There’s been a recent surge in scientific studies showing the health benefits of eating mushrooms. But with so many different types out there, how do you know which ones are the most helpful for you? In the second episode in a series with supplement scientist Dr. Parris Kidd, he and Dr. Amen do a roll call on the different types of mushrooms you can add to your nutritional regiment to give your health a major boost.
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Daniel Amen, MD:
Welcome to the Brain Warrior’s Way podcast. I’m Dr. Daniel Amen.
Tana Amen, BSN RN:
And I’m Tana Amen. In our podcast, we provide you with the tools you need to become a warrior for the health of your brain and body.
The Brain Warrior’s Way podcast is brought to you by Amen Clinics, where we have been transforming lives for 30 years using tools like brain SPECT imaging to personalize treatment to your brain. For more information, visit amenclinics.com.
The Brain Warrior’s Way podcast is also brought to you by BrainMD, where we produce the highest quality nutraceuticals to support the health of your brain and body. To learn more, go to brainmd.com.
Daniel Amen, MD: Welcome back to The Brain Warrior’s Way Podcast. I’m Dr. Daniel Amen. I am here with my good friend, Dr. Parris Kidd, shief science officer for BrainMD. BrainMD’s mission is to provide the products to optimize your brain and your life. Welcome back, Parris.
Now we’re going to talk about mushrooms, and how do mushrooms … I think of my children, when they see mushrooms, they’re like, “Ew, I don’t want to eat that.” I love mushrooms. How do they benefit the brain? Here’s our brand new product, it’s actually going to come out in the next couple of weeks, it’s called Smart Mushrooms. I was going to call it Happy Mushrooms, but my team wouldn’t let me because it sort of has the wrong connotation. But you’re very excited about the development of this product. Can you talk about Smart Mushrooms and why someone would think about putting this as a regular part of their dietary supplement plan?
Parris Kidd, Ph…: Well, when Jim Springer, who’s an expert on mushrooms, suggested this to me, I had already done a number of mushroom products before and I had written an extensive review on mushrooms for immunity, but I emphasized that we really needed to get mushrooms that would help the brain, besides helping immunity and other the organs of the body. The one that really stands out, which happens to be very expensive by the way, is called lion’s mane. It’s called lion’s mane because the mushroom has little tendrils hanging off of it as you would see the strands of a lion’s mane. But lion’s mane has had several clinical trials that show clearly that it improves cognitive function in older humans, including in people who are having substantial trouble with their memory. It also has been shown, in early research, to benefit mood. We put a substantial amount, a whole 1000 milligrams of lion’s mane, into this product. That makes us a unique product because it’s very hard to find combination mushroom products that have a substantial amount of lion’s mane.
One way that lion’s mane seems to work is that it stimulates the production of a substance called nerve growth factor, or NGF, which is the first human growth factor ever discovered and which literally supports and stimulates growth and maturation of nerve cells in the brain. This substance cannot be taken by mouth because it doesn’t get across the blood-brain barrier, but lion’s mane stimulates the production of NGF in the brain. As it does that, it seems to improve the functioning of the nerve cells overall and of the synaptic connections, the connections between the nerve cells, and to actually have the consequence of improving cognitive function.
Then we went with another mushroom called reishi, which has been known for thousands of years and which has been called the mushroom of immortality, because reishi has been thought traditionally to contribute to wisdom and sexual prowess and longevity and all of the wonderful things that people want to have as we go through our lives. Reishi, as it turns out, also can stimulate NGF production in the brain, and it further stimulates another brain growth factor called BDNF, so reishi also has that ability to support brain function.
Then additional mushrooms include shiitake, which has a specific glucan that is well-proven for immunity, but shiitake also has a unique antioxidant that may be very important for the brain. This antioxidant is rarely known, think of it as ET, or ergothioneine. ET actually has specific transporters in the human body. The body has transport proteins that look for and pick up ET and spread it through the tissues. The feeling among antioxidant experts is that ET may have a specific, very powerful function as a human dietary-derived antioxidant. So shiitake is contributing both antioxidant power as well as immune function.
Then cordyceps, cordyceps is a really interesting story. This fungus, this mushroom in the wild, grows out of a caterpillar. It takes over a caterpillar, which is the larva of a moth usually, sometimes a butterfly, grows within the body of the caterpillar, and then it pushes a fruiting body out of the head of the caterpillar. Of course, that’s very hard to maintain as a commercial source. It’s actually endangered in the wild, so methods were developed to grow it under controlled situations not involving caterpillars.
Reishi, as it turns out has not only glucans, which are fantastic for immunity, but also substances called nucleosides. Cordyceps has nucleosides, which go into making DNA and RNA, which is related to DNA and which is important for us to make proteins and to regulate all kinds of cellular functions. These nucleosides are also involved in many aspects of cell regulation. Cordyceps is energizing, it actually helps to raise energy and vitality, and it’s known to be useful for athletes. In one of the Olympics, a number of Eastern European athletes were performing suspiciously well, and they were found to have been taking cordyceps. So then-
Daniel Amen, MD: It’s not a banned substance, so it would be great for the average person and maybe even athletes to take this on a regular basis. I often say your best defense against COVID is your immune system, it’s your immune system and finding ways to optimize it. Your best defense against COVID is also your brain, making good decisions, thoughtful decisions. Smart Mushrooms can help you not only be smarter, but strengthen your immune system.
Parris Kidd, Ph…: Yeah, and then we have turkey tail, which has been used decades now as the premier source of immune-boosting glucans in the Far East. Turkey tail, despite its it’s humble name, is actually a very powerful mushroom, very expensive to get in the Far East and fantastic for immunity.
I just want to make a very quick explanation of how glucans work. These are large molecules with complicated shapes, and when they get into the intestinal contents, after mushrooms are taken by mouth, there are intestinal immune cells, there are immune cells in the intestinal lining that are sampling the intestinal contents. These are our guards, these are our early warning cells. When they pick up glucans, they seem to sense the glucans as foreign and then they raise their level of awareness and they spread the glucans around to other immune cells, such as natural killer cells, T helper cells, B cells, so that the entire level of awareness in the body is being boosted. Our immune vigilance is being boosted by the presence of these glucans. Then, as they progress further into the large intestine, they go to feed the probiotics as well. They’re also good antioxidants.
With these six mushrooms, including the lion’s mane, reishi, shiitake, cordyceps, turkey tail, and also a Brazilian mushroom called agaricus, which is now popular in the Far East as well, we are supplying a great variety of glucans, nucleosides vitamins, minerals, fiber, all sorts of stuff that makes for not only brain benefits, but also a very high level of immune boost. Also, these mushrooms tend to support healthy cholesterol levels, blood sugar, liver function, and various energy and vitality, and just a whole range of other positive functions that we need during this time.
Daniel Amen, MD: Is there any problem, in your shake in the morning, putting a scope of Smart Mushrooms along with Neuro Greens? Is that a rational strategy?
Parris Kidd, Ph…: Absolutely, the more, the better. We’re actually recommending that our team as they develop the labeling, and with the help of this excellent supplier, actually says that, to start off your day by putting one or more scoops into your shake. We’re also recommending a double dose, two servings, for the first few weeks to get you boosted. People live their lives, they get old and then things happen. No matter where we are in our lives, we’re subjected to stress, we’re subjected to challenges to our mental performance, challenges to our immune system. The more Neuro Greens, the better, the more of the Smart Mushrooms, the better.
Daniel Amen, MD: Well, you’re listening to The Brain Warrior’s Way Podcast. We’re so grateful. I’m here with Dr. Parris Kidd. The Brain Warrior’s Way Podcast is sponsored by Amen Clinics, but also BrainMD, because BrainMD really wants you to have this information. As brain warriors, we want you to be armed, prepared, and really aware to win the most important fight of your life, which is for the hell of your brain. Stay with us, when we come back, we are going to talk about new ways to boost your brand. Stay with us.
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Dr Daniel Amen:
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