Often used as medicine, beta-glucans are naturally occurring, biologically active polysaccharides that are found in the cell walls of mushrooms, algae, lichens, plants, and some bacteria. This matters because beta-glucans are also immunostimulating and boost the effectiveness of your body’s own cancer-eradicating natural killer cells, or NK cells. Natural killer cells, according to one study on PubMed:
“. . .are effector lymphocytes of the innate immune system that control several types of tumors and microbial infections by limiting their spread and subsequent tissue damage. Recent research highlights the fact that NK cells are also regulatory cells engaged in reciprocal interactions with dendritic cells, macrophages, T cells and endothelial cells. . .
NK cell manipulation seems to hold promise in efforts to improve hematopoietic and solid organ transplantation, promote antitumor immunotherapy and control inflammatory and autoimmune disorders.”
As reported in an earlier article written by Mike Barrett, natural killer cells are white blood cells (lymphocytes) that seek out and kill cancerous or otherwise mutating cells that can harm the body. Considering that 1/3 of the population is expected to get cancer in their lifetime, it would behoove us all to boost our body’s natural ability to reduce cancerous tumors and virally infected cells. (After reading this piece on beta-glucans’ ability to defeat cancer via boosting NK cells, check out this piece outlining 5 other ways to boost your natural killer cells).
Oyster mushrooms and shitake are especially anti-carcinogenic for their high levels of beta-glucans. These mushrooms have also been shown to help destroy cancer cells, specifically. While different mushrooms have different levels of these healthy polysaccharides, most have been proven to boost immunity and also to have cytotoxic effects on cancer cells (meaning they help to kill them).
“As immunostimulating agent, which acts through the activation of macrophages and NK cell cytotoxicity, beta-glucan can inhibit tumor growth in promotion stage too. Anti-angiogenesis can be one of the pathways through which beta-glucans can reduce tumor proliferation, prevent tumor metastasis. beta-Glucan as adjuvant to cancer chemotherapy and radiotherapy demonstrated the positive role in the restoration of hematopiesis following by bone marrow injury.”
The Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center recommends the use of Oyster mushrooms for their anti-tumor, antifungal, and immunomodulatory effects as well as their ability to lower hypoglycemic responses in the body. Shitake mushrooms are recommended by the American Cancer Society as well due to a compound called lentinin that can help halt cancerous tumor growth.
Eating your fungi might never have tasted so good.
Christina Sarich is a humanitarian and freelance writer helping you to Wake up Your Sleepy Little Head, and See the Big Picture. Her blog is Yoga for the New World. Her latest book is Pharma Sutra: Healing the Body And Mind Through the Art of Yoga.