You probably haven’t heard of Larch Arabinogalactan (LA). But today, I’ll put that right as it is not only a good fiber source but it can also enhance the immune system.
I regularly use Larch Arabinogalactan (LA). If you have been paying attention (!!!) you may recall my mentioning LA previously, on my blog posts about the therapeutic effects of stewed apples. In that recipe, once you’ve been eating stewed apples for at least a week, you then move into “stage two” where you add 1 tsp larch arabinogalactan to the apples. So what is the big deal about LA and what can it do?
Arabinogalactans have been consumed by humans for thousands of years and are found in a variety of common foods such as carrots, radish, pear, maize, wheat, red wine, tomatoes, coconut, echinacea, and curcumin. Commercially, it is sourced from the wood of the larch tree. LA is a polysaccharide white powder (starch) that has a slightly sweet taste and is 100% water soluble, so is easy to add to drinks or food.
Larch Arabinogalactan as a fiber source and prebiotic
LA is best known as a good source of fiber. Rather than us digesting it directly, LA is used by our intestinal microbiota as a food and they do the digesting. The upshot of this is that the microbiota then increase their production of the short-chain fatty acid butyrate.
Butyrate is essential for proper colon health and is the preferred “food” for colon cells. It is anti-inflammatory and also acts as a protective shield of the intestine lining against disease and cancer-promoting agents.
LA can also increase the levels of beneficial intestinal bacteria, especially Bifidobacterium longum. For this reason, LA is recognized as being prebiotic. A prebiotic is defined as “a nondigestible food ingredient that promotes the growth of beneficial microorganisms in the intestines.”
So LA gives us fiber, improves the microbiota, and increases butyrate production to help protect the colon. What else?
LA’s immune effects
In studies, LA is seen to enhance the action of the immune system by improving natural killer cell activity. One research study found that LA reduced the incidence of the common cold by 23%.
As many chronic illnesses are associated with a lower natural killer activity, LA has been associated with improving conditions such as chronic fatigue syndrome, viral hepatitis, and autoimmune diseases.
It is also used as part of some vaccine protocols as it seems to improve the immune response to the vaccine. Another use is for children’s recurrent ear infections i.e. Otitis Media.
The dose levels showing a positive impact in these studies ranged from 1.5g/day to 4.5g/day for several weeks, but lower doses for children.
Potential Side effects
LA is FDA approved as a dietary fiber and in food applications. Studies show no evidence of toxicity. Consumption is generally without side-effects however some people may have some bloating and gas initially as the LA is being fermented by gut microbiota.
So why do I take it?
Historically, my gut has been my weak spot so I try to take good care of it. I consider my gut microbiota a huge component of my health. Instead of the mantra “you are what you eat”, I prefer “you are whom you host”. That means my microbes. So I feed them lots of fiber from fruits and vegetables and give them LA. And I have not had gut problems for a long time (touch wood).
How do I take it?
I generally add it to yogurt, a smoothie, stewed apples, or a hot or cold drink. Easy!
If you have inflammation, gut, or immune issues, I recommend you go back and read my stewed apple blog posts and consider whether increasing foods rich in arabinogalactan might help or whether supplementation may help. You’d be amazed at the impact stewed apples with LA can have. Talk to your nutritionist or healthcare provider about it.