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Written by Emily Spring
Prized for their nutritional value, flavor profiles, and potential health benefits, mushrooms have been coveted and consumed for centuries. They’re a low-calorie, low-fat source of fiber and offer a range of other nutrients and vitamins. But they’re also packed with powerful polysaccharides, indoles, polyphenols, and other compounds that are thought to be useful in fighting inflammation, managing disease symptoms, and preventing cancer.
Essentially, they’re nature’s prescription for looking after your entire body, from your heart and your brain to your nervous and immune systems.
But if you’re interested in being more intentional with your mushroom intake and targeting your gut health in particular, there are certain mushroom varieties that offer more stomach-specific benefits than others. In this guide, we’ll review the best mushrooms for gut health, from the Reishi mushroom to the Shiitake mushroom and everything in between. For information that can help you get a handle on your gut health, follow along.
Dark and glossy on the outside with a stippled, wood-like interior, Reishi mushrooms are packed with a host of vital nutrients. For thousands of years, people in Japan, China, and other Asian countries have used these mushrooms for a range of medicinal purposes. A powerful anti-inflammatory, Reishi mushrooms have to been linked to:
Reishi mushrooms are also rich in polysaccharides, terpenoids, and total phenols. These are natural plant compounds that give them their antioxidant properties. In particular, phenolic acids are quite useful in protecting cells from damage caused by free radicals. Additionally, Reishi contains certain water-soluble polysaccharides that may help prevent tumor growth.2
There’s some evidence that this world-prized mushroom could be beneficial to your gut health, too. In studies, Reishi mushrooms have been linked to inducing and improving how your body metabolizes nucleic acid proteins. These proteins are an essential part of your health. Once they’ve been metabolized, these proteins work inside your cells to aid in repairing and replicating DNA molecules, among other important functions.5
Furthermore, there are certain properties in Reishi mushrooms that may aid in regulating your gut microbiota.2 As a result of its participation in this process, it helps build important Bifidobacteria that help your body:6
Our mushroom gummies are an easy and delicious way to add more Reishi to your routine—plus nine other mushrooms to promote full-body health, starting with your gut.
Chaga mushrooms primarily grow in places like Siberia that have consistently cold climates. They have a slight vanilla flavor with a bitter edge.7 This flavor makes it a popular mushroom for making tea.
Chaga mushrooms grow on birch trees, which is where they get most of their nutritional properties. In particular, there are two ingredients that are very important when it comes to the health benefits of chaga.2 Those are:
Chaga mushrooms are also high in phenols, which give them strong antioxidant properties. Antioxidants are a necessary tool that your body uses to find and neutralize harmful free radicals that can damage your cells and derail your health.9
But what makes chaga mushrooms one of the best mushrooms for gut health?
Along with those healthy acids and complexes, chaga mushrooms also contain a wealth of potent polysaccharides, many of which work in concert with your stomach to promote a healthy gut. In particular, the polysaccharide Inonotus obliquus, or IOP, is believed to help regulate gut microbiota by increasing bacteroidetes, a type of bacteria that your body needs in order to digest carbohydrates and break down starches.10 Chaga mushrooms are also high in fiber, an essential nutrient for gut and colon health.
The scientific name for this mushroom is Coriolus versicolor. But its fanned-out appearance and striated coloring have drawn comparisons to the tail feathers of a certain gulleted fowl, earning it the nickname turkey tail.
Due to their potential medical applications, turkey tail mushrooms have been used in a wide range of medicinal applications for treating various diseases and fungal infections. And like many other mushroom varieties, they’re said to be effective antioxidants.12
There’s also evidence to suggest that the presence of the polysaccharide known as PSP allows turkey tail mushrooms to interact with and modify Bifidobacterium, promoting proper regulation of the gut microbiome.12
There’s a good chance that lion’s mane is the best mushroom for gut health on the planet. And the truth is, it might even be one of the best mushrooms for boosting your overall health. Studies suggest that lion’s mane mushrooms are linked to a range of incredible health benefits, like:
Furthermore, it’s possible that lion’s mane mushrooms could influence your mood by interacting with the hippocampus and helping to synthesize brain cells.15 Add that to the mushroom’s natural antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, and you’ve got one mighty little fungus.
When it comes to your gut, lion’s mane mushrooms may help prevent:
There’s also evidence that suggests that lion’s mane mushrooms may help reduce inflammation of the intestines, which could help alleviate symptoms of some inflammatory gastrointestinal disorders.19
This marvelous mushroom is one of 10 adaptogenic mushroom species included in our mushroom supplement. These once-a-day “mushroom multis” are packed with essential nutrients to help balance your entire body, starting with the gut.
Cordyceps refers to 400 fungal species that grow on insect larvae in East Asian countries from Korea and China to Thailand and Vietnam. The mushroom has a long history of medicinal use in traditional Chinese medicines and is still used in treatments for diabetes. It’s said to assist in regulating blood sugar levels by doing the work of insulin, which may help protect against kidney disease.19 Furthermore, st udies suggest that cordyceps may help fight certain cancers by preventing cancer cells from growing in the lungs, liver, and skin.
But cordyceps aren’t just linked to improving blood sugar. It’s also one of the best mushrooms for gut health, thanks to the presence of polysaccharides in its composition. These polysaccharides help control gut microbiota.
Studies also suggest that they may help improve a condition known as intestinal dysbiosis.20 This refers to a disruption of the gut microbiome that results in:
Finally, among the best mushrooms for gut health is shiitake. One of the most popular and widely-cultivated mushrooms in the world, shiitake has long been associated with a range of health benefits. Shiitake is thought to:
But shiitake mushrooms may also benefit your gut health. Most of the benefits the mushroom poses to your stomach have to do with its immune-boosting properties. About 70% of the cells that fight disease and keep you from getting sick are located in your gut, meaning that your immune system and your stomach are inextricably tied together.24
More specifically, studies suggest that shiitake mushrooms work with your gut to inhibit the activity of external pathogens that make their way into the gastrointestinal tract.22 This can help promote a well-balanced microbiome and keep your gut microbiota healthy and active.
A healthy, fully-functioning gut and a hearty, active gut microbiome is an integral part of your overall health, from your heart to your immune system. If you’re interested in how to improve your gut health with mushrooms, we’ve got some exciting news: our immune support supplements can provide holistic care.
Our Wonderday Mushroom Gummies are jam-packed with nutrients that bring balance to your overall health. Ten adaptogenic mushrooms with science-backed health benefits work together to help improve your energy, mood, and gut health. Our gummies contain some of the best mushrooms for gut health, from lion’s Mane and Reishi to turkey tail, cordyceps, and chaga.
At Plant People, we believe that the answers to some of the biggest health questions are often found in nature. And it's that unwavering belief that powers our commitment to providing people everywhere with quality, doctor-formulated, regenerative mushroom and plant supplements. If you’re curious about other superfoods for gut health improvement, our resource center can help you familiarize yourself so you can begin your journey to a healthy gut.
Ready to unlock your potential? Take our quiz to find out how mushroom supplements can help you.
Written by Emily Spring
Emily Spring is the Director of Marketing at Plant People. A longtime proponent of balanced living, she has enjoyed over 8 years driving growth in the lifestyle, health and wellness sectors with deep experience in functional solutions for optimizing anyone's everyday life.
Reviewed by Gabe Kennedy
Co-Founder of Plant People, Gabe Kennedy is an acclaimed chef and entrepreneur. Growing up in a house of healers and herbalists, he is passionate about the power of food as a tool for health, and actualized this passion and belief system into his company, Plant People. Named to Forbes 30 under 30 Gabe has shaped menus and cooked his way around the world with his mission to promote a more communal, green and healthy world.
Gabe is a graduate of The Culinary Institute of America and Cornell University School of Hotel Administration. You can learn more about his work at his website.