Why is Gut Health Important?
There has been a growing emphasis on the importance of gut health and the strong link that it has for overall well-being. Your gut is the foundation of good health. It helps digestion of the foods you consume, absorbs nutrients, and transforms it into fuel to maintain your body. So what happens when your gut is imbalanced and unhappy? It means your immune system isn't fully functioning, which then means your serotonin and hormones won't either, making it more difficult to stay healthy. Your gut is where your body rids of metabolic waste and toxins. Many issues may arise with an imbalanced gut, including chronic fatigue, inflammation throughout the body, and chronic illness. It's common for people to experience symptoms such as brain fog, diarrhea, constipation, gas, joint pain, acne, and so on. The gut is the second brain, therefore, if your gut isn't functioning your brain is struggling too.
How Medicinal Mushrooms Can Improve Gut Health
So what exactly can you do to improve your gut health? This will be an objective and personal journey, as each person's microbiome makeup is different. Most commonly, people make changes to their diet, cut certain food groups, minimize their intake of sugar, and so on.
In Eastern medicine, medicinal mushrooms have been used as a way to stabilize and strengthen gut health for thousands of years. More recently, Western medicine has started to explore the potential benefits that these powerful mushrooms may have on our gut health. Medicinal mushrooms contain prebiotics, beta-glucans, and immune-supporting elements that are vital to maintain gut health. The majority of the immune system is housed in the gastrointestinal system, medicinal mushrooms can play a large role in supporting this area.
Beside mushrooms having immune-supporting properties, they are also low in calories yet rich in protein, making them a great staple ingredient that can be consistently added to any meal. They also contain a great amount of fiber, which is instrumental for digestive health. An increase of fibre in one's diet can contribute to better gut function, blood sugar levels, and can keep cholesterol levels in check.
Medicinal Mushrooms for Gut Health
Medicinal mushrooms have become household staples for their ability to promote better function and overall gut health through their bioactive compounds. Most notably, medicinal mushrooms such as Turkey Tail, Reishi, Lion's Mane and Chaga all posses strong gut health-supporting properties that are making
Turkey Tail contains one of the highest quantities of polysaccharides and beta-glucans than any other medicinal mushroom, which help to stimulate the immune system. This study found that PSP from turkey tail has prebiotic abilities and helps the gut regulate its balance of bacteria. Prebiotics are a type of fiber that act as a food source and are instrumental for healthy bacteria in the gut. Due to the increase of preservatives and artificial additives to our foods, it has become increasingly harder to balance healthy levels of bacteria in our intestines. In a different study, evidence showed that PSP regulates the gut microbiome.
Lion's Mane, most famously known for its ability to stimulate the synthesis of the nerve growth factor (NGF), is also a beneficial medicinal mushroom for gut health. A recent study found that Lion's Mane acted as a prebiotic, encouraging the growth of health-promoting gut bacteria. The same study showed that the tissue damage caused by Inflammatory Bowel Disease or Colitis can be reduced by taking Lion's Mane. Additionally, another study found that Lion’s Mane can reduce the growth of gastric and intestinal ulcers. Peptic ulcers are often caused by Helicobacter pylori bacteria, which weaken your stomach lining and can lead to your own stomach acid causing perforations.
Reishi possesses a variety of attributes. This powerful medicinal mushroom possesses polysaccharides which have shown to have prebiotic benefits in stimulating the growth of Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus species - two of the most important bacterial families that inhabit our gut. Additionally, Reishi's adaptogenic properties can support the gut and digestive health through buffering the stress response. This is because stress is one of the primary drivers of gut issues, so adding in Reishi you are able to decrease inflammation and support a better response to stress leading to a stronger immunity.
- Chaga contains a wide range of bioactive compounds with significant anti-inflammatory effects. These effects are useful in helping alleviate inflammation in the stomach or intestines, which could otherwise hinder digestion and limit the absorption of nutrients. It also helps stimulate the liver, which then prompts it to create digestive bile. This helps break down foods better, especially proteins which are vital for the body. Chaga also contains manganese, thiamin and digestive enzymes, which are beneficial components that are vital for digestion.
How to Incorporate Medicinal Mushrooms for Gut Health
There are many ways in which one could incorporate medicinal mushrooms in their daily rituals as a way to improve gut health, an instrumental key for overall health and vitality of the body.
Many people use the powders in cooking, adding them to soups and sauces. Others add the mushrooms powders into bread (such as banana bread), oatmeal, or puddings.
Most commonly, to maintain a consistent intake of the mushroom powders, people add them to morning coffees, smoothies, or teas. It is recommended that adding the medicinal mushroom to daily rituals is the best method as benefits are built over time with consistency.
It is also important to note that it is ok to 'stack' these four mushroom powders together, as their bioactive benefits synergize with each other.
As always, this article is not medical advice, and it is not meant to diagnose or treat any condition. More human studies are needed, but the research that has been conducted so far is extremely promising. If you have a question about whether medicinal mushrooms are right for you, please consult with a qualified healthcare provider.