Mushrooms may boost the body’s natural immune system
The potential for mushrooms to fight influenza is being examined following United States research suggesting the body’s natural immune response against viral infections and tumours is boosted through the consumption of white button mushrooms.
Tufts University laboratory research published in The Journal of Nutrition showed mushroom intake was able to enhance the body’s own bug fighters, killer cells and cytokines, the latter being hormone-like proteins that play an important role in defending the body against viral infections and tumours.
Accredited Practising Dietitian and healthy eating specialist, Glenn Cardwell, said the research highlighted that mushrooms may boost the body’s natural immune system. “Laboratory research found that the intake of mushrooms may promote innate immunity – the body’s first line of defence – against viruses. Further studies involving influenza infection are now underway to test these findings.”
Mr Cardwell said the current trials are examining the impact of different mushroom intake levels against the influenza virus, looking at both the immune response and the clearance of the virus. “The evidence gained in the study will assist researchers to better understand the underlying mechanism of immune response and lead to longer term plans to directly test the effectiveness in human clinical trials.”
“What they are essentially looking for is how mushrooms – one of Nature’s true superfoods – can be used as a real food ‘elixir of immunity’ to help prevent influenza. Mr Cardwell said current concerns over the impact of influenza, particularly the swine flu, highlighted the need to eat a balanced diet that includes foods that can naturally boost the immune system. “While it is always tempting to reach for a quick fix vitamin or medical supplement, real food alternatives, such as the mushroom, are a healthier long term choice,” he said.
Mushrooms: Can They Prevent Colds and Flu?
from HealthMad By Kristie Leong MD on September 2nd, 2009
Are you looking for a natural way to prevent colds and viruses this season? Here’s a plant based food that will keep your immune system primed.
With cold and flu season looming on the horizon, many Americans are looking for natural ways to reduce their risk of illness. Such common sense measures as hand washing and getting enough sleep can go far towards preventing colds and flu. Another factor that plays an important role in immunity is diet. Some foods have been shown to enhance the immune system, the body’s primary defense against infection. One particular food type that’s shown a great deal of potential for disease prevention is mushrooms. Not only do mushrooms show promise in warding off cancer, but they also have anti-viral and anti-bacterial properties that make them the perfect foods for cold and flu season.
One component of mushrooms that makes them effective against cold and flu viruses are a group of compounds called beta-glucans. These polysaccharides are found in high amounts in three types of mushrooms – Reishi, Shiitake, and Maitake. Beta-glucans have the ability to activate the immune system without overstimulation which could cause problems. One group of studies showed that beta-glucans given after surgery reduced the incidence of post-surgical infections due to their immune enhancing capabilities. Beta glucans have also been shown to protect laboratory mice against anthrax. Because of their immune stimulating properties, they’re frequently used as an adjuvant to cancer chemotherapy in Japan. Beta glucans have also shown promise in the treatment of HIV infection. One of the very best sources of these immune boosting polysaccharides is the maitake mushroom which can be found at many natural food markets or ordered online.
Shiitake: Another Way to Prevent Colds and Flu
Another study showed that lentinan, a beta-glucan found in Shiitake mushrooms has strong immune enhancing properties. Lentinan is found not only in mushrooms, but also in some fruits and cereals, but the Shiitake is one of the very best sources. The best way to get the benefits of lentinan for preventing colds and flu is to buy fresh or dried Shiitake mushrooms from a natural food market and use them in recipes or as a side dish. Shiitake mushrooms should always be cooked since some people can have an allergic-type reaction to raw shiitakes.
The Bottom Line
Eating more mushrooms may be a simple, natural way to boost the immune system to prevent colds and flu this winter. Although most varieties of mushrooms have immune stimulating properties, maitake, shiitake, and reishi are three of the best. They can be found at most natural food markets either fresh or dried in plastic bags in the Japanese food section. Dried mushrooms are simple to reconstitute by adding water. If you’re worried about preventing colds and flu, add a few of these mushrooms to your diet each day and stay healthy this winter.