Your gut might not be the most obvious place to look for the origins of mental health disorders like depression and anxiety, but more and more research suggests that gut health can have a profound influence on a person’s mental well-being.
In this article, we’ll be exploring the brain-gut connection and how certain functional mushrooms can support a healthy, balanced gut.
How is gut health and mental health connected?
Your gut (also known as your gastrointestinal tract) is a group of organs, including your esophagus, stomach, and intestines. These organs are involved in digesting food and processing it into waste.
Often called “the second brain,” the lining of your gut communicates back and forth with your actual brain via chemicals like hormones and neurotransmitters. Think of it like a really advanced game of telephone. The chemical messages that pass between the brain and the gut can be affected by the microbes (bacteria, viruses, fungi, etc.) that live in the gut, collectively referred to as the “gut microbiome.”
Every person’s gut contains a mix of beneficial bacteria, neutral bacteria, and harmful bacteria. A healthy gut that is flourishing with good bacteria has the potential to improve your overall
health, including your mental well-being. An out-of-balance gut that is overrun with bad bacteria, on the other hand, can open the door to health issues, including mental health disorders.
A 2019 study published in the Journal of Neuroscience Research showed that alterations in the gut microbiome and inflammation in the gut can affect the brain and promote mental health
How functional mushrooms can support your gut health
There are many things you can do to support your gut health and, consequently, your mental health. These include eating a varied diet rich in plant foods, consuming probiotic-rich foods, and reducing stress, to name a few.
One thing that most aren’t aware of, however, is that consuming certain functional mushrooms can also support your gut health. Mushrooms’ positive effects on gut health are primarily due to their prebiotic components—alpha- and beta-glucans, chitin, mannans, galactans, xylans, and hemicellulose.[*][*] Prebiotics act as “food” to probiotics—the beneficial bacteria that exist within your microbiome. As such, the prebiotics from mushrooms can help increase the amount of friendly bacteria in the digestive system.
While all mushrooms will act as prebiotics within your gut, certain medicinal mushrooms are especially beneficial to gut health.
Research shows that Turkey Tail increases beneficial bacterial species in the gut, including Bifidobacterium spp. and Lactobacillus spp, and decreases harmful gut bacteria, including Clostridium spp., Staphylococcus spp. and Enterococcus spp.[*]
Turkey Tail has also been shown to help stabilize the microbiome after a course of biome-disrupting antibiotics.[*]
Studies suggest that Lion’s Mane supports the growth of good bacteria in the gut, protects against gastric ulcers, serves as a protective nutrient against inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), and prevents the growth of helicobacter pylori (H. pylori), a bacteria that can infect the digestive tract.[*][*][*][*][*]
Additionally, Lion’s Mane contains anti-inflammatory properties that help stabilize mood and reduce stress, thereby supporting a healthy digestive system.
Reishi has been shown to support intestinal cell integrity, protect against ulcers, and help balance the gut microbiome.[*][*][*] As the ultimate anti-stress mushroom, Reishi also supports a healthy gut through its stress-reducing properties.
As a potent antioxidant, Chaga helps scavenge free radicals and harmful oxidized molecules that can damage your DNA and cause inflammation, which is linked to conditions like inflammatory bowel disease, Crohn’s disease, and ulcerative colitis.[*][*]
Additionally, the immune-modulating properties of Chaga can help down-regulate the inflammatory cascade that accompanies an unbalanced gut microbiome.
The bottom line
The brain and gut are intimately connected. Gut health can affect mental health and vice versa. Taking care of and nourishing your gut is key to living your healthiest, happiest life.
Take the first step to improving your gut health and digestive power by exploring Forage Hyperfood’s line of high-quality medical mushroom products.