Discovering the Immune Benefits of Arabinogalactan

Linda J. Dobberstein, Chiropractor, Board Certified in Clinical Nutrition

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Discovering the Immune Benefits of Arabinogalactan
Arabinogalactan (AG) is a unique polysaccharide, or complex carbohydrate, well known for its immune support and enhancement. This novel compound found in various plants with the primary source the western larch tree, has a wide array of uses. The immune enhancing properties demonstrate great results in prevention and building a more responsive immune system. It is also used as a therapeutic agent for many different health concerns including cancer, chronic viral infections, colon health, H. pylori, and other surprising uses.

As we head into winter and spend more time indoors, our immune systems often struggle. Sinus congestion, upper respiratory congestion, and sore throats are problematic, especially in children and the elderly. Doctors’ offices and Urgent Cares fill with parents and children dealing with upper respiratory symptoms. The push for flu vaccines is upon us. Arabinogalactan offers a front-line defense to fighting the daily germ exposures without the questionable safety and adjuvants found in vaccines. Natural plant-based compounds like arabinogalactan offer great protection without the toxic vaccine adjuvant exposures.

Arabinogalactan and Immune Activity


When we breathe in or swallow germs from air particles or food, the germs stick to mucous membranes in our respiratory tract or digestive tract and trigger an immune response. If our immune system is energized and balanced, then we remain healthy. If we are run down and our immune system is de-energized, the first immune responders, like natural killer cells, struggle and germs flourish resulting in illness. A stagnant lymph system often co-exists or underlies this inefficient, fatigued immune system. Healthy natural killer cells (NK cells) are at the front lines of defense preventing germs from gaining a strong hold. NK cells can spontaneously attack virus-infected cells and also tumor cells, hence the name “natural killer” cells.

Several health disorders like cancer, chronic fatigue syndrome, multiple sclerosis, viral hepatitis are linked with diminished NK cell function and insufficient numbers. Inadequate function and numbers of these NK cells leads to chronic immune depression and susceptibility to greater disease activity and higher risk of more infections. Strengthening these NK cells can make a major difference in an immune deficiency state. Research demonstrates that larch arabinogalactan is a known strong supporter of NK cell activity. Researchers found that AG intake increased the release of interferon gamma (IFN gamma) and other helpful immune compounds that help NK cells do their job.

Winner against the Common Cold


In a recent placebo-controlled, double-blind, randomized clinical trial, the complex carbohydrate larch arabinogalactan demonstrated the ability to defend against the common cold. In a study of 199 participants, those who took the supplement over a period of 12 weeks had markedly less symptoms, endured shorter duration and had a total fewer number of colds. Another study demonstrated the efficacy of AG to boost the immune system’s natural response to the tetanus vaccine. Previous research demonstrated this against the Streptococcus pneumoniae, a common cause for pneumonia. By adding AG to the vaccine, the immune system was bolstered. This combination provided greater immune support and protection, while boosting antibody production.

Targeted Delivery with Cancer and Arabinogalactan


This immune boosting principle of arabinogalactan is making a splash in cancer research and treatment. Because of this carbohydrate’s attraction to the immune system and unique interaction with mucous (sinus, lungs, digestive tract), researchers see this as a unique delivery compound. AG sticks to mucous membranes like a super malleable adhesive. It prevents germs from adhering, activates NK cells, but also allows for a unique transport system within the mucosal lining.

Scientists have discovered that arabinogalactan helps create a targeted delivery system for treatment against certain cancers, including colon cancer. Researchers demonstrated the ability to beneficially modulate the colon’s immune system in this study. They found that certain cancer drugs combined together with arabinogalactan have improved delivery to tissue. The drug remains intact with structure and function and gets to the treatment site easier. This method offers improved anti-cancer agents.

Earlier research on arabinogalactan shows that it has a very high affinity for the liver and showed promising anti-metastatic properties. This is very important for cancer management as cancer metastasis most commonly spreads to the liver first before other organs in the body. Scientists have delved into using AG to target deliveries directly to the liver including in the case of liver cancer, showing improved transport and more pinpoint results. Other cancer studies with AG will most likely follow this as scientists develop this area of study.

In the age of big pharma, the big business cancer treatment industry, and the historical broad-based, shot gun approach, this approach may mean that less toxic medications can be used with a targeted delivery system. It also clearly recognizes the extreme value of natural plant compound benefits for immune functionality.

Arabinogalactan and Colon Health


Arabinogalactan plays a very positive role in colon health for several concerns. AG is an excellent source of dietary fiber approved by the FDA. It helps support the production of certain compounds called short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs), like butyrate. These compounds are vital in protecting against colon cancer. This carbohydrate fiber also enhances the gut flora such as Bifidobacteria and Lactobacillus. Improvements in the SCFA and gut flora ultimately reduce the risk of several intestinal disorders including colon cancer, inflammatory bowel disease, ulcerations, and the production of excess ammonia.

Healthy gut flora and adequate SCFA as supported by arabinogalactan also help reduce the production of ammonia in the gut and reduce absorption of it into the bloodstream. Arabinogalactan helps to feed these good gut bacteria thereby reducing gut inflammation and toxic metabolites that can cause distress elsewhere in the body. Ammonia production is a toxic metabolite that must be managed daily.

Reducing Toxic Ammonia Levels


An elevated level of ammonia in the blood is a problem that can be overlooked with fast food medicine. Children may experience elevated ammonia levels after viral illness like influenza, chicken pox and or a cold, which leads to the development of Reye’s syndrome. Symptoms may include unusual sleepiness or lethargy, persistent vomiting, irritability or other behavioral changes, and seizures, etc. Adults can also experience these same symptoms as a result of ammonia toxicity either due to the development of Reye’s syndrome or from other disorders that cause elevated ammonia levels.

Ammonia levels rise as a result of imbalanced gut bacteria, urinary tract infections, liver problems, and kidney failure especially in diabetics. Ammonia toxicity can mimic and worsen many neurological disorders including Alzheimer’s disease. These behavioral changes are easily overlooked when they are subtle or attributed to aging. Ammonia toxicity though is reversible. Arabinogalactan is one nutrient that can help prevent and reverse the ammonia build-up from the underlying gut flora imbalances, kidney failure, and liver function. In fact, scientists recommended arabinogalactan for kidney failure support.

H. Pylori and Arabinogalactan


One of the most common bacteria in the world that creates infection in the digestive tract and stomach cancer is H. pylori. Once this germ is in a state of overgrowth and causes infection, ulcers and inflammation, it can be difficult to reduce due to its stealth-like activity. Recent findings demonstrate that arabinogalactan can stop the H. pylori from sticking to the stomach walls and adhering to stomach cancer cells.

Dry Eyes and Cornea Protection


Arabinogalactan offers another area of protection and support that is often forgotten about, dry eyes. Animal studies show larch arabinogalactan offers great support for dry eye problems and treatment of corneal lesions. Due to the ability of AG to stick to surfaces within mucous, it has the ability to stick to the surface of the eye helping keep eyes lubricated. It was also shown in this animal study, that rabbits that experienced an abrasion to the cornea had improved healing. It was found that AG usage significantly reduced healing time within just a 27-hour period after the injury.

While the treatment was through topical use mixed in saline solution, AG has been shown to easily travel in the bloodstream after ingestion. Arabinogalactan offers a unique tool of support for those with chronic dry eyes and corneal injuries that heavily depend on healthy eye lubrication. It may be used with other nutrients like hyaluronic acid and omega-3 fish oils that also provide eye lubrication.

Arabinogalactan is a plant-based compound widely used for upper respiratory support. We have used arabinogalactan within our product line since the mid-1990’s with fantastic results for people of all ages. This includes very young infants and children with runny noses and ear aches to the elderly living in nursing homes or senior living. The diversity of arabinogalactan provides powerful immune support with natural killer cell activation for individuals with minor immune problems to more serious immune depletion and debilitating states.

The ability of this carbohydrate to help feed our good bacteria and other compounds in the colon that help prevent toxic metabolic byproducts from inducing further injury is another highly valuable feature. It helps prevent the build-up of ammonia that causes toxic stress to the kidneys, liver, and even the brain. The ability of arabinogalactan to prevent H. pylori from adhering to gut tissues that lead to infection, ulcers, and stomach cancer is a feat in and of itself. Finally, the unique properties of this natural plant compound and how it interacts with mucous and the surrounding tissues offer natural eye support and a more streamlined approach to medication delivery. Arabinogalactan delivers an arsenal of stellar support.

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