can affect physiological processes like free radical suppression and autophagy. In addition, beta-d-glucans can also increase the stimulation of immune function through hematopoiesis.
There are two branches of the adaptive immune system, and these are cellular and humoral. T cells are involved in the cellular, while the humoral comprises the B cells. Studies show that Beta-d-glucans can enhance cellular immunity, increasing CD8+ T cells, NK cells, and tumoricidal macrophage modulation. All of these contribute to the death of tumor cells. However, it’s important to note that there’s a need for deeper research in this field, with more focus on specific applications and conditions.
Sources of Beta-D-Glucans
Beta-d-glucans are present in different foods, but they occur in abundant in medicinal mushrooms and medicinal mushroom extracts like Microdose Bros products. The common types of medicinal mushrooms are:
- Reishi: Contains beta-d-glucans that can regulate body weight, inflammatory markers, support regenerative sleep, and insulin resistance.
- Cordyceps has beta-d-glucans for inflammation.
- Shiitake offers beta-d-glucans that can be used as an adjunct therapy treatment to promote a healthy microbiome and enhance immunity.
- Turkey Tail contains beta-d-glucans that also promote a healthy microbiome and are vital for use as an adjunct for cancer treatments.
There are many other foods that are rich in beta-glucans, and this includes seaweed, yeasts, rye, wheat, algae, barley, and oats. However, it’s important to note that the beta-d-glucans present in medicinal mushrooms offer advantageous and unique properties. This is due to their shape complexity and higher molecular weight.
The beta-glucans in cereal usually have 1-3, 1-4 branching, while that of medicinal mushrooms have 1-3, 1-6 branching. These molecular differences are the main reason for the higher activity of beta-glucans in mushrooms. Another reason is the fact that they also contain other bioactive compounds, like ergothioneine, triterpenes, and a range of complex sugar-protein molecules.
Verifying Beta-D-Glucan Levels
At Microdose Bros, we make it our priority to scientifically analyze and measure the levels of beta-d-glucans in our mushroom extracts. This includes the use of different analytical methods, including the Megazyme method, for accuracy. Basically, before buying any mushroom extract or supplement, there are a few things you should always consider, and this includes the following:
- Ensure it’s from a trusted source.
- Verify that the ingredients are grown organically.
- Don’t focus on polysaccharide numbers because they are a measure of starches.
- Stick to brands that clearly specify the beta-glucans.
- Do not buy products that don’t provide information about the supplements.
- Choose supplements that have the fruiting body and the mycelium.
With that said, we recommend visiting Microdose Bros online store to maximize the health benefits offered by our mushroom supplements. We offer products that are non-GMO, contain no fillers or grains, are purely organic, and are rigorously tested and analyzed for purity.