Chances are, you’ve eaten a mushroom before. Whether it be as a garnish at a restaurant, for a friend on a diet, or a salad. Did you know that these fungi are not only packed in flavor, but in health benefits as well?
The relationship between mushrooms and gut health goes way back.
Traditional Chinese medicine has used mushrooms for digestive health for thousands of years; yet, it’s only been recently that Western medicine has noticed its adverse health pros. The benefits will surprise you!
Medicinal mushrooms such as the lion’s mane, turkey tail, chaga, reishi, and shiitake mushrooms are among the best mushrooms for gut health. What do they do for our bodies?
In this article, let us tackle the best mushroom for gut health and the benefits of each to our gut health.
How Do Medicinal Mushrooms Support Gut Health?
Are mushrooms good for gut health? Let’s do a quick refresher on anatomy:
Do you know that the total surface area of an adult’s digestive tract is about half of a badminton court? It is home to various microorganisms, called microbiota, and includes different types of bacteria, viruses, and fungi.
Gut-based microbiota play a crucial role in maintaining the gut’s immune system and have been found to affect our emotions, moods, critical thinking, and development of brain function through the vagus nerve gut-brain connection. Keeping our gut healthy, i.e sticking to a menu for short bowel syndrome helps enhance our physical and mental well-being.
Medicinal mushrooms aid in nutrient and drug metabolism. Mushrooms are good for gut health because they contain high amounts of protein that help in digestion and absorption of nutrients, and assist in the transformation and elimination of drugs in the body.
By improving the diversity of gut-dwelling microorganisms, mushrooms help our bodies detoxify naturally.
Aside from being a delicacy, mushrooms have been popular in Eastern medicine because of their nutritional value and their capacity to heal various illnesses such as heart disease and cancer.
High Protein and Fiber Content Effects
Fiber enriches the growth of gut microbiota. It aids in digestion and promotes gastrointestinal movement for waste elimination.
Proteins are molecules that are crucial to countless body processes. The proteins that we get from foods, drinks, or supplements are broken down into amino acids which are the building blocks of cells. Once broken down, amino acids combine in various ways to build different cellular components that can be used by the body for cell growth and reproduction. These fungi work their hats off!
In addition, mushrooms are steady sources of essential nutrients like vitamins and minerals. Certain mushrooms include:
- Vitamin C for immunity
- Vitamin D for bone strength
- B vitamins (riboflavin, niacin, and folate) for red blood cell formation
Ever heard of cytokines? They’re proteins that work on the frontline of our immunity response. Cytokines are responsible for activating our immune system whenever there is a threat in our system. The amino acids contained in mushrooms promote the production of cytokines. This is why mushrooms can be easily substituted for meat and other protein alternatives.
The amino acids that can be found in mushrooms are:
- Glutathione: a major antioxidant that prevents cell damage
- Lysine: for bone and muscle growth
- Threonine: maintains the integrity of the gut’s lining
- Methionine: for absorption and removal of heavy metals
An Immune System Boost
Studies have shown that certain mushrooms such as the Reishi mushroom can enhance the function of the immune system. Mushrooms are rich in polysaccharides, a type of carbohydrate, that can boost our immunity.
That’s not all. Mushrooms are natural prebiotics which act as food for the gut’s microbiota.
Low Calories and a Lower Risk of Obesity
Mushrooms are low in calories and have been found to lower the risk for obesity. They contain different types of metabolites which stimulate gut-bacteria growth. These microorganisms produce short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs), the main metabolite in the gut, which increase the body’s metabolism.
The rate at which your body processes and absorbs food is determined by your metabolism. Hence, metabolites are small components that speed up this process.
Metabolites are essential for breaking down food, chemicals, and body tissues to create energy for important bodily functions. With this in regard, mushrooms are to be thanked for their metabolism-boosting properties, accelerated weight loss, and prevention of obesity.
5 Best Mushrooms for Gut Health and Digestion
Known for their earthy flavor and umami taste, mushrooms are now also being recognized for their wide array of health benefits. Not only are they savory, but they are also jam-packed with essential nutrients. So what are the best mushrooms for digestion?
Here are the five best mushrooms for optimal gut health and your body:
1. Lion’s Mane Mushroom
Lion’s mane (Herium Erinaceus) alters the gut microbiota by changing its composition and activities. By acting directly on the gut microbiota, it provides beneficial effects in the gut, such as decreasing inflammation, preventing the depletion of antioxidants, and improving the gut’s lining.
It protects the gut against ulcers by reducing inflammation, increasing the mucus in the stomach wall, and reducing the number of H. pylori bacteria, a bacteria that causes swelling in the gut.
Other physiological benefits include brain cell growth, depression management, accelerated healing of nerve injuries, and lowered risk of heart disease.
2. Turkey Tail Mushroom
Turkey tail (Trametes Versicolor) has been found to enhance our immune system by increasing the growth of gut microbiota.
It contains a large amount of polysaccharides that can stimulate the production of immune cells. Proven studies reflect the improvement of the quality of life for individuals with stomach and esophageal cancers by increasing their immunity and reducing pain.
Improving your sleep, memory, and concentration; plus, reducing the symptoms of anxiety and depression are extra health benefits of Turkey tail mushrooms.
3. Chaga Mushroom
Traditional Eastern medicine has long been using the Chaga mushroom (Inonotus Obliquus) to treat various gut problems and has been proven effective against parasitic and viral infections such as toxoplasma and HIV-1.
Chaga mushroom has been used to treat inflammatory bowel diseases. The polysaccharides found in this mushroom help reduce inflammation by inhibiting the hyperactivity of immune cells. This mushroom’s polysaccharides have antioxidant properties with potential to combat cancer.
It can also reduce the level of sugar in the blood, enhance weight loss, and alleviate obesity complications.
4. Reishi Mushroom
The health benefits of the Reishi mushroom (Ganoderma lucidum), also known as Lingzhi in Chinese, have been known for more than 2,000 years. It may contain less proteins than other types of mushrooms, but it is rich in bioactive proteins and peptides.
Such bioactive proteins and peptides influence several gut processes including bowel movement, secretion of gastrointestinal mucus, and absorption of nutrients.
The Reishi mushroom has antioxidant properties too! Its polysaccharides bind with free radicals, compounds that damage the cells, effectively neutralizing and preventing them from causing cancer. It regulates the immune system and prevents tumor growth proliferation. This means that the Reishi mushroom has the potential to be used as an anti-cancer treatment.
A few final benefits of Reishi mushrooms include: fighting off infections, reducing fatigue and symptoms of depression, and increasing the amount of good cholesterol in the body.
4. Shiitake Mushroom
Shiitake mushrooms (Lentinula Edodes) alter the composition of the gut microbiota and the structure of the gut itself. It rejuvenates and improves the overall health of the gut through its direct effect on the microbiota.
It protects the mucus membranes of the gut as well as the intestines which could prevent digestive ulcers. Further, the polysaccharides of Shiitake mushrooms enhance immunity, reduce the side effects of chemotherapy, and have antiviral and antibacterial properties.
Aside from these benefits, Shiitake mushrooms may help reduce your risk of heart problems by lowering the level of bad cholesterol, and help strengthen your bones with all their added Vitamin D.
With all these health benefits, it’s no surprise that mushrooms are showing face today in Western Medicine. Day by day, more data is released that back up how amazing they are for health, immunity, and gut happiness.
Not only are they a delicious source of essential vitamins and nutrients, but they are also packed full of antioxidants to battle various types of cancer. They act as prebiotics to improve gut microbiota growth and composition and put your health on a positive upswing.
What mushroom will you add to your diet this week?
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