Welcome to the Winter Wellness series! In the next series of posts we will highlight a different immune-boosting nutrient each day, to help you navigate the large maze of supplements and get through the cold and flu season with as few sniffles as possible. Keep in mind that we all get exposed to and feel the beginnings of colds, but the stronger we keep our immune systems the shorter and less severe the infection course will be, hopefully with no down time to suffer through. To kick off the week, we’ll take a look at something that should be in everyone’s Sunday dinner salad….
As winter draws near and farmer’s markets disappear, it becomes harder to create those beautiful, colorful salads. Overlooked by many because of their lack of color, mushrooms are seriously underrated. They are actually packed with immune-supporting substances. Maitake mushrooms in particular have been studied extensively, but even the common white button mushroom has shown considerable evidence of benefits.
Substances called polysaccharides (specific carbohydrate structures) in mushrooms show ability to activate macrophages (the large cells responsible for “swallowing” infectious material) and natural killer cells. They also seem to exert stimulatory effects on T-Cells, and B-Cells (thereby both the immediate and learned immune response). One might find them in supplements listed at 1,3 Beta Glucan, or in a proprietary blend from Japan by the name of AHCC.
Mushrooms also contain high levels of a form of Omega 3 fatty acid called CLA (Conjugated Linoleic Acid), which has been studied for its anti-tumor activity. It is not yet certain how this activity occurs, but several immune effects are being considered.
Finally, high levels of antioxidants in mushrooms help protect your body’s organs and tissues from free radical damage. In one study comparing vegetable ORAC values (a system designed to test antioxidant potency), mushrooms proved just as valuable as green beans, broccoli, and red peppers.
Be sure to add mushrooms to your weekly diet this winter to boost your body’s ability to ward off infections. If you do feel something trying to take hold at some point, consider using a supplement containing a mushroom extract to help fight it quickly.
Stimulation of humoral and cell mediated immunity by polysaccharide from mushroom phellinus linteus International Journal of Immunopharmacology Volume 18, Issue 5, May 1996, Pages 295-303. Kim HM, Han SB, Oh GT, Kim YH, Hong DH, Hong ND, Yoo ID.
Immunological effect of active hexose correlated compound (AHCC) in healthy volunteers: a double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. Nutr Cancer. 2008;60(5):643-51. Terakawa N, Matsui Y, Satoi S, Yanagimoto H, Takahashi K, Yamamoto T, Yamao J, Takai S, Kwon AH, Kamiyama Y