Gut health is at the center of both mental and physical well-being. In fact, healthy energy levels, neurotransmitter production, and immune functions all depend on a healthy gut.
While the best way to support a healthy gut will always be to maintain a healthy diet, there are some additional routes you can take to help ensure a healthy gut microbiome. Certain foods, such as mushrooms, have been shown to have a positive impact on gut health.
Here, we’ll explore the best mushroom for gut health and everything you need to know about incorporating mushrooms to help balance your gut’s microbiome. Let’s start with the basics:
Table of Contents
Many mushrooms contain prebiotic fiber that helps to promote a healthy gut microbiome.
Some mushrooms also have anti-inflammatory effects that can help to reduce inflammation in the gut, which is a primary cause of various gut-related illnesses.
Many mushrooms can be used simultaneously to bolster gut health in a way that positively impacts digestion, nutrient uptake, mood, immunity, and more.
What’s in the Gut?
When we say “gut health” you may be thinking about digestion, appetite, and probably even the end result of the digestive process–bowel movements. While all of these things are part of your gut health, the overall picture is much more complex.
The gut microbiome is a complex ecosystem of microorganisms that play an important role in maintaining our overall health and well-being. This gut ecosystem, called a “microbiome” is a growing, living collection of bacteria, yeast, viruses, and other microorganisms that live symbiotically in the large intestine. The “good” bacteria in your gut, often called “probiotics,” is responsible for maintaining the levels of “bad” bacteria and yeasts.
A healthy gut microbiome relies on balance. Both “good” and “bad” bacteria exist at the same time–and both are necessary. The “bad” bacteria is only bad when it’s left unchecked and allowed to overgrow, resulting in an infection. E. Coli, for instance, lives naturally in the gut and is necessary for the production of vitamin K, but an unregulated amount of E Coli in the bloodstream can cause serious illness.
Various factors can play into bad gut health. For instance, genetics, poor diet, food allergies, poor sleep patterns, autoimmune and gastrointestinal conditions can all play a role in dysregulating gut health and causing digestive issues.
As you can see, maintaining gut health is a complex equation, and it has a lot to do with what you eat. Luckily, there are natural ways to support your overall gut health, and that can begin with fiber-packed mushrooms.
How Do Mushrooms Help With Gut Health?
For thousands of years, medicinal mushrooms have been used in Eastern medicine due to their powerful healing properties. These mushrooms contain prebiotics, beta-glucans, and immune-supporting elements that are essential for maintaining proper gut health. Since the majority of the immune system is located in the gastrointestinal system, incorporating medicinal mushrooms into your diet can have a significant impact on supporting this area of the body.
Apart from their immune-supporting properties, mushrooms are a low-calorie, high-protein ingredient that can be easily added to any meal. They are also an excellent source of fiber, which is crucial for digestive health. Adequate fiber intake can improve gut function, regulate blood sugar levels, increase satiety, and keep cholesterol levels in check.
What are the Best Mushrooms for Gut Health?
So, which mushrooms contain the most colorful array of microbiome-bostering components? In reality, most edible and medicinal mushrooms contain a reasonable amount of fiber and vitamins and are reasonably beneficial for your gut.
Still, we know more about some mushrooms than others, and some have specifically been linked to improved gut health and immune system regulation via gut pathways. Let’s take a look at the best mushrooms for gut health and the research that props them up:
Shiitake mushrooms are a popular choice for their rich, savory flavor and numerous health benefits. Among potential cancer fighting and cardiovascular benefits, shiitake mushrooms also have multiple direct links to improved gut health.
For instance, a 2015 study published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition followed 52 healthy males and females between the ages of 21–41 years through a four week trial to determine if daily consumption of shiitake would improve immune function. The study concluded that consuming shiitake regularly improved gut immunity and cell effector function, or the ability of cells to respond to immune stimuli. There was also a notable reduction of inflammation due to shiitake mushroom consumption.
Further studies indicate that the fiber found in shiitake may reduce inflammation in a way that supports digestive and gut health.
Reishi mushrooms have been used for thousands of years in traditional Chinese medicine for their medicinal properties. Like most medicinal mushrooms, they contain a plethora of polysaccharides, which are complex sugars that can help improve gut health by promoting the growth of beneficial bacteria in the gut.
By positively influencing the microbiome, Reishi mushroom may be able to promote wellbeing in a number of ways. According to one study, the mushroom may even prevent and reverse symptoms of obesity in mice, including weight gain and insulin resistance.
Reishi mushrooms also have anti-inflammatory properties, which can help reduce inflammation in the gut and improve digestion. Additionally, they contain antioxidants, which can help protect the gut from oxidative stress.
Lion's Mane Mushrooms
Lion's mane mushrooms contain the compounds hericenones and erinacines, which have been shown to stimulate nerve growth and improve cognitive function. Moreover, Lion’s Mane contains a healthy dose of prebiotic fiber, which can help improve gut health by promoting the growth of beneficial bacteria in the gut. They are also known to have anti-inflammatory properties, which can help reduce inflammation in the gut and improve digestion.
A 2019 study found that lion’s mane may help prevent the growth of Helicobacter pylori, a bacteria that can have negative effects on gut lining. Researchers gave lion’s mane to a group of H. pylori infected mice and found that those receiving lion’s mane had overall lower levels of H. pylori than the control group.
A second study published in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology also revealed that lion’s mane inhibited the growth of H. pylori in test tube samples.
Chaga has been used in traditional medicine for centuries for their medicinal properties. Chaga mushrooms contain a variety of antioxidants, including superoxide dismutase (SOD) and melanin, which can help protect the gut from oxidative stress.
Like other edible mushrooms, they are packed with prebiotic fiber that can improve gut health by promoting the growth of beneficial bacteria in the gut. One study on mice recently found that chaga may even fight harmful bacteria that causes inflammation, especially gastrointestinal inflammation.
Maitake mushroom is also chock full of the prebiotics and anti-inflammatory compounds that benefit gut health, but it may have even more extensive benefits. According to one study, maitake mushrooms have powerful anti-inflammatory effects that may reduce TNFa, a primary inflammatory signal implicated in IBD, colon ulceration, and gut-related free radical damage.
Other research concludes that maitake may help to prevent fat accumulation and increase feelings of fullness.
Mushrooms are a great addition to a healthy diet, and can provide numerous benefits for gut health. Shiitake, reishi, lion's mane, chaga, and maitake mushrooms are all excellent choices for promoting a healthy gut microbiome. They contain a variety of compounds that can help stimulate the immune system, promote the growth of beneficial bacteria in the gut, reduce inflammation, and protect the gut from oxidative stress. Incorporating these mushrooms into your diet can help improve your overall health and well-being.
Of course, trying to incorporate all of these mushrooms into your diet can be difficult due to sourcing and the fast spoil rate of fresh mushrooms. Luckily, there’s another option–mushroom extract.
If you opt to use extracts, it can be pretty easy to incorporate a handful of medicinal mushrooms into your daily routine. Be sure to grab a fruiting body extract as myceliated products contain far fewer beta-glucans, the bioactive components that carry all of mushrooms’ health benefits.
Lucid beverages are a great option. This blend of medicinal mushroom extracts and nootropics helps to improve health from all angles, starting with the gut but also extending to your ability to focus, energy levels, overall immunity, and more.
To learn more about Lucid ingredients, read “Why We Chose Our Ingredients: What’s in a Lucid Stack?” Or, check out one of our three flavor varieties:
- “Consuming Lentinula edodes (Shiitake) Mushrooms Daily Improves Human Immunity: A Randomized Dietary Intervention in Healthy Young Adults” https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25866155/
- “Shiitake Culinary-Medicinal Mushroom, Lentinus edodes (Agaricomycetes), Supplementation Alters Gut Microbiome and Corrects Dyslipidemia in Rats” https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30806258/
- “Ganoderma lucidum reduces obesity in mice by modulating the composition of the gut microbiota” https://www.nature.com/articles/ncomms8489
- “Neurohealth Properties of Hericium erinaceus Mycelia Enriched with Erinacines” https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5987239/
- “International Journal of Medicinal Mushrooms” https://www.dl.begellhouse.com/journals/708ae68d64b17c52,2806f82d786f0ca1,6e9ef24864bd9e52.html
- “Anti-Helicobacter pylori activity of bioactive components isolated from Hericium erinaceus” https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26364939/
- “Superoxide Dismutase Administration: A Review of Proposed Human Uses” https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8037464/
- “Orally administered aqueous extract of Inonotus obliquus ameliorates acute inflammation in dextran sulfate sodium (DSS)-induced colitis in mice” https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22819687/
- “Grifola frondosa water extract alleviates intestinal inflammation by suppressing TNF-α production and its signaling” https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2827831/
- “Grifola frondosa (Maitake) Extract Reduces Fat Accumulation and Improves Health Span in C. elegans through the DAF-16/FOXO and SKN-1/NRF2 Signalling Pathways” https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8620745/