Mushrooms: A Feast For The Mind, Body and Gut
22 May 2022
You may have seen in recent times that mushrooms have had a lot of press in the health and wellbeing community. There has been more research funded on certain types of mushrooms referred to as being magical. However, we won’t be covering those just yet.
The mushrooms we are referring to are the ones that have been researched into helping with attention span, immune health, focus, longevity, antioxidant properties, muscle recovery, memory recall and improved energy levels - to name a few.1,2
The Basics Of Mushrooms
Mushrooms can profoundly impact how the body functions; research has shown a direct link between the bacteria in your gut and mushrooms. There is also research into the gut, skin and brain axis.
Whether on your plate or supplemented in powder form, mushrooms can be something to consider adding to your diet to help with your journey towards overall wellness and gut health.
Adaptogenic Mushrooms – A Recent Trend
Although there is a rich history of adaptogens, that history is often lost in the pursuit of productivity and branding. The rise and knowledge of the benefit of adaptogenic mushrooms can be found in traditional Chinese medicine and Indian Ayurveda dating back to circa 3000 BCE.
The term “adaptogen'' was not coined until the soviet scientist Dr Nikolai Lazarev started researching adaptogens in 1947 while studying the human body’s resistance to stress.
This led to further studies which consolidated their usefulness. However, since natural wellness has rebounded in publications and trends in the last ten years, adaptogenic mushrooms are getting the attention they deserve.3
The most recent prominent trend is mushroom coffee. The mushroom coffee company Four Sigmatic states that although coffee has benefits in itself, including housing essential nutrients, antioxidant properties and enhancing focus, there are downfalls such as links to indigestion and aggravating sleeping problems.4
They claim that mixing adaptogenic mushrooms with coffee can balance out the drawbacks of traditional coffee, as mushrooms can support digestion by contributing to the healthy bacteria in the gut. In turn, this can combat the indigestion coffee can cause.5
Adaptogens also do as they describe, adapting to what we need as individuals. When caffeine fires up our adrenal system and makes us feel stressed, mushrooms' adaptogenic properties help lower the stress level, meaning that there’s little to no crash.6
The crash is also lessened by adding mushrooms to the coffee as the caffeine content is decreased significantly.
The Different Varieties of Mushrooms
There are so many mushroom varieties that it can be overwhelming to know what to choose as they all have individual properties. The majority have crossover effects meaning they can be used in combination and on their own.
The cheapest way to add a variety of mushrooms into your diet is to buy a mushroom mix to add to smoothies, your morning coffee, hot chocolate and even your baking.
If you do want to use them individually, here is a brief guide to the world of fungi and their unique properties:
Shiitake and Oyster Mushrooms
These mushrooms are easily accessible to buy in supermarkets, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have the fantastic qualities that rarer and more exotic mushrooms do. Most people who cook with shiitake and oyster probably aren’t aware of the good they do to their bodies when they eat them.
Did you know that when you use oyster mushrooms in your cooking, you add beta-glucans to your diet? These are well known for improving cardiometabolic health and preventing insulin resistance.7
Beta-glucans also aid in gut health, but more interestingly, they affect the gut-brain axis. A study has shown that adding beta-glucan into the diet improves cognition and brain function with increased positive effects along the gut microbiota-brain axis. This can prevent neurodegenerative issues that have become common alongside westernised diets.8
Shiitake are similar in that they also house beta-glucans but are also a higher source of vitamin B6.9 Vitamin B6 is essential for the health of the gut microbiota and immunity and metabolism of the individual.10
So, if you want to boost your immunity, brain health and metabolic health, you should consider adding shiitake and oyster mushrooms into your cooking. If you already have, you may not have realised how much you are already looking after yourself!
Mushrooms to Supplement
These mushrooms are rarer, and you’re less likely to find them in your local supermarket. You are more likely to see them as individual powders or as a blend in a health food shop, as they are becoming more widespread.
As more research and studies are held, more importance is being placed upon mushrooms in the natural health world. All of these mushrooms have nutritional benefits outside of their adaptogenic potential as mushrooms are a great source of the following:13
- Vitamin A
- Vitamin B6, B12, C, D, E
The more notable impact we will focus on is the similarity these mushrooms have with the impact they can achieve compared to pharmaceutical drugs that often have many unwanted side effects and risk factors.
Reishi mushrooms have been researched for their potential in aiding multiple diseases, but it has been found that it has benefits well outside of this research.
Multiple studies report that they can benefit the quality of sleep in those that consume reishi mushrooms, with results similar to that of the hypnotic effect of benzodiazepines without the unwanted side effects.11
Reishi also boosts the immune system to protect from potential infections. Much akin to shiitake and oyster, they contain beta-glucans which help reduce cholesterol levels.12
Chaga is a brilliant mushroom to include in your diet. They are rich in antioxidants, and research has indicated they can reduce inflammation and regulate the immune system.
Studies have also shown that it can aid in lowering blood sugar levels, reducing blood pressure, lessening symptoms of arthritis and slowing the progression of cancer in the liver, lungs and brain.14
Lions’ Mane Mushrooms
Lion's mane has proven to be beneficial in numerous ways. Its effects range from being able to treat anxiety and depression to improving cognitive impairment, as it stimulates the production of nerve growth. This is a bioprotein that plays a massive role in protecting and regenerating neurons in the brain.15,16
Cordyceps are one of the most well-researched mushrooms in terms of their impact on individuals' energy and performance levels. It has even been shown to affect how oxygen is utilised within the body.
A study was conducted on male cyclists that showed when they ingested a combination of Cordyceps and Reishi; they were protected against stress-related damage when overtraining.17
Research into cordyceps has also shown that they can enhance libido in individuals and regulate energy levels by improving the flow of oxygen through individuals’ bodies.
This is through the mushroom's ability to increase the production of adenosine triphosphate, which increases cellular oxygen absorption in the body.18
Turkey Tail Mushrooms
Turkey's tails are a powerhouse in terms of their impact on the human body. Research shows they improve immune health and cellular regeneration and aid digestive health. This is a mushroom you should add to your diet if you want to improve your overall health.
Studies have shown that the ingestion of turkey tails can boost immune function in cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy treatment.19
Turkey tail has also been researched for its potent prebiotic content; this includes a study that concluded that those that consumed an extract from the mushroom over eight weeks experienced improved gut bacteria that suppressed the growth of dangerous bacteria.20
If you want to improve longevity, heal your gut, and boost your immune system alongside probiotics, mushrooms are a great course of action, regardless of the variety.
With attention surrounding mushrooms and research growing by the day, and discoveries being made, your health and adaptogenic mushrooms are something great to invest in.
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- Li I, Lee L, Tzeng T et al. Neurohealth Properties of<i>Hericium erinaceus</I>Mycelia Enriched with Erinacines. Behav Neurol. 2018;2018:1-10. doi:10.1155/2018/5802634
- Hetland G, Tangen J, Mahmood F et al. Antitumor, Anti-inflammatory and Antiallergic Effects of Agaricus blazei Mushroom Extract and the Related Medicinal Basidiomycetes Mushrooms, Hericium erinaceus and Grifola frondosa: A Review of Preclinical and Cli
- Mind S. Adaptogen History, Classification, and Main Uses. Prismatic Plants. https://www.prismaticplants.com/blogs/strange-mind/the-history-of-adaptogens#:~:text=Diving%20into%20the%20rich%20history,its%20debut%20till%20the%201940s. Published 2022.
- Design A. Mushroom coffee benefits: Why this combo is the next big health movement. Four Sigmatic. https://us.foursigmatic.com/m/why-am-i-so-tired1. Published 2022. Accessed April 27, 2022.
- Jayachandran M, Xiao J, Xu B. A Critical Review on Health Promoting Benefits of Edible Mushrooms through Gut Microbiota. Int J Mol Sci. 2017;18(9):1934. doi:10.3390/ijms18091934
- Panossian A, Wikman G. Effects of Adaptogens on the Central Nervous System and the Molecular Mechanisms Associated with Their Stress—Protective Activity. Pharmaceuticals. 2010;3(1):188-224. doi:10.3390/ph3010188
- Dicks L, Ellinger S. Effect of the Intake of Oyster Mushrooms (Pleurotus ostreatus) on Cardiometabolic Parameters—A Systematic Review of Clinical Trials. Nutrients. 2020;12(4):1134. doi:10.3390/nu12041134
- Shi H, Yu Y, Lin D et al. β-glucan attenuates cognitive impairment via the gut-brain axis in diet-induced obese mice. Microbiome. 2020;8(1). doi:10.1186/s40168-020-00920-y
- Sage S. Nutrition Comparison: Oyster Mushroom Vs Shiitake Mushroom. Soupersage. https://www.soupersage.com/compare-nutrition/oyster-mushroom-vs-shiitake-mushroom#:~:text=For%20a%20quick%20recap%20of,mushroom%20contains%20more%20Vitamin%20B6. Published
- Mayengbam S, Chleilat F, Reimer R. Dietary Vitamin B6 Deficiency Impairs Gut Microbiota and Host and Microbial Metabolites in Rats. Biomedicines. 2020;8(11):469. doi:10.3390/biomedicines8110469
- Chu Q, Wang L, Cui X et al. Extract of Ganoderma lucidum potentiates pentobarbital-induced sleep via a GABAergic mechanism. Pharmacology Biochemistry and Behavior. 2007;86(4):693-698. doi:10.1016/j.pbb.2007.02.015
- Venturella G, Ferraro V, Cirlincione F, Gargano M. Medicinal Mushrooms: Bioactive Compounds, Use, and Clinical Trials. Int J Mol Sci. 2021;22(2):634. doi:10.3390/ijms22020634
- Fulgoni V, Agarwal S. Nutritional impact of adding a serving of mushrooms on usual intakes and nutrient adequacy using National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey 2011–2016 data. Food Science & Nutrition. 2021;9(3):1504-1511. doi:10.1002/fsn3
- Arata S, Watanabe J, Maeda M et al. Continuous intake of the Chaga mushroom (Inonotus obliquus) aqueous extract suppresses cancer progression and maintains body temperature in mice. Heliyon. 2016;2(5):e00111. doi:10.1016/j.heliyon.2016.e00111
- Mori K, Inatomi S, Ouchi K, Azumi Y, Tuchida T. Improving effects of the mushroom Yamabushitake (<i>Hericium erinaceus</i>) on mild cognitive impairment: a double-blind placebo-controlled clinical trial. Phytotherapy Research. 2009;23(3):367-372. doi:
- Li I, Lee L, Tzeng T et al. Neurohealth Properties of<i>Hericium erinaceus</i>Mycelia Enriched with Erinacines. Behav Neurol. 2018;2018:1-10. doi:10.1155/2018/5802634
- Rossi P, Buonocore D, Altobelli E et al. Improving Training Condition Assessment in Endurance Cyclists: Effects of<i>Ganoderma lucidum</i>and<i>Ophiocordyceps sinensis</i>Dietary Supplementation. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine.
- 18. Hirsch K, Smith-Ryan A, Roelofs E, Trexler E, Mock M. <i>Cordyceps militaris</i> Improves Tolerance to High-Intensity Exercise After Acute and Chronic Supplementation. J Diet Suppl. 2016;14(1):42-53. doi:10.1080/19390211.2016.1203386
- L.Y. Eliza W, K. Fai C, P. Chung L. Efficacy of Yun Zhi (Coriolus versicolor) on Survival in Cancer Patients: Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Recent Patents on Inflammation & Allergy Drug Discovery. 2012;6(1):78-87. doi:10.2174/18722131279888
- Pallav K, Dowd S, Villafuerte J et al. Effects of polysaccharopeptide from<i>Trametes Versicolor</i>and amoxicillin on the gut microbiome of healthy volunteers. Gut Microbes. 2014;5(4):458-467. doi:10.4161/gmic.29558