Did you know that eating shiitake mushrooms is a delicious way to boost your immune system? These medicinal mushrooms are part of the traditional cuisine of China, Japan and Korea. And, their use for boosting immunity recorded for over two thousand years.
Modern research methods back up the traditional medicinal use. They confirm that shiitake mushrooms have many health benefits, including:
- Prevention and treatment of colds and flu
- Increased resistance to bacterial and fungal pathogens
- Protection against hepatitis infection and prevents liver damage
- Prevention of heart disease, lowering high blood pressure and cholesterol levels
- Prolonging survival times for several types of cancer, including leukaemia
- Helping to prevent tumours from spreading to other parts of the body
- Balancing the immune system, reducing autoimmune reactions, chronic low-grade inflammation and allergies
- Increased resistance to HIV infection and increases T cell count in HIV patients
- May help to break down beta-amyloid plaque associated with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia
Shiitake mushrooms are high in B vitamins. They also contain selenium and other medicinally active compounds called polysaccharides. The polysaccharides, made from glucose molecules linked together are indigestible by humans. Our digestive enzymes are unable to break the links between the sugar molecules. So these polysaccharides are forms of dietary fibre. Travelling through the digestive tract mostly intact, until reaching the colon.
Lining our digestive tract is a large amount of immune system tissue. It is known as gut associated lymphoid tissue, or GALT. Immune cells in GALT respond to the presence of mushroom polysaccharides in the gut. Stimulating production of certain types of immune cells.
Shiitake and other medicinal mushrooms, modify and balance the immune system. Stimulating production of the immune cells responsible for fighting infections and cancer. Whilst calming any over activity responsible for autoimmune reactions, chronic inflammation and allergies.
Research shows that gut bacteria ferment the mushroom polysaccharides. This can have a major influence on the composition of the gut microbial community. The fermentation products may also contribute to the beneficial effects on the immune system.
Eating either fresh and dried shiitake mushrooms can boost the immune system. Fresh shiitake mushrooms are often available in the vegetable section of the larger supermarkets. Use them in cooking in the same way as common white mushrooms.
Dried shiitake mushrooms are available too. Soak them for 30 to 60 minutes and remove the stalk befor cooking, as it can be tough. Use the soaked mushrooms the same as the fresh shiitake mushrooms.
The raw mushrooms are also edible. In fact, cooking reduces the medicinal value. But some people have found that the raw mushrooms can cause an allergic reaction. This skin reaction is called shiitake dermatitis. As a general precaution avoid shiitake mushrooms if you have a known mushroom allergy.
Otherwise, shiitake mushrooms are safe and suitable for long term use. In fact, in the Far East they are eaten to increase longevity. Just one or two shiitake mushrooms a day is all you need to boost your immune system.
They are also safe alongside prescription medication. With no known interactions. In fact, in Japan, shiitake mushrooms are licensed for use alongside chemotherapy to help boost its effectiveness.