Beta glucan is a type of soluble fiber made up of polysaccharides, or combined sugars. It is not naturally found in the body. You can, however, get it through dietary supplements. There are also a number of foods high in beta glucan including:
- barley fiber
- oats and whole grains
- reishi, maitake and shiitake mushrooms
Beta glucan and cancer
The body’s immune system protects it from infections, diseases, and other illnesses. The presence of bacteria, fungi, and viruses triggers an immune response in the body.
When you have cancer, the immune system recognizes abnormal cells and reacts to kill them off. However, if the cancer is aggressive, the immune response may not be strong enough to destroy all of the cancer cells.
Cancer affects the blood cells that fight off infections, weakening the immune system. Doctors may recommend biologic response modifiers (BRMs). A BRM is a form of immunotherapy that boosts the immune system and triggers a defense response. Beta glucans are one type of BRM.
Beta glucans can help to slow cancer growth, and prevent it from spreading to other parts of the body. Beta glucan therapy is still being researched as a treatment for cancer.
Though research is ongoing, BRMs are substances that enhance immune responses. Beta glucan helps to boost weakened immune systems from:
- some radiation treatments
Beta glucans may also be able to help treat cancer. Serious infections and diseases like cancer can over-activate your immune system and affect how the body defends itself. Beta glucans help to activate immune cells and trigger a defense response.
In cases of cancer, this triggered response helps the body create a coordinated attack on cancer cells. It also helps slow the growth of cancer cells.
Beta glucans have also been linked to:
- lowering cholesterol levels
- regulating blood sugar levels
- improving heart health
Beta glucans can be taken orally or as an injection. Doctors recommend taking beta glucan as a supplement since there are little to no side effects. The few common side effects include:
If your doctor needs to inject beta glucans directly into your bloodstream, you may experience other adverse side effects including:
Researchers are still investigating beta glucan as a treatment for cancer. While there are some success stories from immunotherapy, it is still important to pursue traditional treatment options.
If you decide to proceed with beta glucan treatment, be mindful of potential dangers and side effects. If you begin to experience any adverse reactions from beta glucans, visit a doctor immediately.