Beta-glucans are compounds found in nature comprised of several sugar molecules.1 These fiber-like complex sugars, known as a polysaccharides, are found in baker’s yeast, barley fiber, and oat fiber as well as various types of medicinal mushrooms like Reishi, Shiitake, and Maitake.2,3 There are several types of beta-glucan available from different food sources, and they’re similar in structure and properties.1,2 Beta-glucans have been shown to have many health benefits, especially on the immune system.1
Beta-Glucans Uses and Health Benefits
Beta-glucans’ immune-boosting powers are similar to those of herbs like echinacea or astragalus root. They bind to white blood cells to promote their infection-fighting powers.3 With this immune boost, a beta-glucans diet may help in fighting Lyme disease, liver cirrhosis, the common cold, rheumatoid arthritis, various types of cancer, stress, and a wealth of other medical conditions.1,2,4 Other beta-glucans uses include for:
- High Cholesterol (Hypercholesterolemia) - One of the most prominent beta-glucans benefits is that they help fight high cholesterol. Numerous studies have shown that beta-glucans can help lower bad cholesterol by binding to cholesterol and eliminating it through the feces. You’ll often see oat bran recommended as a cholesterol-lowering food, and it’s thanks to the beta-glucans in it.
- Allergy (Allergies) - With their immune-boosting powers and the ability to inhibit the production of superoxide anion or hydrogen peroxide in the body, beta-glucans may be effective in treating allergies.
- Irritable Bowel Syndrome - It’s believed that beta-glucans may help in soothing the digestive system and reducing irritable bowel syndrome symptoms.
- Diabetes - Research shows that eating rich sources of beta-glucans or taking beta-glucan supplements can help in lowering blood sugar levels, which can help in the management of diabetes.
- Colorectal Cancer (Colon Cancer) - Among beta-glucan benefits, they may help in reducing the risk of colorectal cancer.
Beta-Glucans Side Effects and Precautions
Beta-glucans are natural substances that are safe to eat in regular food amounts. However, since they affect immune system function, it’s best for individuals with compromised immune systems or those taking immunosuppressant drugs to talk to their doctors first.4 If injected, beta-glucans side effects can include rash, fever, vomiting, joint pain, and dizziness, although this shouldn’t happen when taken normally.1 Beta-glucans are not known to interact with other drugs, but it’s best to talk to your doctor and mention any other herbs or medications you’re taking before starting on a beta-glucans diet.7