The ancient Chinese food to save your modern gut

By now you know, good health starts in your gut.

The community of bacteria that lives in your gut (known as your microbiome) plays a huge role in the strength of your immune system, your moods, your weight and other critical components of health.

That’s why you should pop a daily probiotic pill, eat fermented foods and make sure you’re getting enough prebiotic fiber — found in these foods my colleague Jedha Dening wrote about.

But even with the best of intentions, it’s not always easy to stay on top of your probiotics and eat a plate full of prebiotic-rich foods, so I’ve got a quick and simple tip for you…

There’s another secret to great gut health, and although it’s far from new, you don’t hear much about it. It’s been used as a digestive and immune health remedy for thousands of years — and, finally, modern science is discovering just why it’s so effective…

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Ganoderma lucidum: The granddaddy of gut health

Ganoderma lucidum (also known as the reishi mushroom) is a super-powered medicinal mushroom that’s been used in traditional Chinese medicine for over 2,000 years.

If you ask EHO contributor Dr. Isaac Eliaz, he’ll tell you mushrooms protect your body like nothing else. But the reishi — well, it’s exceptional.

Known as the “mushroom of immortality” because of its anti-aging and immune-boosting properties, researchers are now learning why it’s earned this claim-to-fame…

It has the potential to perform miracles on your microbiome.

In 2015, researchers from Taiwan found that reishi mushroom extract helped promote good bacteria in the guts of mice that were fed a poor diet.

More specifically, mice that were given the extract during the two-month study had more diverse populations of intestinal bacteria, which helped them avoid weight gain and prevented them from developing a fatty liver from their diet.

By helping them maintain this good bacteria, researchers also suspect reishi extract saved them from other negative effects of a poor diet, like insulin resistance and systematic inflammation.

Now, if the reishi mushroom has the same effect on your gut health as it does on mice, this study explains a lot… like why the reishi has been known to:

  • Prevent cancer
  • Improve digestion
  • Fight infections
  • Heal allergies
  • Improve sleep
  • Fend off fatigue
  • Improve autoimmune disorders
  • Defend against diabetes

All of these conditions are tied to your gut health in some way or another. Basically, if the reishi has the potential to improve your gut health, the ways it can benefit your overall health are endless.

Of course, it doesn’t hurt that the reishi is a potent source of antioxidants and vitamin D too… both of which have an impressive effect on your health in their own right.

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Is reishi right for you?

If you have the nagging feeling that reishi mushroom is the one thing missing from your efforts to attain optimum health, go with your gut and get some ASAP. It’s a safe supplement with few side effects, and there are a lot of easy ways you can add the reishi to your daily health regimen…

You can get reishi mushroom extract, take reishi pills or get creative with reishi powder by adding it to your drinks or meals. You can even make your own reishi tea.

But however you choose to get your reishi mushroom, it’s best to take it in the morning on an empty stomach and to compliment it with some vitamin C for better absorption. Some people take it before bed too.

You should also know that, in rare cases, people experience detox symptoms when taking the reishi mushrooms, but pairing it with a lot of water and vitamin C should keep these to a minimum.

  1. “The gut microbiome: How does it affect our health?” Medical News Today. Retrieved March 26, 2017.
  2. “Asian mushroom extract shows promise as treatment for obesity and its ills.” MedicalXpress. Retrieved March 26, 2017.
  3. Chih-Jung Chang, et al. “Ganoderma lucidum reduces obesity in mice by modulating the composition of the gut microbiota.” Nature Communications, 2015.
  4. “Reishi Mushroom.” Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. Retrieved March 26, 2017.
  5. F.F. Benzie, S. Wachtel-Galor, editors. “Ganoderma lucidum (Lingzhi or Reishi): A Medicinal Mushroom.” Source: Herbal Medicine: Biomolecular and Clinical Aspects. 2nd edition. Boca Raton (FL): CRC Press/Taylor & Francis; 2011. Chapter 9.
  6. “How Reishi Combats Aging.” Life Extension Magazine. Retrieved March 26, 2017.
  7. “Frequently Asked Questions.” Hokkaido Reishi Japan. Retrieved March 26, 2017.
Jenny Smiechowski

By Jenny Smiechowski

Jenny Smiechowski is a Chicago-based freelance writer who specializes in health, nutrition and the environment. Her work has appeared in online and print publications like Chicagoland Gardening magazine, Organic Lifestyle Magazine, BetterLife Magazine,, and