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6 Best Mushrooms for Gut Health: A Guide to Medicinal Varieties

mushrooms in a wooden bowl on a dinner table, best mushrooms for gut health

Key Takeaways

  • Medicinal mushrooms like Reishi, Chaga, and Lion's Mane enhance gut health by promoting beneficial bacteria and reducing inflammation.
  • Mushrooms have prebiotics and antioxidants, supporting the digestive system and protecting against chronic illnesses.
  • Reishi mushrooms, known as the "king of mushrooms," offer anti-inflammatory benefits and boost immunity.
  • Chaga mushrooms, rich in betulinic acid, aid in gastrointestinal health and may have potential in cancer treatment.
  • Turkey Tail mushrooms, containing polysaccharopeptides, regulate the gut microbiome and combat cancers and infections.
  • Lion's Mane mushrooms improve cognitive function and prevent the growth of harmful gut bacteria.
  • Shiitake mushrooms, popular in cooking, also boost the gut microbiome and regulate cholesterol levels.
  • Maitake mushrooms strengthen the immune system and may aid in weight loss by improving gut flora composition.
  • Incorporating a variety of foods, reducing processed food intake, and staying hydrated are key to maintaining good gut health.

Imagine a world where improving your health could be as simple as adding a dash of earthy goodness to your plate. Mushrooms have long been celebrated for their unique flavours and textures, but their potential benefits for our digestive system are just beginning to gain the attention they deserve.  In this article, we will uncover the 6 best mushrooms for gut health for a happier tummy and a healthier you.

How Mushrooms Can Help Gut Health

Medicinal forms of edible mushrooms contain substances called prebiotics in the form of non-digestible polysaccharides. Prebiotics limit the growth of bad bacteria in the gut. At the same time, they enhance the growth of trillions of beneficial gut bacteria.

If your delicate gut balance isn't maintained properly, it can cause problems in the way you metabolize your food (i.e., poor digestion and absorption of nutrients). This can lead to inflammation in the intestine and connected systems like the liver and brain. It also impacts how well you can utilize your food for energy.

These mushrooms contain antioxidants like selenium, which work to prevent cell damage by free radicals that result in chronic illnesses like heart disease and cancer.

They contain beta-glucans, a type of fibre that improves cholesterol levels. They also contain substances that help boost your immune system, protecting against infection and disease in the gut. For example, conditions like stomach ulcers.

Best 6 Medicinal Mushrooms for Gut Health

With that said, let's now take a closer look at the best mushrooms for gut health (in no particular order!):

1. Reishi Mushroom (Ganoderma lucidum)

reishi mushrooms on a tree, best mushrooms for gut health

Reishi mushrooms are a type of medicinal mushroom that has been the pride of Traditional Chinese Medicine for thousands of years. Because of its profound benefits to humans for overall health and well-being, it's also referred to as the "king of mushrooms."

Reishi mushroom, in particular, has strong anti-inflammatory properties and has been traditionally linked to longevity, improved immunity, and increased mental clarity (no surprises there, considering poor gut health may be one of the causes of brain fog!).

Reishi mushrooms have also been identified by scientific research as immunomodulators, i.e., they help improve the body's response to inflammation in the gut caused by a high-cholesterol diet.

If Reishi mushrooms have sparked your interest, check our in-depth guide to buying the best Reishi mushroom extracts in Australia.

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2. Chaga Mushroom (Inonotus Obliquus)

chaga mushroom in a ceramic bowl, best mushrooms for gut health

Chaga mushrooms contain betulinic acid derivatives and melano-glucan complexes used to treat gastrointestinal disorders, including conditions like ulcerative colitis, as well as cancers, and various viral and bacterial infections. They are typically boiled and drunk in the form of tea. There is evidence that suggests Chaga mushrooms may be developed further to treat colon cancer.

Betulinic acid, particularly, has antiviral, antibacterial, and anti-inflammatory properties, all of which help to maintain a healthy bowel by protecting the gastric mucous.

Want to know where to buy the best Chaga mushrooms in Australia? This guide can help!

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3. Turkey Tail Mushroom (Trametes Versicolor)

turkey tail mushroom in close up photography, , best mushrooms for gut health

Studies show that turkey tail mushrooms contain a substance called polysaccharopeptides (PSP), which may positively alter the bacterial gut flora, regulating the gut microbiome. Because Turkey Tail mushrooms are rich in polysaccharides, they have been used extensively in traditional medicine to treat various types of cancers and fungal infections.

Turkey Tail is also a powerful anti-inflammatory agent, which means it helps protect the human gut (and the rest of the body!) from toxins, viruses, and bacteria.

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4. Lion's Mane Mushroom (Hericium erinaceus)

lions mane mushroom, best mushrooms for gut health

Lion's Mane mushrooms provide a wide range of health benefits, such as improving cognitive function and reducing inflammation, which is crucial in bowel disease management. It may alleviate the symptoms of anxiety and depression, and boost the immune system.

From a gut and digestive health perspective, early research shows that Lion's Mane mushrooms may help improve or maintain gut health by preventing the growth of a bacteria that lives in and feeds off of the digestive tract called Helicobacter Pylori or H.pylori for short.

Find out where you can buy the best Lion's Mane mushrooms here.

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5. Shiitake Mushroom (Lentinula edodes)

shiitake mushrooms in a wooden bowl, best mushrooms for gut health

Shiitake mushrooms are very popular in the culinary world for their dense texture and rich, flavourful taste. But aside from being delicious fungi, they're also well-known the world over for their health benefits, especially for the gut.

They contain similar compounds as other mushrooms known for improving the gut microbiome, boosting immunity, and fighting infection.

Worth noting is the presence of b-glucans and eritadenine, both beneficial in helping you feel fuller for longer and regulating cholesterol levels in the body.

So, if you want to lose weight and maintain a healthy stomach, shiitake mushrooms are the route to go!

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6. Maitake Mushroom (Grifola frondosa)

maitake mushrooms in a woven basket, , best mushrooms for gut health

Maitake mushrooms¬†have been shown to powerfully boost the immune system and module the activity of tumour cells due to the presence of polysaccharides, natural oligofructoses, fructose-oligosaccharides (FOS), lactulose, galactomannan, and indigestible polydextrose, indigestible dextrin, proteoglycan, and ő≤-glucans. In other words, it helps protect your gut from infection and disease.

Some evidence suggests that maitake mushrooms help promote weight loss by improving the composition of gut flora.

Want to grow gourmet and medicinal mushrooms at home? Read our guide that tells you how!

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Best Practices for Maintaining Good Gut Health

While we're on the topic of maintaining good health, let's also look at best practices to adopt if you want to maintain a healthy gut (aside from eating mushrooms!).

Remember, health, in general, involves several different holistic practices. Eating mushrooms alone won't necessarily check all the right boxes for perfect health!

Include lots of fibre in your diet

Fibre helps improve the quality of our digestion and the way we absorb nutrients from the foods we eat. The process of breaking down fibre in the stomach results in the formation of byproducts, which are beneficial in preventing chronic diseases like bowel cancer. Think vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, breads, cereals, beans, and legumes.

Ensure diversity in the foods you're eating

Eating from a diverse range of fruits, vegetables, proteins, whole grains, seafood, lean poultry, and meat, ensures you're not losing out on precious vitamins and minerals. The more diverse your meals, the more you can ensure complete nutrition for your body.

Also, ensure to pick from foods rich in compounds called polyphenols for your daily diet. They are your gut's friends. Think foods like richly coloured fruits and vegetables, nuts, seeds, cacao, dark chocolate, caffeine (in moderation), herbs, and spices.

Avoid or limit  your intake of ultra-processed foods

As far as possible, limit processed foods like deli meats, breakfast cereals, packaged snacks like chips, sauces, and so on. While they're convenient, they contain not-so-healthy substances like unhealthy fats, additives, artificial sweeteners, and additional salt/sugar, which can upset the delicate balance of your gut's microbiome.

Stock up on fermented foods

Fermented foods contain probiotics that are known to be beneficial for gut health. Choose from foods like yoghurt, tempeh, kefir, sauerkraut, kimchi, and popular beverages like kombucha.

Top up with water

Water helps ease the passage and breakdown of food into small components that can be used and absorbed by the body for nutrition. Drinking lots of water helps prevent constipation and maintains a healthy balance of good bacteria vs. bad bacteria in the gut.

Also, ensure you're managing your stress effectively, sleeping properly, preferably avoiding alcohol and smoking, and exercising regularly. These can have an impact on how well your body is able to perform its functions.

Also read: Should I take mushroom supplements?

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Q1 What mushroom is best for gut health?

Reishi, Chaga, Turkey Tail, Lion's Mane, and Shiitake mushrooms are all good for promoting gut health and an optimally functioning digestive system. Scroll further up in this article to learn the specific gut health benefits of each mushroom type.

Q2 Do mushrooms improve gut health?

Yes, mushrooms may help improve gut health. They contain substances that promote healthy gut bacteria while limiting the growth of bad microorganisms in the gut.

They also have anti-inflammatory, immune-boosting, and anti-oxidant properties, which means they help fight infection, disease, and inflammation. In this manner, they protect you from chronic medical conditions like heart disease and cancer.

Q3. Which mushroom is best for IBS?

The mushrooms we've mentioned on this list, such as Reishi, Chaga, Turkey Tail, Lion's Mane, and Shiitake mushrooms, may all be beneficial for alleviating the symptoms of IBS.

Ensure you eliminate foods from your diet that may be causing food intolerances as well as foods known for being hi-gas.

Also, limit your intake of ultra-processed foods like deli meats, breakfast cereals, and packaged snacks like chips, cookies, and biscuits. Drink plenty of fluids, especially water, follow a healthy diet incorporating a diverse range of foods, and maintain a consistent exercise regime for best results.

Q4. How can I tell if I have poor gut health?

You may have poor gut health if you experience symptoms like frequent bloating, gas, diarrhea, constipation, or abdominal pain.

Additionally, unexplained fatigue, skin irritations, and changes in mood can also be indicators of an imbalanced gut microbiome.

Final Thoughts

Mushrooms aren't just tasty additions to our meals; they're natural allies for our digestive well-being. Achieving better gut health doesn't have to be complicated. You can incorporate these fantastic fungi into your everyday meals, making it easier than ever to reap the benefits. What if the journey to better gut health could start with a bite of one of these delicious mushrooms?

Portabello mushroom burger anyone?

Darcy Ogdon-Nolan

Author

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