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Turkey Tail for Gut Health & Immunity

15 May 2023

Functional Mushrooms are all the rage now but the truth is, they are nothing new. Functional mushrooms (like Turkey Tail), have been used in TCM (traditional Chinese Medicine) for centuries for their potent healing benefits. 

There is now evidence to show how functional mushrooms help to strengthen our immune system, improve the health of our gut (by maintaining the gut flora/bacteria) and even supporting the treatment of certain cancers.

Turkey Tail is becoming increasingly popular lately lately, and particularly because of its immunity benefits.

Please see below, the various ways it can bolster our immune system. ⬇️

1. Reduce Oxidative Stress

Turkey Tail is loaded with powerful antioxidants that help to fight the free radicals that lead to oxidative stress. Oxidative stress = cellular damage + Chronic inflammation.

In a particular study, Turkey Tail was found to have more than 35 Phenolic compounds (strong antioxidants) and also flavonoids such as quercetin.

Quercetin alone as been shown to have powerful effects on the body such as stabilising mast cells (anti-histamine effect). Quercetin is also known to help reduce inflammation, improve blood pressure, improve blood sugar, be brain-protective, immune-boosting and more!

That's just quercetin though, there are many other phenols and flavonoids (antioxidants) in Turkey Tail.

It's important to highlight its role in reducing inflammation though, because when we have high/chronic inflammation, this can affect our immune system. By adding more antioxidants into our diet (through foods like Turkey Tail), we are getting more of these beneficial, health-boosting compounds!

2. Contains Polysaccharopeptides 

Poly what?

A polysaccharopeptide is a type of protein-bound carbohydrate. The polysaccharopeptides that Turkey tail contain are PSP (polysaccharide peptide) and PSK (krestin). 

How these polysaccharides benefits us is due to the fact that they activate (turn on) specific immune cells. They also inhibit other cells when they quell (turn down) inflammation. 

In Japan and China, PSP and PSK are used as cancer treatments (in combination with surgery, radiation and chemo).

You can read more extensively about how Turkey tail is used for people with cancer in the Healthline article (in reference links below). Unfortunately, this topic goes beyond the scope of this blog.

3. Gut Health

The cornerstone of good gut health is a healthy gut microbiome and gut lining. A healthy gut microbiome (gut environment) must consist of balanced gut flora (a larger percentage of good guys Vs bad guys). 

Good Guys (good bacteria): the balance of good bacteria in the gut should be around 20%. Good bacteria have anti-inflammatory properties as well as producing antioxidants, vitamins and minerals. When the good guys are in balance, this has a restorative effect on the body. 

Examples of good gut bacteria are: 

  • Lactobaccilus Acidophilus
  • Lactobacillus Rhamnosus
  • Bifidobacterium
  • Bacillus Coagulans
  • Lactococcus Lactis
  • Lactobacillus Reuteri
  • Escherichia Coli

Bad Guys (bad bacteria): bad bacteria and pathogens should be around 10% of total gut bacteria. However, when they are allowed to proliferate (grow), this can wreak havoc on our health as these bad bacteria increase inflammation by releasing toxins and killing good bacteria. They can also produce carcinogenic substances (that create cancers).

Examples of bad bacteria are Clostridium perfringens, Coliform bacteria (certain forms as not all coliform is harmful). Other examples of bad bacteria are Staphylococcus .

Opportunistic Bacteria: (can be beneficial or harmful depending*): opportunistic bacteria make up around 70% of total gut bacteria. Examples of opportunistic bacteria are Bacteroidetes, E.coli and Streptococcus. 

*Opportunistic bacteria can be helpful when the body is strong and healthy but if the body is weak, opportunistic bacteria can have adverse reactions in the intestines. That is why it is so important to keep healthy and string and support good gut health with proper diet and lifestyle practices. Taking functional mushrooms (such as Turkey tail), consuming probiotics, reducing sugar, alcohol and seed/vegetable oils is a great start to improving the health of your gut, immune system and wellbeing. 🙌🏻

There is a strong and direct impact of gut health on the immune system (and brain too), so ensuring your gut is healthy is paramount to a healthy life. 

Turkey Tail has been shown to improve gut health as it contains prebiotic fibre that help to feed and support the good (beneficial) bacteria/flora in the gut.

One study in particular showed that Turkey Tail can help to increase populations of good bacteria (such as Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus), while at the same time helping to reduce the bad guys (such as Clostridium and Staphylococcus).

Healthy Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium levels may help to improve things like diarrhoea, immune function and digestion, as well as reduce the risk of certain cancers!

So as you can see, a healthy, balanced gut flora is vital to being well and as a preventative measure. When our gut is happy, generally, we are too. 🙂

 

References:

https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/turkey-tail-mushroom

https://intowhat.com/blogs/interview/2-1-7-balance-ratio-behind-healthy-microbiome

https://www.mountsinai.org/health-library/supplement/quercetin

https://draxe.com/nutrition/turkey-tail-mushroom/

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32691460/#:~:text=PRACTICAL%20APPLICATIONS%3A%20Phenolic%20compounds%20are,are%20safer%20than%20synthetic%20antioxidants.

https://www.otsuka.co.jp/en/health-and-illness/fiber/for-body/intestinal-flora/#:~:text=Beneficial%2C%20harmful%2C%20and%20opportunistic%20bacteria&text=Representative%20examples%20are%20bifidobacteria%20and,coli%3B%20toxic%20strain).

https://www.inneratlas.com.au/blogs/journal/turkey-tail-and-its-benefits-for-gut-health#:~:text=Turkey%20Tail%20%26%20The%20Gut%20Microbiome&text=Turkey%20Tail%20Mushroom%20is%20a,overall%20digestive%20health%20and%20adaptability.

 

Disclaimer: the information in this article is intended purely as information and not health advice. It is not intended to treat, diagnose, prevent or cure and one should always seek expert advice from their trusted health practitioner.

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