Beta-Glucan (1-3), (1-6)
Humans evolved in a dirty
environment over a very long period of time but soap, disinfectants,
canned and frozen foods have only been with us for a few generations,
and antibiotics are even more recent.
During most of our time on
this planet, therefore, our environment has been replete with
bacterial hazards, and our immune systems (the bodies natural defences
against infection) constantly challenged. As we developed strong
immune systems so we thrived and multiplied.
Recent studies have shown that
the human immune system has adapted as a result of facing constant
challenges, responding to attack by up-regulating its state of
readiness and effectiveness on a continuous basis. In particular, the
first line of immune defence (known as the innate immune system) has
learned to recognise molecules called 1-3, 1-6 beta glucans, which are
present in the cell walls of many microbes, automatically responding
to their presence by mounting a very strong defensive response.
This is why when we still
lived in caves and hovels we were happily able to eat foods that, far
from being kept in sanitised conditions, were literally crawling with
In today’s sanitised
environment, however, our immune systems have relatively little to
contend with. This makes them less active and less able to neutralise
new and unexpected threats. This is why, when we travel to parts of
the world where sanitation standards are lower than ours, we routinely
fall victim to pathogens that locals have no problems with.
Montezuma’s revenge, Delhi belly and all the other travellers’ ills
are largely due to our under-strength immune systems.
The problems in the developed
world are compounded by widespread Type B malnutrition (lack of a
balanced diet), chronic stress and immuno-suppressant drugs, all of
which suppress the immune system.
Surveys show that in the
general public, especially the middle-aged and elderly, reduced immune
system effectiveness is very common. This is why ‘super-bugs’ have
come to haunt us; with immuno-suppressed patients flooding into the
hospitals where antibiotic-resistant bacteria are bred, it is no
wonder that casualties from MRSA, Clostridium Difficile and other such
bugs continue to rise.
The advent of drug resistance
in both bacteria and viruses (most particularly new strains of
influenza) presents a real threat to humanity. Add to this the
wide-spread findings of reduced immune effectiveness and the picture
is grim indeed.
Like any other biological
system your immune system needs to be challenged and used if it is to
operate effectively. It is less likely to become exhausted or
overwhelmed if it is kept active – like an athlete needs to keep to a
strict training regime.
How can this be done?
There are a number of ways of
stimulating your immune system. Babies do it instinctively by eating
all forms of dirt (or anything they can get their hands on) to marshal
their formative immune system.
Not many adults would care to
do this – and nor would we recommend it. Fortunately there is a safe
and effective alternative; a natural product containing 1-3, 1-6 beta
glucans, compounds that wake up the innate immune system and put it on
full alert by harmlessly mimicking potential threats.
Beta glucan 1-3, 1-6
1-3, 1-6 beta glucans and
related molecules are found in many natural sources known to have
immuno-stimulant properties. Shiitake and Maitake mushrooms, Echinacea
and Saccharomyes cerevisiae (Brewer’s yeast) have all been
traditionally used as immuno-stimulants, but recent research by the
put Saccharomyces at the top of the list.
As a result, some supplement
companies have developed beta glucan products derived from
Saccharomyces. But these are not all equally effective. The amount of
beta glucans per capsule is sometimes cited as the key criterion of
quality, or the percentage, or the particle size; but the truth is
that none of these is completely accurate.
The only way to be sure of the
efficacy of a beta glucan formulation is to test it in biological
systems, and measure how effective it is in stimulating an immune
response. When you do this, some products that claim very high beta
glucan content actually do very badly.
When choosing a beta glucan
product, therefore, you should look for a company with a substantial
track record of product testing. Glucasan®+ has been developed in
Germany in conjunction with the University of Berlin and has been
shown in independent tests to outscore all other beta glucan products,
including the US-marketed 90% beta glucan extract. This is why, when
new laws forced farmers in the EU to remove growth-promoting
antibiotics from animal feedstock, similar products were chosen to
replace them and to protect the animals from infection.
What is the proof?
For a list of research papers
that demonstrate the effectiveness of beta glucans, go to the Research
Info section on this web site. This site also shows the results of
the comparative test on various available
products - click here for
How does my immune
The immune system can be
divided into two separate but integrated sub-systems; the innate and
acquired immune systems.
The innate immune system is
our first line of defence. Micro-organisms are in the air we breathe
and the food we eat, so our epithelial surfaces (skin, respiratory
tract, gastro-intestinal and genitourinary tracts) are continuously
exposed. Disease occurs when micro-organisms invade epithelial
surfaces and penetrate deeper into the body. The innate immune system
is so effective that despite our constant exposure to bacteria and
viruses, clinical infections are the exception rather than the rule.
This resistance of epithelial surfaces to invasion is called innate
(natural) immunity. It prevents entry of microorganisms into tissues
or, once they have gained entry, eliminates them prior to the
occurrence of disease. It is non-specific, and acts on many organisms.
Apart from the physical
defences (such as the skin), there are two main cell types:
Macrophages and Natural Killer Cells. There are different types of
Macrophages in different tissues; the Macrophages that lie deep in the
skin, for example, are called Langerhans cells. The main body of
innate immune cells lie alongside the gut, and are called GALT
(Gut-Associated Lymphoid Tissue). Taking beta glucan supplements
stimulates the GALT and this in turn wakes up all the rest of the
innate immune system. Applying beta glucans to the Langerhans cells in
does not do this however; instead it leads to accelerated skin growth
and skin regeneration.
The acquired immune system is
our second line of defence, and only comes into play when the first
line has been breached. This part of the immune system has a ‘memory’;
that is, after one infection it ‘learns’ the pathogen and deals very
effectively the next time it encounters it. So you only get measles,
for example, once. This is the basis of immunisation. The acquired
system is much more complex than the innate system, and can more
readily make mistakes; when it confuses part of the body with a
previously encountered pathogen, this leads to allergy and auto-immune
Short of immunisation
therefore the one sure way of ensuring that your bodies innate
defences are trained to remain in tip top condition is to stimulate
your GALT using Glucasan®+ regularly – this in turn will improve the
condition and readiness of your entire innate immune system.
Will my immune system
get tired of all this training?
No. Our immune system was
designed to cope with constant and recurring threats, and works best
when stimulated. The old idea that immuno-stimulants should only be
used intermittently was based on a fundamental misunderstanding of how
the immune system actually works and what it is designed to do.
Prevention is better
You could wait to fall ill,
and then rely on your doctor’s choice of antibiotic to solve the
problem. If it is a virus, you may be able to get Tamiflu in time –
although ominous reports of Tamiflu-resistant strains of flu virus are
emerging. You might just want to sweat it out – and if you do, good
luck to you. But as prevention is generally better than cure, the best
alternative we know of is to increase your resistance to disease, and
thus reduce your odds of getting ill. And one of the best the best ways of increasing
your resistance is to take quality Beta-Glucan (1-3),(1-6). Frequent hand washing is
important too, and you may want to consider using face masks
(providing they are technically good enough).
What else can I do?
In order to work most
effectively the immune system requires a good many co-factors
including nearly all the vitamins and minerals, and many
phytonutrients also. As so many people today are depleted in most of
these dietary elements, it makes sense to combine a beta glucan
immuno-stimulant with a wide-ranging pharmaco-nutritional support
program - or of course a well balanced diet.
Click here for diet ideas.