Beta glucans are polyglucose complexes which can be isolated and purified from many species of plants including, but not limited to, cereal grains such as barley and oats, from yeasts, mushrooms and from other fungi.
Comprising glucose molecules arranged in a backbone formation, with 'kinks' or bonding sites at specific 'links' in this chain, (determining their 1,3; 1,4 or 1,6 configuration/classification) beta glucans in general, and beta 1,3 D-glucan in particular has been creating wide-spread interest among phytochemical research scientists and knowledgeable health professionals ever since a crude immune-activating compound was first isolated from a yeast cell-wall and named 'Zymosan' by Dr. Louis Pillemer and his colleagues in the 1940s.
The active component of Zymosan was not identified until the 1960s, however, when Dr. Nicholas DiLuzio of Tulane University began experimenting with beta 1,3 D-glucan; one of the components he found within the original crude protein, lipid and polysachharide compound.
The key reason that beta 1,3 D-glucan is now generating interest among the scientific and preventive health communities is due to its clearly demonstrated ability to fortify and magnify the all-important 'primary' immune response in humans and animals.
Nature's Balance Beta Glucan is purified from Baker's Yeast using a patented enzymatic extraction system developed in Switzerland. Not only does this new technique yield an exceptionally pure product; free of contaminating and immune-activity-limiting fats and proteins, it also preserves the valuable low-density glucans that exist on the outermost layers of the yeast cell wall. This 'high-activity' material is dissolved away by existing hot acid/alkali production methods.
Before beta glucan can be absorbed across the gut wall through the specialized 'M' cells that make up just 1% of the gut lining, it must be broken down by an enzyme known as 'endoglucanase' that is produced by 'friendly' gut bacteria. Outer-surface low density glucans are more readily reduced to bio available fragments by endoglucanase than the higher density layers that remain after conventional extraction. For this reason, the greatest quantity of immune-reactive particles are made available for absorption when taking Nature's Balance Beta Glucan.
Nature's Balance is the ONLY brand of beta glucan supplement currently on the US market that is processed using this patented system.
Ancestor of Human Cellular Immunity?
It was the great French scientist and joint Nobel Prize winner of 1908, Dr. Elie Metchnikoff, who suggested as early as 1883 that our bodies contain cells which hunt down and devour bacteria and other disease-causing organisms.
Metchnikoff was the first, therefore, to accurately describe the 'macrophage' (which literally means big eater' and which is now often described as the Pac-Man' of our immune system,) - and the process of 'phagocytosis' which describes how immune cells engulf and destroy their victims by digesting them.
Since then, scientists have noted that even the most primitive life-forms on Earth such as the sponge (which contains only three cell types in all) share this, our most basic type of immune cell.
Our other immune cells; such as the Helper, Killer and Suppressor T-cells; the antibody producing B-cells; and the other granulocytes such as basophils, neutrophils and eisonophils - are believed to have all evolved from this one basic primitive immune cell type - the macrophage.
Orchestrator of Human Cellular Immunity
To understand the vital role that the macrophage plays in the human immune response, we need to look at what happens when this cell encounters a disease-causing organism or any other 'antigen' - a substance that it recognizes as 'non-self' (including cancerous cells).
Firstly, the macrophage tries to immobilize the antigen by giving off an oxidative burst of nitric oxide (helpful free radicals!). It then engulfs the antigen and breaks it down, before presenting a harmless fraction to helper and killer T-cells so that they can then identify and recall what the enemy looks and feels like.
The macrophage then begins secreting 'cytokines' (chemical cellular messengers) to start what is known as the immune 'cascade'. The first cytokine is known as Interleukin-1 or IL-1. IL-1 causes the helper T-cell to become an activated' or effector' helper T-cell, and to then rapidly divide, thus making clones of itself. The activated helper T-cells then begin to release Interleukin-2 or IL-2. IL-2 in turn causes the activation and cloning of Killer T-cells which, having been exposed to the antigen surface, quickly move in to seek out and destroy any surviving antigenic matter.
After the threat has been vanquished, the IL-2 receptors disappear from the Killer T-cell surfaces so that they stop growing and dividing and eventually die off. The chemical frenzy of the immune cascade dies down. The invading antigen has been defeated.
As you can see, the macrophage plays a key role in recognizing that an antigenic attack is underway and in organizing the response of specific T-cells in order to successfully fight off that threat. The previous description is necessarily simplistic ( many very thick books have been written which deal solely with the complex interactions between the various components of the immune system) but it does identify the primary and central role of the macrophage in orchestrating immune vigilance and an appropriate response.
Macrophages (tissue-based) and their close relatives called monocytes (blood-based phagocytes) act not only as the sentries of our immune system; recognizing and attacking any antigens present but they are also responsible for generating and releasing many other cytokines which instruct the T-cells and B-cells to mount the appropriate immune response. Another key function of the macrophage/monocyte is to instigate the immune cascade that creates other biochemicals which have a direct effect on disease-causing organisms and diseased tissue, such as the 'interferons' and tumor necrosis factor, or TNF.
Uncovering the Mysteries of Beta Glucan
As previously mentioned, it was the 1960's before Nicholas DiLuzio, Ph.D., identified the active component from Louis Pillemer's Zymosan preparation as beta 1,3 glucan. Yet another twenty years or so would pass, however, before Joyce Czop, Ph.D., of Harvard University would first describe beta glucan's mode of immune fortifying action - its 'ignition-key' activation of Man's most primitive immune cell - the humble but enormously powerful and versatile macrophage.
Beta 1,3 D-glucan achieves its immune enhancing effects by docking with specific receptor sites on the surface of the macrophage/monocyte, which then activates, or 'arms' them according to Dr. Czop. Once in their activated state, these cells are able to initiate their powerful cascade of immune events as-and-when required.
Beta Glucan Unlocks the Power of the Macrophage
In much the same way that IL-1 and IL-2 activate the helper and killer T-cells respectively, some simple glucose configurations will activate the macrophage. An activated macrophage is able to swiftly recognize, attack and kill many antigens, including tumor cells, in a non-specific manner. The power of beta 1,3 D-glucan to enhance this process was demonstrated during the 1970's by Peter Mansell, MD., who injected beta glucan into subcutaneous nodules of malignant melanoma; the deadliest form of skin cancer.
When the injected sites were later biopsied they were found to contain no melanoma cells at all - just 'clearly activated macrophages'. During the 1980's the systemic immune-activating effect of beta 1,3 D-glucan was demonstrated by the discovery of marked increases in IL-1, IL-2 and interferon in the serum of beta glucan ingestors suffering from advanced HIV-infection.
The US Armed Forces Radio-biology Institute discovered that oral administration of beta 1,3 D-glucan will protect rats against the effects of a normally lethal dose of radiation - even when given to the animals after the radiation dose was administered.
Since Zymosan's immune activating properties were first observed 50 years ago, literally hundreds of scientific reports have been published which describe and att est to the immune-enhancing, radio-protective and antioxidant effects of beta 1,3 D-glucan.
Most importantly of all, beta glucan as an oral supplement has been shown to be a thoroughly safe and highly-effective method of heightening immune vigilance and fortifying the all-important 'first strike' capability of the macrophage.
Who can benefit from Beta Glucan?
Background supplementation of beta 1,3 D-glucan (we suggest 500 mg per day as a preventive dose) should help anyone exposed to disease-causing organisms to mount a more effective and decisive immune response.
We believe that this supplementation becomes more relevant and important as we age, however, as the shrinking of the thymus gland after reaching the age of sexual maturation results in fewer available circulating immune cells to fight infection or to guard against the appearance of cancerous cells.
Beta 1,3 D-glucan does not cause over activity of the immune system so it will not aggravate any existing autoimmune condition. Beta 1,3 D-glucan is also safe for people with yeast allergies to consume as the proteins which can trigger allergic response in susceptible individuals are removed in the extraction and refinement processes.
Having ourselves tried the beta glucan continuously over the past eight months and having had no evidence of upper respiratory infections during this period (despite being surrounded by those who fell prey to them), we're convinced that it has had a considerable protective effect against bacterial and viral infections for our staff.
While we are always cautious about the scientific objectivity of testimonials (including our own!) we have had the opportunity to discuss beta 1,3 D-glucan with health professionals who have been using this incredible product at therapeutic' levels. (25mgs per kilogram of body weight per day is suggested).
It would appear that there are mounting incidences of soft-tissue tumors disappearing from CT scans and X-rays following three to four months of beta 1,3 D-glucan supplementation at these high levels. It is important to point out that these patients have all been undergoing complimentary therapies during this supplementation period.
No-one should attempt to use beta 1,3 D-glucan as their sole treatment for such a serious condition, and should only use this as an adjunct to other therapies under the guidance and watchful eye of a competent health professional.
The application of beta 1,3 D-glucan for those suffering from compromised immunity for any reason is obvious, such as those recuperating from long-term viral or bacterial infection, immune-suppressing medication or surgery. Stress and trauma, whether physical or emotional, as well as mental depression can exert a significant depressing effect on immune function too.
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