Why mushrooms are the perfect ally for your immune system

You live in a dangerous world and strong immunity is your first line of defense.

That’s why you should do all you can to prevent disease and optimize your ability to stay healthy.

You already know how important it is to commit to a healthy lifestyle that includes good food, regular exercise, and stress reduction. But you also have to think about providing support for the biological systems that keep you from harm. And immunity is right at the top of that list.

The immune system is a remarkable multi-level defense mechanism that protects you from bacteria, viruses, cancer and a host of other conditions. In a very real sense, a healthy immune system is as important to your survival as a healthy heart or liver.

But how do you get there? How do you optimize your immune system? Besides the normal healthy habits mentioned above — diet, activity, and mindfulness — what else can you do to make your immune system even stronger?

Do what the ancients did

You could take herbs that “stimulate the immune system,” but stimulation is only one side of the coin. Your immune system needs to be balanced… that means you want it humming along and diligently monitoring your body for invaders — but at the same time regulating itself enough to keep from becoming overactive.

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And that’s a job mushrooms are perfect for.

Medical mushrooms have long been prized in traditional medicine — like Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) — for their ability to promote vitality and endurance under stress, by providing both broad systemic support and targeted effects on the immune and other vital systems.

Past and present-day traditional practitioners revered the secrets of each of the mushroom varieties and their special spheres of positive influence on health. And modern research has provided scientific support for what these healers learned over many decades of use and experimentation.

Mushrooms have been shown to help clear environmental toxins, promote healthy blood sugar levels, and support healthy cardiovascular functioning. The longevity effects noted historically, helping the body to adapt and endure stressors, have also been confirmed.

Medicinal mushrooms have broad-ranging health benefits, but they are also able to zero in when it comes to influencing the vital components of our immune system. In fact, mushrooms have a unique relationship with the immune system.

If they only boosted our ability to hunt down and destroy dangerous pathogens, that would be reason enough to embrace them. But the interaction is more complex…

Mushrooms actually modulate immunity — both up and down. By modulating, rather than just stimulating immune function, medicinal mushrooms ensure that the system neither over- nor under-responds to foreign invaders. They keep the immune response in balance.

When we talk about health, more often than not, we are talking about immunity. A poorly functioning immune system leaves us vulnerable to a host of dangers. But when the immune system is working properly, it is a thing of beauty, helping to keep us safe in a hostile environment and protecting our health for the long-term.

The many amazing benefits of mushrooms

The key to mushroom-mediated immunity is their composition. Mushroom cell walls contain beta-glucans — a family of complex sugars that directly impact immune cells. The benefits of beta-glucans have been documented in more than 2,000 published papers.

Beta glucans are also produced by a variety of plants and microorganisms including oat, barley, seaweed, blue-green algae, some bacteria and yeast. Their extremely low toxicity makes them highly useful for and safe for long term health promotion.

These special carbohydrate molecules bind to macrophages, (from the Greek meaning “big eaters”) — a type of white blood cell that engulfs and digests cellular debris, foreign substances, microbes, and abnormal cells — and enhance the macrophages’ ability to destroy pathogens.

Beta-glucans also work with lymphocytes, another group of white blood cells that includes a number of cell types, each with its own unique function: T-cells, your natural killer (NK) cells, and B cells.

In addition, compounds found in mushrooms influence cellular communication and genetic expression. Mushroom polysaccharides have demonstrated an ability to reduce radiation and chemotherapy side effects when tested in a clinical study.

Scientific research on many of the most frequently used mushroom varieties has revealed an impressive array of beneficial actions in both preclinical and clinical studies: anti-oxidant and free radical scavenging; and organ protective effects.

There are more than 270 different types of medicinal mushrooms; many of them perform different functions. Some of the most potent include:

  • Resihi (Ganoderma lucidum) tunes the immune system to fight viruses. It can also support healthy cholesterol and blood pressure levels.
  • Cordyceps sinensis supports liver, spleen and lung health.
  • Maitake (Grifola frondosa) helps manage blood sugar and lipids.
  • Hericium erinaceus promotes healthy digestion.
  • Shiitake(Lentinula edodes) has been shown to have immune-supportive effects.

Medicinal mushrooms are one of my prime recommendations due to their broad-reaching and supportive effects. And you should get plenty of them in your diet to reap their benefits. Stores are now offering a larger variety of mushrooms for culinary use, all of which have health benefits, even the commonly used white button mushroom.

Mushrooms are also very popular in powdered mixes that can be added to smoothies or juice or as supplements, like my favorite, Ten Mushroom Formula® — a wise addition to a comprehensive program for healthy aging.

*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.
Dr. Isaac Eliaz

By Dr. Isaac Eliaz

Dr. Isaac Eliaz is a renowned integrative medical doctor, licensed acupuncturist, researcher, product formulator and frequent guest lecturer. He has been a pioneer in holistic medicine since the early 1980s, and has published numerous peer-reviewed research papers on several of his key integrative health formulas. He is the founder and medical director of Amitabha Clinic in California, an integrative health center specializing in cancer and chronic conditions. Dr. Eliaz is an expert in using highly strategic, synergistic protocols to address numerous areas of health including metastatic cancer, immunity, digestion, detoxification, diabetes, cardiovascular health and more. His approach integrates modern science with traditional healing wisdom for optimal health and wellness. To download any of Dr. Eliaz's comprehensive wellness guides, click here.