Maitake Mushroom as a Natural Immune Booster

Byron J. Richards, Board Certified Clinical Nutritionist

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Maitake Mushroom as a Natural Immune Booster
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Maitake mushroom (Grifola frondosa) is widely regarded in traditional folk medicine as a potent immune food. Scientists have identified that the beta glucan compound of this mushroom is responsible for its immune support properties. The latest study shows that Maitake is an efficient and potent activator of macrophages, key immune cells needed for a healthy immune response.

This new study shows that beta glucan from Maitake turns on gene signal activation in macrophages to facilitate an immune response. Interestingly, this was a controlled activation that prevented excessive inflammation, indicating a more efficient immune response. Macrophages are not only the removers of garbage, they are also one type of immune cell that can engulf and invader and gobble it up. The more efficiently they work the better your immune system works. This study supports an earlier study showing that Maitake enhances the ability of other front line immune troops to gobble up invaders – once again without excessive inflammation.

In addition to improving the ability of immune cells to engulf and destroy invaders, Maitake has also shown an ability to activate natural killer (NK) cells, important cells that knock out human cells that have been overwhelmed by a viral infection or cancer. Another study showed that improved NK function by Maitake was due to improved function of macrophages, which in turn were sending signals to the NK cells to get in gear more actively. This type of study speaks to the power of nutrition to help coordinate an efficient immune response between various important cells of the immune system.

Furthermore, Maitake has been shown to help reduce inflammation in the intestinal tract. This is important because flu and other bugs typically begin their process of setting up shop with a highly inflammatory attack within the digestive tract before moving on to other areas of the body, such as the lungs. It is also important because it shows Maitake can dampen inappropriate activation of the immune systems inflammatory messengers (TNFa and NF-kappaB), demonstrating that Maitake is an intelligent immune system manager.

During the cold and flu season you will inhale various viruses, including the flu. You will swallow them and they will try to set up shop in your digestive tract. These facts are the norm. How well your troops naturally knock out these bugs is based on the efficiency of your immune system. The more sick people you are around or the more tired or stressed you are, the more natural support you should use to help keep yourself well or to help fight off a bug if you start feeling problems. Maitake is one good nutrient to have on your natural support team, as it helps keep your front line troops in tip-top working condition.

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