Functional mushrooms are gaining popularity and being talked about by celebrities everywhere, but there's still some hype and confusion surrounding the the topic - what do these supposed wonder shrooms actually do? More than you might think!
Did you know that these fungi have been used for medicinal purposes for thousands of years? Mushrooms are often referred to as nature’s medicine, and that’s because they’re packed with immune-boosting nutrients like polysaccharides, polypeptides and ergosterol, which act as antioxidants to help boost the body’s natural defences against free radicals.
Mushrooms are some of the healthiest foods you can eat, and they also support your immune system in ways you probably weren’t aware of. So now that we know more about this immunity-boosting food, let’s take a look at how mushrooms support our immune system!
What Are Mushrooms?
We must first comprehend what mushrooms are in order to comprehend how they strengthen our immune system.
Mushrooms are common, non-flowering plants that appear both above ground and below it. The umbrella term for all types of mushrooms is fungi, which encompasses over 100,000 varieties. Fungi are typically divided into four categories based on how they grow: yeasts (single-cell fungi), molds (multi-celled fungi), smuts (fungi that infect other plants) and mushrooms.
Unbelievably, mushrooms are really more metabolically related to people than to plants. In contrast to plants, which absorb carbon dioxide and release oxygen, mushrooms absorb oxygen and release carbon dioxide. Shortly, we can say that they breathe similarly to how people do.
However, due to their hard cell walls comprised of poly-saccharides or more precisely, cell walls built of long chains of interconnected carbohydrate molecules, mushrooms functionally resemble plants more than animals. The chain components of these polysaccharides can be linked together in a variety of ways, making them highly complicated.
These links can be categorised, for example, according to whether they have a "alpha linkage" or “beta linkage." "Alpha linked" polysaccharides are present in basic starches like wheat, rice and potatoes. They are digested and broken down by our systems.
However, "beta-linked" polysaccharides, sometimes referred to as beta-glucans, are the primary component of the cell walls of mushrooms. Because they make up a substantial portion of the cell walls of mushrooms, these beta-glucans are a unique class of polysaccharide that significantly affects the immune system.
How Do Mushrooms Boost Our Immune Systems?
Mushrooms contain an interesting compound called beta-glucan. When we consume mushrooms, beta-glucan is absorbed into our bodies, where it interacts with immune cells (macrophages). This interaction helps us fight off illness in two main ways. First, when bacteria enter our bloodstreams, macrophages recognse them as foreign invaders and destroy them before they can make us sick. Second, macrophages are able to multiply more rapidly than they would without beta-glucan, so they’re able to perform their duties more quickly—and prevent illness.
Our bodies' primary immune cells become more cytotoxic as a result of fungal polysaccharide binding, which enables our immune cells to more effectively target and eliminate invaders. Mushroom polysaccharides are referred to as "biological response modifiers" since they also cause a broad immune system activation.
Studies have demonstrated that mushrooms may both soothe - an underactive immune system and a hyperactive immune system.
How They Are Prepared Matters
Mushrooms may be cultivated and processed in a variety of ways for therapeutic purposes, and this can have a significant impact on the final chemicals they contain and the ways in which they might influence our immune systems. The majority of medical mushroom products are either prepared from entire fruiting bodies, mycelium on grains, or a mix of both.
The phrase "mycelium on grain" means precisely what it says. It is created using mycelium, or the "roots" of the fungus, which are cultivated on sterile cereal grains such brown rice or oats. Supplements produced from mycelium grown on grain have high starch content but low fungal polysaccharide content. This is due to a significant proportion of grain still present in the finished product.
There are lots of different mushrooms that people use for immune support, but the most popular are probably Chaga or Reishi - both which can be found in Rejuvenate, known for promoting deeper sleep, reducing stress & anxiety AND boosting your immune system.