Functional mushrooms are the richest dietary source of beta glucans. These polysaccharides are produced through fermentation and act as prebiotics in the gut. This means they feed the beneficial bacteria while also inhibiting opportunistic or harmful bacteria. They are natural biological response modifiers or immune modulators.
What are Short Chain Fatty Acids?
Beta glucans increase the number of bacteria that produce short-chain fatty acids (SCFA’s). These are perhaps the most important players in the microbiome. They are anti-inflammatory, anti-tumor, and have antimicrobial effects. Butyrate is a SCFA that is being studied at length for its effect on metabolic health, inflammation and cancer.
More than Just Immunity
Functional mushrooms are known for supporting gut and immune health, however, we know that there are also many other health benefits to consuming mushrooms. Bioactive substances like triterpenes and sterols all have the potential to regulate metabolic and cardiovascular markers like blood sugar, cholesterol and blood pressure.
Mood, Energy, and Aging
The polysaccharides from functional mushrooms are excellent for those struggling with fatigue. Lion’s Mane has demonstrated an ability to reduce anxiety and improve mood, as well as support memory and cognition when used regularly. Cordyceps is known for its ability to enhance performance and energy. Chaga is the most powerful mushroom when it comes to antioxidant content. The phenolic and indolic compounds along with mycosteroids help resolve inflammation. All of the functional mushrooms have the benefits of regulating metabolism.
Low levels of SCFAs may be a contributing factor in the rise of inflammatory disease in the West. The immunomodulating effects of mushrooms are due to their high beta glucan content. These polysaccharides are embedded in the cell wall of mushrooms.