Even before the pandemic, Americans had become increasingly interested in natural immunity. Aside from its many other health benefits, beta glucan is proven to stimulate the immune system. If it’s not already part of your natural wellness protocol, consider supplementing with this disease-fighting powerhouse. Here are some facts about beta glucan.

Mushroom varieties like shitake are rich in beta glucans.
Mushroom varieties like shitake are rich in beta glucans.
Photo Credit: Pixabay

What Is Beta Glucan?

Beta glucan is a polysaccharide found in the cell wall of baker’s yeast (Saccharomyces cerevisiae), oats, barley, and mushrooms. Polysaccharides are long chains of smaller sugar molecules. Beta glucan is also available in supplement form.

What Are the Benefits of Beta Glucan?

Beta glucan is an extremely well-researched compound, with the first studies dating back 50 years. It has potent antioxidant properties, helping the body rid itself of disease-causing free radicals. Beta glucan is also a prebiotic, meaning it feeds the friendly bacteria in our guts. This is important because 70% of our immune system resides in the gastrointestinal tract. Beta glucan has been shown in both animal and human studies to exert a range of health benefits. Let’s look at the most notable.

Beta Glucan and Heart Health

You’ve likely heard that oatmeal is good for the heart. That benefit comes almost exclusively from beta glucan. As a form of soluble fiber, beta glucan can help lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels. In fact, this is an FDA-approved heart health claim.

Oats are one of the best sources of beta glucan.
Oats are one of the best sources of beta glucan.
Photo Credit: Pixabay

Beta Glucan and Skin Health

Research has demonstrated that topical forms of beta glucan can fight wrinkles, calm irritated skin, speed up skin healing, and minimize redness. Beta glucan has even been shown to increase hydration more than the much-trendier ingredient known as hyaluronic acid.

Beta Glucan and Weight Management

The research in this area is preliminary but early indications are that beta glucan may help increase feelings of satiety.

Beta Glucan and Diabetes

In animal studies, beta glucan reduces the risk of diabetes. Human studies have shown that beta glucan can fight the heart-related complications more common in diabetics. Additional research has determined that beta glucan helps these patients maintain blood glucose control.

Beta Glucan and Gut Health

As a prebiotic, beta glucan favorably alters the composition of the bacteria in the gut. In doing so, it may reduce the symptoms of leaky gut syndrome.

Beta Glucan and the Immune System

OK, I’ve saved the best for last. This is the coolest benefit of beta glucan and the reason I supplement with it daily. Your immune system is complex—a discussion well beyond the scope of this article. Just know that you have many types of immune cells, each assigned a different role: Natural Killer (NK) cells love to go after tumors. Macrophages literally surround and eat up toxins and other foreign substances. T cells are part of our adaptive immune system and commit to memory previous encounters with pathogens. This helps them to prepare and mount a future attack against similar invaders. Beta glucan enhances the activity of each of these immune system defenses.

Putting It All Together

This is only a sampling of the research on beta glucan. Are you convinced? How can you take advantage of these benefits? Sure, you can load up on barley and oats but be prepared to put on a few pounds from all those carbs. You can eat several pounds of mushrooms each day but that’s a lot of work. My recommendation? Take a beta glucan supplement. This is the easiest, most convenient way to get a beneficial dose of this exciting nutrient.

There are dozens of beta glucan supplements on the market, so how do you choose? You can narrow it down by focusing only on products that use a patented form of beta glucan. These are the very extracts studied by scientists and they are standardized so you know what you’re getting. There are three: Transfer Point, Wellmune, and Epicor. Look for one of those on the label and you’ll have narrowed down your choices immensely.

Shopping for a beta glucan supplement? You get what you pay for. Transfer Point is one of the best.
Shopping for a beta glucan supplement? You get what you pay for. Transfer Point is one of the best.
Photo Credit: Amazon

Next, you’ll want a product from a reputable company, one that’s been in the business for awhile and has a reputation for quality. Keep in mind that you get what you pay for. I’ve always been happy with Doctor’s Best, Klaire, Isotonix, and Healthy Origins. That last one even makes a children’s formula which I give to both of my boys every single day.

Beta glucan is considered extremely safe. It’s absorbed best on an empty stomach. The recommended dose is between 250 and 500 mg per day. In my family, we take extra during cold and flu season and have bumped up our dose since the start of the pandemic. Upper respiratory infection is rare in our household and I wouldn’t go a day without beta glucan.