As the colon is consistently exposed to byproducts of food metabolism, gut bacteria, and possibly toxins, the bowel is at risk for inflammation. Bowel inflammation may induce the pathogenesis of several diseases including irritable bowel syndrome, inflammatory bowel disease, and even pre-cancerous conditions. Bioactive substances from medicinal mushrooms alleviate the inflammation of the bowel, reducing the risk for these diseases.
Irritable Bowel Syndrome – Epidemiology
Inflammation of the colon can cause chronic diarrhoea. This may be inevitable for some patients as they are frequently exposed to risk factors, which can be environmental such as smoking, food intolerance, and food sanitation, as well as genetics. Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is one of these diseases. It affects 5% to up to 20% of the people around the world. In addition, another disease with similar presentation is inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). For instance, Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, which show a trend of continent-wide progression.
The limitation in the normal function of the gastrointestinal tract can be functional in nature. Such as in IBS, or inflammatory as a result of environmental triggers and changes in the gut microbiome, such as in IBD.
The immune system plays a significant role in the progression of inflammation in the gut that results in IBD. In fact, several molecular biomarkers link to the dysregulation of immune response to bacteria that are not part of the normal gastrointestinal flora. With these dysfunction in the adaptive immune response, there would be overgrowth of pathogenic bacteria. Thus, changing the intrinsic function of the gut at the cellular level. If not resolved, the persistent inflammation would affect the integrity of the gastrointestinal lining. Thus, it compromises the barrier between food and the body, which may result in more complications.
A more functional disturbance without any organic cause is the IBS. It is still being studied to find out the concrete cause. Studies have shown that the progression of the disease may be primarily caused by the pathology in the communication between gastrointestinal tract and the nervous system. Thus, resulting to dysfunction in motility or sensation of the gut. These can be triggered by intolerance of the body to a certain food. Or also by the presence of microorganisms that usually do not inhabit the gut, and immune activation within the gastrointestinal tract. Another factor contributory to the incidence of IBS is the history of gastrointestinal diseases, such as gastroenteritis.
Overall, these would result in the dysregulation in the function of the gastrointestinal tract and would result in recurrent gut symptoms, from diarrhoea, constipation, abdominal pain, and even dyspepsia.
Pharmacologic and Integrative treatment
Incorporating prebiotic supplements and high fibre in the diet can alleviate the integrative treatment for patients experiencing chronic gut symptoms. Based on the pathophysiology of these diseases, the objective for the management of chronic gut disorders includes proper regulation of the immune response. As well as supportive measures for the growth of the protective bacteria and the inhibition of growth of the pathological microorganisms. These mushrooms have been found to support the growth of Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus. Both of which are important gut bacteria that improve gastrointestinal function. These are domains medicinal mushrooms have been studied and used for, based on the years of mycotherapy research.
- Hericium erinaceus (Lion’s mane)
Among the extensively studied mushrooms for IBD is Lion’s mane as it has been found to potential to alleviate the overall effects of inflammation in the gastrointestinal lining. Based on studies, Lion’s mane extract has helped heal the damage in the colon in subjects with IBD. It also has the potential in supporting the growth of probiotic bacteria that could improve nutrient absorption, synthesis of vitamins, and overall gut health, all of which can improve the management of IBS as well. Moreover, it has been found to improve the regulation of inflammatory factors, which would alleviate the progression of IBD.
- Ganoderma lucidum (Reishi)
This medicinal mushroom shows a strong anti-inflammatory activity, which if taken regularly, can gradually decrease pro-inflammatory factors for the long-term. A study using Ganoderma extracts in IBD patients has indeed shown the inhibition of pro-inflammatory cytokines, which in turn would regulate the immune response and reduce the effects of IBD.
Other medicinal mushrooms for irritable bowel syndrome
- Agaricus blazei
The Royal Sun Agaricus has been continuously studied for its immunomodulatory effects and a trial on IBD has proven that supplementation with its extracts has a significant effect on gut health in as early as two weeks. This is evident through the relief of fatigue in these patients, which improved their overall quality of life.
In addition to the aforementioned mushrooms, some mushrooms are continuously being studied for their potential in managing chronic colon diseases, which according to research has found remarkable features in these medicinal mushrooms. The Pleurotus spp., including the oyster mushrooms, has been found to have anti-inflammatory properties that were experimentally tested to reduce damage in the colonic lining. The Inonotus obliquus, more commonly known as the Chaga mushroom, has been found to improve the resolution of inflammation by inhibition of certain pro-inflammatory cytokines, which is very helpful in managing colitis.
The management of chronic gastrointestinal diseases may call for a more straightforward approach through medicinal mushroom supplements, as these are extensively studied for their potential. Through immunomodulation, anti-inflammation, and prebiotic effects, medicinal mushrooms offer all-in-one treatment benefits that can be safely added to the medical management from clinical practice guidelines.
By adding these mushroom supplements to the standard therapy, a better prognosis can be looked into in these patients, especially since these diseases affect their overall quality of life as well.