For many of us, the change in season from summer to fall comes with a change in responsibilities and routine, not to mention the cooler weather. Periods of transition can be hard on our bodies, and our immune systems can suffer. One of the fundamental principles of naturopathic medicine is Prevention. In addition to the basics (healthy diet, good quality sleep and reducing stress), naturopathic doctors aim to support weakened systems during more taxing times in order to prevent illness before it happens.
Medicinal mushrooms are the superheroes of Prevention in the natural medicine world. They contain compounds that directly stimulate and strengthen the immune system, and are packed with nutrients such as essential amino acids, minerals and fibre.
Mushrooms are fungi, which mean that they do not photosynthesize, but get their energy by absorbing nutrients from the ground. They are one of the major recyclers of the plant world, turning old, decaying matter into a source of nutrients for other plants and animals. In botanical medicine, we often take advantage of compounds that plants make to protect themselves. For example, some plants make anti-microbial compounds to avoid being eaten by pests. We can then isolate these compounds and use them ourselves to avoid infection. Mushrooms tend to occur naturally in areas where they are exposed to disease-causing microbes, such that they must have strong immune systems in order to survive. When we consume mushrooms ourselves, we can use this to our advantage.
“Medicinal mushrooms are the superheroes of Prevention in the natural medicine world”
The good news is that it is so easy to incorporate mushrooms into the diet, and just eating more of them will give you all of the immune-boosting benefits. Mushrooms such as reishi, turkey tail, porcini and oyster can all be found at local Farmers’ markets at this time of year, and can be added to stir-fries, soups, or just eaten by themselves. If you’re feeling a little more adventurous, there are many products that incorporate dried or powdered mushrooms too (mushroom hot chocolate anyone?). These can be found at many local health food stores. So, do yourself a favour this fall and give your immune system a little mushroom love!