by Dr. Joseph Debé
Would you believe that a sugar supplement could strengthen your immune system? The sugars in arabinogalactans can. Arabinogalactans are a type of soluble fiber made up of long, branching chains of sugars. These compounds, which are found in many plants including some vegetables, have a very fascinating effect on the immune system. They function as immune activity normalizers. If your body is battling an infection, arabinogalactans power up the attack against the invading organism or virus. Additionally, if your immune system is too revved up, as is the case in allergies and chronic inflammation, arabinogalactans can help suppress this over activity.
Arabinogalactans have a variety of beneficial effects in the body. They increase the production of various cytokines, which are chemicals the immune system uses for cell to cell communication. The end result is increased activity of immune cells against tumors, viruses and bacteria.
Arabinogalactans inhibit the ability of toxic bacteria to adhere to the intestinal wall, thereby preventing infection. Another beneficial effect produced in the intestinal tract results from beneficial bacteria feeding on this compound. Arabinogalactans are not broken down by human digestive processes, but they are a food for bacteria that normally reside in the intestinal tract. The metabolic by-products produced from bacterial breakdown of arabinogalactans are called short chain fatty acids. These fatty acids are very important to overall health as they serve as the primary fuel source of the cells lining the colon. Adequate levels of short chain fatty acids may help protect against the development of inflammatory bowel disease and colon cancer.
In addition to boosting activity of natural killer cells, which attack tumors, arabinogalactans may provide an additional benefit in battling cancer. In animal studies, arabinogalactans have reduced the spread of tumors to the liver by coating the binding sites that cancer cells would otherwise attach to. This inhibition of metastasis resulted in increased survival time. Also of interest to cancer patients is the fact that arabinogalactans protect against radiation induced damage.
The conditions in which arabinogalactans could be of benefit are: allergies, hay fever, asthma, autoimmune disease, cancer, inflammation such as arthritis, fibromyalgia, viral and bacterial infections such as bronchitis and sinusitis. One of the conditions responding most dramatically to arabinogalactans has been recurrent pediatric otitis-media. This is the repeated childhood ear infection that conventional medicine has had a difficult time treating. In many cases, the child is put on multiple courses of antibiotics because the infection returns over and over again. Arabinogalactans can help boost the immune system and make a big difference here.
Arabinogalactans are one of the active ingredients of medicinal herbs such as Echinacea, Astragalus, and Shitake mushroom. However, only about 4 percent of the dry weight of these herbs are comprised of arabinogalactans. One teaspoon of 100 percent pure arabinogalactan powder is equivalent to about 12 ounces of Echinacea tincture!
Supplemental arabinogalactan powder is derived from an evergreen tree called the Western Larch. It has a mild pine odor, sweetish taste, and dissolves very readily in water or juice. The effectiveness of arabinogalactans can be enhanced by simultaneous use of potassium iodide and antioxidants, such as vitamin C. The usual dose of arabinogalactan for children is one-half to one teaspoon, and for adults, one to three teaspoons. It is approved by the FDA as a food additive and animal studies have found it to be fantastically non-toxic. The only instance I am aware of where it should not be used is in cases of active tuberculosis. It is used by some people for prevention - to keep the immune system healthy. Like the immune augmenting herbs, it may be best to periodically halt arabinogalactan supplementation to avoid it losing its effect. Such a regime might consist of two months of supplementation interrupted by two weeks of not using it. Use of arabinogalactans should not be considered a replacement for consulting a qualified healthcare professional. However, in my opinion, strengthening the immune system can only increase the effectiveness of other treatments.