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July 29, 2021 3 min read

What Are Prebiotics?

Chances are you’ve heard the word “probiotic” being thrown around in the health and wellness space in recent years, mostly in conjunction with gut health. But have you ever heard ofprebiotics? Prebiotic foods play a major (and under-appreciated) role in gut health as well by helping “feed” probiotics and increase overall wellbeing, forming an almost symbiotic relationship. Essentially, they are a precursor to probiotics and together, they can totally increase the nutritional power of the healthy foods you eat. 

So what are prebiotics? By definition, prebiotics are non-digestible fibre compounds that are degraded by gut microbiota and are often lacking in the standard American diet. As such, people who may not get enough prebiotics in their diet can experience indigestion, inflammation, weight gain among other conditions. 

Now, you may be wondering… are all mushrooms prebiotic? Well, in today’s blog post we’re covering prebiotic mushrooms and their amazing health benefits. 

Are All Mushrooms Prebiotic?

Mushrooms are not typically top of mind when it comes to probiotics, are they? However, if you consider their carbohydrate profile, it’s not hard to see why you should include these fungi into your diet so that you can improve your overall gut health. You see, mushrooms are a great source of prebiotics because they contain a variety of carbohydrates like chitin, xylans and galactans.

While mushrooms have been used for medicinal purposes for centuries, their effect on gut health has yet to be fully investigated and understood, hence the elusive question “are all mushrooms prebiotic?”

However, according tothis article written by Dr. Jian -Yong Wu,mushrooms are recognized as a promising source of prebiotic fibers with beneficial effects on the gut microbiota and human health. Several recent studies have shown the potential prebiotic functions of polysaccharides from some important functional mushrooms. 

What are the benefits of Prebiotic Mushrooms?

It has been foundthat mushrooms do, in fact, play an important role in supporting the immune system since they act as a prebiotic to stimulate the growth of gut microbiota. For example, white button mushrooms are shown to increase microbial diversity and support local inflammatory response. Another study found that Reishi mushrooms contained prebiotic properties, which helped maintain healthy body weight and supported inflammation response.

That same study found portobello mushrooms positively affect antioxidant levels and morphology of intestinal microbiota. Additionally, Chaga mushrooms were said to have gut health benefits including supporting gastrointestinal health, bacterial flora and gut function. 

Overall, the study added that mushrooms’ numerous active polysaccharides and phenolic compounds make them “biologically valuable” and that “ mushrooms can act as immunomodulatory agents to support gut microbiota.” 

Types of prebiotic mushrooms & their benefits:

Today, we’re focusing on three different types of prebiotic mushrooms which include reishi, chaga and lion’s mane. Let’s dive into the benefits of each. 

Benefits of Reishi

Known as the “king of mushrooms,” Reishi mushrooms earned that nickname due to their anti-inflammatory properties as well as their ties to mental clarity. They’re also considered to have some of the characteristics of adaptogenic herbs, which help your body deal with the negative effects of stress. 

You can read the full list of the health benefits of reishi mushrooms, but here’s a condensed list:

  • Helps to maintain a healthy functioning immune system 
  • Can help to soothe body and mind before a quality night’s sleep
  • Helps to maintain healthy digestion and good gut bacteria
  • Helps to maintain the body’s overall well-being
  • Helps to support the body in its response to stress

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Benefits of Chaga

These mushrooms have been used as traditional medicine in Northern European countries as well as Russia for hundreds of years. Today, Chaga mushrooms are mostly enjoyed in coffee, tea or as a supplement. 

Why should you include chaga in your diet? Here are our top five reasons:

  • Healthy immune function
  • A balanced response to stress
  • Optimal Digestive function
  • Help to fight free radicals in the skin and support the maintenance of healthy skin and function

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Benefits of Lion’s Mane

Lion’s mane-based supplements have soared in popularity recently and for excellent reason. Research shows that these mushrooms contain anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and immune-stimulating properties. They’ve been used for thousands of years as a medicinal mushroom, especially among traditional Chinese medicine practitioners.

Some health benefits of lion’s mane mushrooms include:

  • May improve cognitive functioning
  • May boost mood and concentration levels
  • May help to relieve symptoms of depression and anxiety
  • May assist in nervous system support
  • May help to aid a healthy digestion
  • May help in healthy digestion
  • Contains properties that help support a healthy immune system

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