Mushrooms and Gut Health

Mushrooms and Gut Health

The human gut microbiota contains more than ten trillion microorganisms. That’s a lot of life to keep happy. Yet without a healthy, happy gut, it’s hard to live a healthy, happy life.

Unconvinced? Consider this:


Gut bacteria manufacture about 95 percent of the body's supply of serotonin, which influences both your mood and gastrointestinal (GI) activity. Plus, the gut also produces hundreds of other neurochemicals that the brain uses to regulate physiological and mental processes like learning, memory, and mood.


Previously, it was believed GI issues like Irritable Bowel Syndrome and functional bowel issues like constipation, diarrhea, bloating, pain, and upset stomach were in part caused by anxiety and depression. Now, research is indicating we’ve had it backwards and that GI issues may cause signals to be sent to the central nervous system that result in mood changes that cause anxiety and depression. Digestive system activity is also now believed to affect thinking skills and memory.

In no small way, the link between gut and brain health is more substantial than we’ve ever previously believed. It’s no wonder then that people have begun to call the gut the “second brain.”


Now that you’ve got an understanding of the importance of gut health to your overall well being, perhaps you’re now wondering how the heck you’re supposed to keep the ten trillion friends hitching a ride inside your GI tract happy?


Mushrooms, of course! 

How and why? We’ve got you (and your 10,000,000,000,000 friends) covered.  


Polysaccharides and Prebiotics


About 60 to 70 percent of your immune system is found in your gut, meaning that the healthier your gut microbiome, the stronger your immune system. By incorporating more mushrooms into your diet, you are strengthening your gut health and as a result, your overall immune system. That’s because mushrooms are rich in polysaccharides — complex, long chain sugars — including the medicinally powerful beta-d-glucans, which stimulate the human body’s innate immune system defenses. 


In addition, some mushrooms also act as a prebiotic. In essence, a prebiotic is any food ingredient that stimulates the growth of beneficial microbiota in the gut. Through this process, prebiotics also naturally depress the internal pathogens found within the GI tract and thereby allow the immune system to better resist pathogens introduced from the outside environment.


An example of a mushroom with prebiotic properties is the Turkey Tail mushroom (Trametes versicolor). Much of its prebiotic powers are attributed to the polysaccharide peptide (PSP) found within its cellular walls. In one study, researchers found that consuming PSP from Turkey Tail mushrooms every day over the course of eight weeks led to beneficial changes in gut bacteria and suppressed the growth of E. coli and Shigella bacteria in participants.


But there are plenty more mushrooms out there that can help improve gut health! We’ve compiled a brief list of some mushrooms and their gut health enhancing benefits so you can incorporate them into your supplements/diet and “feed your (second) head!”




Turkey Tail (Trametes versicolor): prebiotic, anti-diarrhea, anti-Clostridium difficile infection, anti-inflammatory bowel disease


Lion’s Mane (Hericium erinaceus): prebiotic, anti-ulcer, cholesterol lowering, antioxidant rich, protects the mucous that lines the inner stomach and intestine


Shiitake (Lentinula edodes): prebiotic, growth-enhancing effect on intestinal microflora species, reduces risk of colon cancer


Maitake (Grifola frondosa): decreases amount of starch that’s digested into sugar, increases insulin production, anti-tumor in the intestines


Reishi (Gandoerma lucidum): reduces obesity by modulating gut microbiome, decreases bad bacteria levels, maintains intestinal barrier integrity, anti-inflammatory


Other mushrooms with published studies demonstrating their gut-benefitting powers include Phellinus linteus, Agaricus bisporus, Fomitopsis officinalis, Fomes fomentarius, Pleurotus tuberregium, and Polyporus umbellatus.




There you have it! Incorporate more mushrooms like the delicious Lion’s Mane, Shiitake, and Maitake into your diet, grab a few tinctures of the medicinally potent (but inedible) Turkey Tail and Reishi for supplementation, and your gut, mind, and spirit will thank you.



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