The Fungal-Gut Connection: An Unlikely Love Story

Bone broth has been the prized debutante of superfoods for several years now – and for good reason!

There are so many benefits to bone broth – from gut lining reinforcement to healthy skin and muscle repair – it’s enough to turn you off of store-bought stock forever. 

You can use it in your favorite chicken noodle recipe, replace your morning coffee with a hot bowl of broth, and use up your kitchen scraps and roasted bones making it. 

While broth has long been relied on for its restorative and preventive properties, the world seemed to forget about it during the mass industrialization and quick-fix eating of much of the 20th century.

Which is fitting… because bone broth promises to correct exactly the issues caused by our synthetic and nutrient deficient diet.

But another broth has burst onto the scene vowing to accomplish as much, if not more, as bone broth, and lend itself to vegetarian and vegan consumption: mushroom broth.

Mushrooms have been used in Asian medical factions for centuries because of their unique nutrient profile. You can even buy mushroom powder for your coffee that boosts your gut health and energizes you, made from the powerful Chaga mushroom.

Mushroom Broth and the Gut

Recently, the gut-healing powers of mushrooms have gotten plenty of attention – especially as immunocompromised, at-risk, or even perfectly healthy people search for ways to strengthen themselves and their bodies against a global virus with no vaccine.

You see, the only substantial component you get from bone broth that you don’t get from mushroom broth is collagen. 

But here’s the thing… our bodies don’t actually process collagen. Consuming collagen does not then add that collagen to our bodies. 

We just use the nutrients from it to encourage the production of collagen from within. 

As for the rest? Well, it turns out that mushroom broth can be just as magical. That’s because mushrooms themselves are digestive fortifiers. 

It’s important to understand that about 75% of the immune system resides in the gut. That’s why you so often see immune boosting benefits mentioned in the same breath as gut healing.

Mushrooms, particularly the mycelia (bits that grow underground), also have the prebiotic power to advance microbial diversity in the gut, ensuring that good bacteria is fed and harmful bacteria is starved. 

That power comes from α and beta β-glucans, chitin, mannans, galactans, xylans and hemicellulose – present in medicinal mushrooms. Since we’re not able to digest β-glucans, the substances stay in the digestive system, supporting good bacteria. 

Each mushroom has its own unique bacterial profile, aiding different microbes in the gut.

Let’s take a look at a few mushroom varieties and what they can do for your gut…

Mushrooms by the Variety

  • Shiitake mushrooms: This mushroom, native to Japan, Korea, and China, has several properties that assist your gut health. On top of containing impressive quantities of phosphorus, potassium, and zinc, shiitake mushrooms have been shown to decrease inflammation in the gut and improve gut resilience
  • Chaga mushrooms: Chagas are loaded with antioxidants, which help mine for free radicals that cause inflammation. In attacking these inflammatory molecules, they help to soothe and solve IBD, Crohn’s, and ulcerative colitis. 
  • Reishi mushrooms: This type of mushroom can actually help reverse gut dysbiosis, or chemical imbalance. Specifically, they restore the populations of Firmicutes and Bacteriodetes. The former eats glucose, and the latter synthesizes short-chain fatty acids, which repair intestinal cells.

Other helpful varieties include Lion’s Mane mushrooms, for their gastroprotective components which help to decrease inflammation and boost immune strength, and Maitake mushrooms, which help to increase cell adhesion and stimulate the immune system.

Consider making a mushroom broth out of dried mushrooms. They still contain all the nutrients, but pack a bigger punch by volume. 

Unlike bone broth, you won’t need to brew the broth for days. 

You can simply sautee your mushrooms with other flavorful and gut-healing goodies like ginger, seaweed, miso paste, onions, celery, and any other vegetables you like.

Pour water over your sauteed mix, bring to a boil, turn down to a simmer, and cover for an hour or two.

At the end of your broth journey, simply pour the broth through a fine mesh strainer and voila! 

Savory, umami gut-healing mushroom broth. 

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Dr. Pedram Shojai

NY Times Best Selling author and film maker. Taoist Abbot and Qigong master. Husband and dad. I’m here to help you find your way and be healthy and happy. I don’t want to be your guru…just someone who’ll help point the way. If you’re looking for a real person who’s done the work, I’m your guy. I can light the path and walk along it with you but can’t walk for you.