Beta-Glucan and Immunosuppressants

Estimated Reading Time: 5 minutes

For those on immunosuppressants, understanding which supplements to take can be confusing. Read on to learn if beta-glucan interacts with immunosuppressants and why it matters.

Immunosuppressants are a type of prescription drug that suppress or reduce immune system strength. While that might not sound like a good thing, immunosuppressants help many people manage autoimmune symptoms or even reduce the chance that a transplanted organ will be rejected. Clearly, for the people who need them, these drugs are of vital importance. However, this makes it tricky to navigate the wide world of supplements. 

In a perfect world, supplements help bridge nutritional gaps to promote overall health and wellness. Sometimes that means getting better sleep, having more energy, and even strengthening the immune system. If you’re taking immunosuppressants, however, is boosting your immune system a good idea? Will you benefit from taking immune-boosting supplements like beta-glucan?

Read on and learn whether beta-glucan interacts with immunosuppressants.

Disclaimer: If you are taking immunosuppressants for any reason, always discuss any nutritional supplements with your doctor before adding them to your routine.

What Are Immunosuppressants and Who Needs Them?

The word “immunosuppressant” can sound scary, but even those without chronic health conditions can be prescribed them at times. 

For example, prednisone is a common corticosteroid often prescribed to treat breathing problems or even severe allergies. However, it treats those issues, and many more, by suppressing the immune system. So, technically, prednisone is an immunosuppressant. Some of the most common immunosuppressants include:

  • Corticosteroids (prednisone, budesonide, etc.)
  • Janus kinase inhibitors (Xeljanz)
  • Calcineurin inhibitors (Neoral, Envarsus XR, etc.)
  • mTOR inhibitors (Rapamune, Afinitor, etc.)
  • IMDH inhibitors (Imuran, CellCept, etc.)
  • Biologics (Humira, Stelara, Rituxan, etc.) 

There are several reasons why a doctor may prescribe an immunosuppressant. Those with autoimmune disorders, for example, have highly sensitive immune systems that often attack the body’s own tissue. This includes disorders like lupus, psoriasis, rheumatoid arthritis, and more. Prescription immunosuppressants help relieve symptoms for these individuals by suppressing the immune system so it’s not as reactive. 

In addition, it’s very common for patients who’ve undergone transplant surgery to be put on some type of immunosuppressant. This keeps the immune system from attacking the new tissue.

How to Stay Healthy While Taking Immunosuppressants

If someone has been prescribed an immunosuppressant, managing health and wellness is non-negotiable. One of the biggest drawbacks to these medications is that they can increase your risk of infection. For those who need them, the benefits far outweigh this risk. However, it’s important to stay as healthy as possible while taking immunosuppressants to avoid becoming ill or acquiring an infection.

Here are a few simple ways to stay healthy while taking immunosuppressants:

  • Be diligent about hygiene. Wash your hands often and shower regularly.
  • Eat a nutritious diet and stay hydrated.
  • Wash all fresh fruits and vegetables before consuming.
  • Maintain a regular sleep schedule.
  • Stay active.
  • Avoid others with infections or illnesses.
  • Wear a face mask when in large crowds.

But what about supplements? Supplements are designed to bridge nutritional gaps to promote overall health and wellness. That sounds perfect for someone taking immunosuppressants…right?

Well, it’s complicated. 

Immunosuppressants and Supplements

Many doctors tell immunocompromised patients to avoid supplements, but the reason for this isn’t so simple. The large variety of supplements available makes it difficult to understand precisely how they might interact with medications. 

There are even certain foods that shouldn’t be eaten while on immunosuppressants. For example, those on ciclosporin (an immunosuppressant designed to prevent organ transplant rejection) shouldn’t eat grapefruits because they contain a chemical that increases the likelihood of medication side effects. 

Those on methotrexate, however, may experience folate deficiency because that medication interferes with how the body breaks down folate. For patients with rheumatoid arthritis, a doctor may prescribe methotrexate with a folic acid supplement. Not all patients experience this though, so some doctors will choose to monitor lab work before recommending a supplement.

In the end, some supplements are beneficial for those on immunosuppressants, while others come with risks. That’s why it’s always best to discuss any supplements with a doctor before adding them to your routine. Even supplements like beta-glucan. 

What is Beta-Glucan?

Beta-Glucan is a type of soluble fiber found in a variety of plants, yeasts, bacteria, and fungi. When we eat foods with beta-glucan, it forms a gel in the digestive tract that improves digestion.

The gel-like nature of this soluble fiber influences digestion by slowing the release of sugar into the bloodstream, absorbing cholesterol particles, and stimulating immune cells in the gut. Technically, beta-glucan has been around for centuries, but we’re only just now harnessing its powerful immunomodulation properties. 

A high-quality beta-glucan supplement will give your immune system a boost by acting on immune receptors, stimulating neutrophils, T-cells, monocytes, natural killer cells, macrophages, and dendritic cells. On top of strengthening your immune system, beta-glucan may also decrease LDL cholesterol, promote a healthier microbiome for fewer digestive issues, reduce the risk of respiratory infections, and even reduce the severity of certain allergies.

Powerful stuff, right? 

But what about those on immunosuppressants? Is it a good idea to strengthen the immune system if that’s what’s causing so many problems?

Will Beta-Glucan Interact With Immunosuppressants?

Possibly. That’s why you should always talk with your doctor about new supplements if you’re taking an immunosuppressant. 

There are many factors that influence how we respond to supplements. Additional variables like illnesses and prescription medications make it even harder to provide a definitive answer. The only person who can tell you whether beta-glucan is safe to take with your specific medication is your doctor. 

In general, it’s best to be cautious if you’re on an immunosuppressant. In regard to those who’ve had kidney transplants, the National Kidney Foundation urges caution because some supplements can “change the levels (up or down) of immunosuppressants in the blood.” Obviously, if you’ve just undergone any type of organ transplant, that’s not something you want to do.

So, is beta-glucan safe for those on immunosuppressants? We’d love to give you a definitive YES, but it’s just not that simple. Yes, there’s anecdotal evidence showing some autoimmune patients benefiting from beta-glucan. However, there’s not enough clinical research that looks specifically at beta-glucan use in patients already on immunosuppressant medications. That’s why we recommend speaking with your doctor to ensure it won’t negatively interact with your medications.

Only Use High-Quality Beta-Glucan Supplements

If your doctor has determined that a beta-glucan supplement will be beneficial and won’t interact with your medications, then only use a high-quality beta-glucan supplement. 

Honestly, this goes for everyone. Regardless of whether you’re on any medications, you won’t get the benefits you’re looking for unless you use high-quality supplements. So, what are some important things to look for in your beta-glucan supplement?

First, get to the source! Supplements that use beta-glucan from foods like oats and brewer’s yeast don’t contain beta-glucan in its optimal molecular chain. Beta-glucan from baker’s yeast, however, is able to powerfully stimulate the immune system. Known as beta-1,3/1,6-glucan, this molecular form is more equipped to boost immune function, promote healthy inflammatory responses, and provide respiratory benefits.

The second item you’ll want to check is purity. Many supplements can only guarantee 70% purity, but that’s not always enough. Plus, the purer a supplement is, the more potent it will be. To ensure you’re using an effective beta-glucan supplement, make sure it guarantees a minimum of 80% purity.

On top of that, it’s always best to stick with natural supplements without unnecessary fillers or chemicals. If you have any difficulty finding this information, contact the company directly. If they’re not upfront and transparent about the ingredients in their products, look elsewhere.

Become a Warrior for Your Health and Join the HakaLife Family

In addition to beta-glucan, our Glucan85Plus supplement has other beneficial ingredients like Acerola Cherry Fruit Extract for Vitamin C, Elderberry, Zinc, Echinacea, Magnesium, and Vitamin D3. We also guarantee 85% purity on all of our supplements because we know quality matters.

We understand how complicated it can be to find the right supplements, so don’t hesitate to reach out with any questions. Your health is important to us! So, even if Glucan85Plus isn’t right for you, we might be able to suggest something that is!

 

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Felicia

At Haka Life Nutrition we believe in a whole body approach to wellness. While the supplement we manufacture (GLX3) has helped thousands of people in their quest for joint pain relief, we know that a pill itself can only do so much!

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