Cancer, Sugar, and the Immune System

When we think of sugars and cancer we know that the two don’t mix. Sugar feeds cancer cell growth and eating it accelerates its disease progression. However, in a different molecule combination, multiple sugar molecules (called polysaccharides) can be immune-boosting.

How can this occur? The way individual sugar molecules are joined together determines how the body absorbs and uses them. Think of two pure carbon compounds, coal and diamond, both are comprised of chemically pure carbon but the bonds between them are very different, giving them very contrasting properties.

There are specific polysaccharides (or glyconutrients) that have immune-boosting properties within the body that reactivate the immune system to shrink cancerous tumors and slow the progression of cancer. Examples of these glyconutrients include:

  • Mannose – a six carbon sugar found in some fruits and vegetables that inhibit tumour growth and spread, mannose prevents bacterial, viral, and fungal infections as well as produce inflammatory compounds (cytokines) that fight infections.

  • Fucose – found abundantly in breast milk and some mushrooms, it has strong immune stimulating effects, inhibiting tumour growth, and enhancing neural transmissions between nerves.

  • Galactose – abundant in dairy products, galactose inhibits tumour growth and spread, particularly to the liver. This sugar also enhances healing and cellular communication while decreasing inflammation.

These health-giving glyconutrients are commonly found in edible fungi, colostrum, certain roots, leaves of plants, and some fruits such as:

  • Aloe Vera – its leaves contain mannose molecules that when joined together, form a kind of starch known as acemannan or polymannose.

  • Arabinogalactans – otherwise known as gum-sugars, arabinogalactans are found in leeks, carrots, coconut meat, turmeric, tomatoes, and larch trees. These gum sugars stimulate activity of Natural Killer cells, interleukins, interferons, and tumour necrosis factor that are all key factors known for creating a robust immune response.

  • Fungi – The humble mushroom has been one of the most scientifically studied families of plants for its glyconutrient properties and has an extensive history of long-term use in Chinese medicine. Reishi, Shitake, and Cordyceps mushrooms are some of the most widely used mushrooms in traditional and alternative medical practices. Rich in glucose, mannose, and galactose, these fungi have been used to treat cancer by rousing the immune system to act against cancer cells. In fact, there are over 200 known mushroom species with immune stimulating properties. When eating mushrooms in their whole form, it is best to cook them before eating in order to release their glyconutrients

The ancient wisdoms of Japanese and Chinese medicine have long demonstrated the good synergy of combining these polysaccharide compounds with nutrients such as Vitamins C, D3, K2 and minerals to create a strong immune system. However, effectively maintaining a strong immune system does not only rely upon optimal nutrition but also optimal sleep, good management of stress, regular exercise, and a balanced positive emotional state.