It’s that time of year again. After a long and joyous but no doubt stressful holiday season, it seems that a good portion of our friends and family members have again come down with the cold or flu. My husband and I try and remember to take our vitamin C, zinc and probiotic supplements every day to help ward off the onslaught of germs we come in contact with. This year we decided to add another layer to our defenses by consuming mushroom supplements and extracts, and incorporating more cooked mushrooms into our meals.
Mushrooms have long been studied for their powerful and varied effects on human health, and about a half a dozen varieties stand out for the powerful boost they give to the immune system. Shitake are a common mushroom found in most grocery stores. They have been shown to have both anti-viral and anti-bacterial effects, along with the ability to help stabilize blood sugar. Try them cooked in a high-quality fat such as grass-fed ghee or avocado oil. Add to soups, stir fries, rice dishes or simply sear and serve over beef and chicken. Remember to buy organic!
Reishi and turkey tail mushrooms are also heavy hitters when it comes to boosting the immune system. A clinical study conducted in 2011 showed that a compound in turkey tail mushrooms has been shown to improve immune status from 70% to 97% in cancer patients. Reishi has also been shown to be an anti-bacterial, anti-viral, anti-fungal and anti-inflammatory. Because these mushrooms are much harder to find fresh, I prefer to take them in capsule or extract form. There are a number of high-quality supplements on the market that contain them. My favorite, Host Defense, comes from the word renowned mycologist, Paul Stamets. Host Defense makes a variety of whole-mushroom capsules and extracts in single variety and blend formulations. They are available at a variety of natural food stores including Mother’s and Whole Foods.