Immunomodulation and Upper Respiratory Tract Infections

Respiratory infections are infections that affect the nostrils to the vocal cords and middle ear, and continue to the trachea up to the lungs.1 These infections are the leading causes of illness in the Philippines with acute respiratory infection as the topmost cause. Acute respiratory infection is divided into upper respiratory tract infection (URTI) and lower respiratory tract infection (LRTI). These infections are particularly common in children, presumably due to their undeveloped immune system.2

URTIs include common cold, sinusitis, ear infection, pharyngitis, and laryngitis. Among these conditions, ear infections and pharyngitis are the most serious because it may cause deafness and rheumatic fever, respectively. For LRTIs, pneumonia and bronchiolitis are the most common.1 Among the two, pneumonia is more severe since it is the leading cause of death in Filipino children less than 5 years old and the fourth leading cause of death among Filipino adults.3,4

Adults are also prone to respiratory infections, especially those with chronic diseases like diabetes and heart disease; those who are obese, suffer from asthma or COPD; and smokers.5 Travelers are also at high risk of having respiratory infections: the CDC reported that respiratory infections happen in up to 20% of all travelers.6 Coincidentally, 20% of athletes that showed overtraining syndrome also were susceptible to respiratory infections.7

Alcohol, stress, age, harmful bacteria, and viruses can also weaken the immune system. A weak immune system makes you more exposed to infections and diseases. To help normalize the immune system, immunomodulators like beta-glucan are often used.

Beta-glucan is a natural immunomodulator that binds to specific receptors and activates the defense mechanism of our immune system. In addition, it is also used against bacterial infections and enhances the effectiveness of antibiotics against antibiotic-resistant bacteria. The protective effect of beta-glucan was observed in experimental studies with many bacteria, among them is Staphylococcus aureus – a causative agent for respiratory infection, particularly pneumonia.8

Various studies were conducted to validate the effects on beta-glucan in respiratory infections and immunity. Beta-glucan from yeast were used on marathon athletes to test for its effect on URTIs and their mood state. The study concluded that supplementation with beta-glucan helped maintain their immune function, reduced post-exercise URTIs, and improved their mood state (which includes reduced fatigue and increased stamina). Since stress is one of the factors that reduces immunity, a study on women experiencing stress was also conducted. The study concluded that daily supplementation with beta-glucan reduces upper respiratory symptoms and improves mood in stressed women. Hence, beta-glucan can help maintain immune protection against stress. Beta-glucan from Pleurotus ostreatus was also found to significantly reduce the frequency of flu and flu-like symptoms, and LRTIs in children. Significant immunomodulatory activity was also observed.9,10

Baker’s yeast (Saccharomyces cerevisiae) is one of the most studied sources of beta-glucan, however, these have low solubility which makes it difficult to be absorbed by the body. With the process of carboxymethylation, beta-glucan transforms to CM-glucan. This transformation makes CM-glucan a highly soluble glucan that is readily absorbed by the body. It has better binding ability with glucan receptors which helps stimulate the defense mechanism of our immune system (macrophages, neutrophils). It also increases phagocytosis, the process in which white blood cells absorb and destroy foreign bacteria, virus, and fungi.

The stimulation of macrophage cells also limits asthma episodes, reduces the duration and severity of asthma attacks, and reduces allergic rhinitis occurrence.

On top of the health benefits of CM-glucan, its solubility reduces toxicity and unwanted side effects.

These immunomodulatory effects from glucan are in-demand in today’s market since respiratory infections are the leading causes of illness and consumers are constantly looking into supplements and natural medicines for the treatment of their conditions and diseases.


  1. Eric A, et al. Chapter 25 Acute Respiratory Infections in Children. Jamison DT, Breman JG, Measham AR, et al., editors. Washington (DC): The International Bank for Reconstruction and Development / The World Bank; New York: Oxford University Press; 2006.
  2. Leading Causes of Morbidity. DOH website. Available at: Accessed August 2016
  3. Leading Causes of Mortality. DOH website. Available at: Accessed August 2016
  4. Leading Causes of Child Mortality. DOH website. Available at: Accessed August 2016
  5. What causes respiratory tract infections (RTIs)? NPS MedicineWise website. Available at: Accessed August 2016
  6. LaRocque R, Ryan E. Respiratory Infections. Centers for Diseases and Prevention website. Available at: Accessed August 2016
  7. MacKinnon L. Overtraining effects on immunity and performance in athletes. Immunology and Cell Biology (2000) 78, 502–509.
  8. Dasaraju P, Liu C. Chapter 93 Infections of the Respiratory System. Baron S, editor. Galveston (TX): University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston; 1996.
  9. Talbott S, Talbott J. Effect of Beta 1, 3/1, 6 glucan on Upper Respiratory Tract Infection Symptoms and Mood State in Marathon Athletes. J Sports Sci Med. 2009 Dec; 8(4): 509–515.
  10. Talbott S, Talbott J. Baker’s yeast beta-glucan supplement reduces upper respiratory symptoms and improves mood state in stressed women. J Am Coll Nutr. 2012 Aug;31(4):295-300.
  11. ImmunoMax/ImmunoMax Forte Syrup. MIMS website. Available at: Accessed August 2016
  12. Zulli F, Suter F, Blitz H, Nissen H. CM-glucan: A Biological response modifier from baker’s yeast for skin care. SOFW-Journal1997;123:535-541


“A nutrient-deficient immune system can be imbalanced. When that happens, your body shows symptoms.  To bring back balance, you can take an immunomodulator, like CM-glucan. It is a natural immunomodulator that helps balance your immune system.  ImmunoMax is made of pure CM-glucan.


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