Mushrooms are sometimes thought of as not having lots of nutrient value, but actually, the beta-glucans found in mushrooms such as maitake, shitake and reishi mushrooms are powerhouses, known for their immune stimulating properties.  Beta-glucans are sugars found in the cell walls of bacteria, fungi, yeast, algae, lichens and plants (1). They are used medicinally for high cholesterol, diabetes, cancer, HIV and AIDS, as well as an immune booster for flu, colds, allergies and those undergoing radiation (1).

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Studies have shown that yeast and mushroom beta-glucans activate white blood cells by binding to receptors on the outer membranes of neutrophils, macrophages, natural killer cells and cytotoxic Y cells .

-The Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine

The biochemistry of beta-glucans

The binding of the beta-glucan to cellular receptors activates white blood cells (WBC) and signaling proteins, leading to increased immune function (2).   Beta glucans are considered anticarcinogenic as they can prevent tumor growth and prevent metastasis, while promoting leucocyte recovery (2).  The two cancers that have been most studied are breast and GI cancers, and have shown the most reduced risk with the supplementation of beta-glucans (3).

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For those needing an immune boost, consider adding reishi, maitake and shittake mushrooms to your regimen in whole food form or powder. I love the four sigmatic blends as well as mushroom extracts added to smoothies or coffee for this extra immune boost. I’ve also added mushroom powder into homemade chocolate as well!  Shittake mushrooms are a delicious addition to the diet, especially gently roasted with olive oil, or made into the more popular “shittake” bacon.  






4 Murray and Pizzorno. Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine.



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