Magic Mushrooms: An Acupuncturist's Approach to More Immune Boosting Foods. Part IV of Constantly Sick in CO, What can we do?
East meets west for a comprehensive approach to boost immunity
Last week I wrote about the power of greens. I hope you’ve all been getting in lots and lots of dosages of greens every single day, since reading about how important they are for boosting your immunity.
This week, I’m going to focus on another food that is essential for not only warding off the viruses and bacterium that cause the common cold, but for fighting cancer and inflammatory conditions: Mushrooms!
Now don’t get too worried (or excited, whichever the case may be), I’m not some crazy acupuncturist talking about the magical kind that will lead you down into mysterious worlds like Alice’s wonderland. However, I am talking about the everyday variety that we can get at the grocery store, which can lead you down the even more exciting road to health.
The magic in mushrooms
Mushrooms have been shown to act powerfully against:
- Virus infected cells: by increasing our immune system’s Natural Killer Cell’s (NKC) ability to detect, attack, and remove cells which have been infected with a virus
- Breast Cancer: by inhibiting the enzyme “aromatase” which produces estrogen and is linked to estrogen-dependent cancers.
- All cancers: by slowing cancer growth, killing cancer cells, preventing cancerous tissue from developing a blood supply (which is necessary for tumor growth), and preventing damage to cell DNA.
- Auto-immune/Inflammatory Conditions like Rheumatoid Arthritis, Lupus, and MS: by the action of their compounds that down-regulate the “inflammatory cascade” which is at the root of the bone and tissue destruction in auto-immune conditions.
- Bacterium: Let’s not forget that penicillin…one of the most impactful medicines in the history of humanity, was simply from a mold/fungus, which is what mushrooms are.
Let’s start with the first one and go down the list.
Viruses: First, we’ll talk about viruses, which are the main culprit and inspiration for this article series, since they are the cause of most common colds. Mushrooms have been shown, among other things, to stimulate interferon production, which is a substance produced by the immune system’s white blood cells to fight viruses. If you know anyone with Hep C, you may have heard of interferon therapy, which is used in western medicine to treat the Hepatitis C Virus which destroys the liver.
Breast Cancer: We’re probably all familiar at this point with the fact that many cancers are “estrogen dependent”, meaning that they need estrogen to grow and thrive. This is why thousands of women were taken off of hormone replacement therapy, which supplied estrogen to women after menopause.
The problem they have discovered is that in lieu of added estrogen, there are cells in areas like breast tissue that will just go ahead and produce their own estrogen, via the enzyme aromatase.
However, mushrooms inhibit this enzyme, preventing estrogen production. The most incredibly thing is that even a small amount of daily mushroom intake (the equivalent of one button mushroom!) was shown to decrease the risk of breast cancer by 64%!
Perimenopausal women who combined the mushrooms with daily green tea reduced their risk by 89%, while postmenopausal women had a 82% reduced risk.
Incredible! Stop reading right now and go to the store and get your button mushrooms! OK, you can continue reading, but please remember to put these magic friends on your grocery list every week!
Here’s a breakdown of mushrooms by their ranking for anti-aromatase activity:
- High Activity (focus on these): button, cremini, Portobello, reishi, maitake
- Mild Activity: Shiitake, chanterelle, baby button
- Little or no Activity: Oyster, wood ear
All cancers: Tumors rely on a blood supply to grow. Angiogenesis means the growth of new blood vessels. Growths (cancers and all tumors) and fat secrete compounds which enable them to grow by promoting angiogenesis.
But you guessed it, mushrooms contain an angiogenesis inhibitor which stops the growth of these tissues. Bye bye tumors! Drugs have been created which do this very same thing, but why not get these substances from our food supply long before cancerous cells have been able to grow to detectable sizes, meaning before we are facing the diagnosis we all dread: cancer.
Autoimmune/Inflammatory Conditions: As stated above, mushrooms have compounds which down-regulate the “inflammatory cascade”. This means they will be highly beneficial for any inflammatory condition, which many are believing is the root of most chronic illnesses.
Our modern diet is highly inflammatory, but fresh foods, including mushrooms, can counteract that. Not only that, but some mushrooms have been showing promise in healing nerve damage, which is very promising for neurological conditions such as MS.
What does Acupuncture theory say about Mushrooms?
Before we end this article, I’ll add in a little bit of interesting acupuncture information about mushrooms.
Most mushrooms are recognized as ridding “dampness” from the body. In case you’re not my patient and you’ve never heard this term, or you are my patient and this has not been part of your conditions, “damp” basically means any condition arising from mucous-like conditions in the body, what I like to call “sludge” because everyone can relate to that.
Often, buildups of tissue are due to this “damp stagnation”, which over time can form a more serious consistency, called “phlegm” (a bad term, as in English we relate this just to what comes out of our nose and lungs).
Damp and phlegm can reside anywhere in our body, forming inflammation, fluid accumulation, discharges, overweight, and cysts or tumors. Therefore, any food that helps clear damp out of the body is going to be naturally anti-cancer.
Phlegm can also block the movement of Qi, which over time can become seriously stagnant, leading to liver imbalance (since you may recall, the liver is responsible for moving the Qi and impacted by stagnant Qi).
You may also recall that I said that the liver is directly related to our feelings of stress, and stress has become seen as a number one cause of low immunity and therefore illness.
Also, when the Qi becomes stagnant and there is phlegm blockage, the blood easily becomes stagnant too, which could lead to cancerous tumors with blood supply.
So, as you can see from a Chinese medicine and holistic approach, everything in the body is connected. Anything good we do ripples out and causes waves of beneficial reactions throughout your whole body, as does anything “bad” that we do.
Thanks for taking the time to read yet another very lengthy article about the immune system.
Have you considered joining this journey to Supercharged Immunity with me? If you are not sure what I am referring to, please refer back to Part II of this article series, which is posted on my blog. Soon, I will write about some important supplements that all of us can take to fast-forward this journey to vibrant immunity.
Stay tuned for next week, which will bring up yet another group of foods that combined with mushrooms and greens, can make you into Immune Superwoman!