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Boosting Immunity While Reducing Inflammation

Cooked white mushroom consumption stimulates antibody production while potentially still playing an anti-inflammatory role.

May 20, 2013 |
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Supplementary Info

Sources Cited

Macdonald TT, Monteleone G. Immunity, inflammation, and allergy in the gut. Science. 2005 Mar 25;307(5717):1920-5.

Baïz N, Annesi-Maesano I.Is the asthma epidemic still ascending? Clin Chest Med. 2012 Sep;33(3):419-29.

Isolauri E, Huurre A, Salminen S, Impivaara O. The allergy epidemic extends beyond the past few decades. Clin Exp Allergy. 2004 Jul;34(7):1007-10.

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de St Groth BF. Regulatory T-cell abnormalities and the global epidemic of immuno-inflammatory disease. Immunol Cell Biol. 2012 Mar;90(3):256-9.

Palacios I, Lozano M, C Moro, D’Arrigo M, Rostagno M, Martínez JA, García-Lafuente A, Guillamón E, Villares A, Antioxidant properties of phenolic compounds occurring in edible mushrooms. Food Chemistry 2011 Oct 1;128(3):674–8.

E. Nicolis, I. Lampronti, M. C. Dechecchi, M. Borgatti, A. Tamanini, N. Bianchi, V. Bezzerri, I. Mancini, M. G. Giri, P. Rizzotti, R. Gambari, G. Cabrini. Pyrogallol, an active compound from the medicinal plant Emblica officinalis, regulates expression of pro-inflammatory genes in bronchial epithelial cells. Int. Immunopharmacol. 2008 8(12):1672-80.

B. Björkstén. Treating childhood allergy with gut microbes: Facts or fiction? Br. J. Dermatol 2012 166(1):1-2.

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E. Isolauri, A. Huurre, S. Salminen, O. Impivaara. The allergy epidemic extends beyond the past few decades. Clin. Exp. Allergy 2004 34(7):1007-1010.

A. Poggi, P. Canevali, M. Contatore, G. Ciprandi. Higher frequencies of CD161+ circulating T lymphocytes in allergic rhinitis patients compared to healthy donors. Int. Arch. Allergy Immunol. 2012 158(2):151-156.

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S. C. Jeong, S. R. Koyyalamudi, G. Pang. Dietary intake of Agaricus bisporus white button mushroom accelerates salivary immunoglobulin A secretion in healthy volunteers. Nutrition 2012 28(5):527-531.

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C Moro, I Palacios, M Lozano, M D'Arrigo, E Guillamón, A Villares, J A Martínez, A García-Lafuente. Anti-inflammatory activity of methanolic extracts from edible mushrooms in LPS activated RAW 264.7 macrophages. Food Chemistry 2012 130(NA):350-355.



There are lots of products that promise to boost your immune system—and who wouldn't want that? Well, there are millions of people with auto-immune diseases, inflammatory diseases and allergies.  Millions of people whose immune systems may already be a bit too active.  

I try to make sufferers of seasonal allergies feel better by explaining that having an overactive immune system is not all bad. Individuals with allergies have a decreased risk for cancer (compared with the general population). Yes your immune system may be in such overdrive it's attacking things left and right like tree pollen, but that heightened state of alert might also help bring down any budding tumors in the body. So it's tricky, we want to boost the part of the immune system that fights infection, while down-regulating the part that results in chronic inflammation. And mushrooms may fit the bill.

There are thousands of edible mushrooms, though only 100 are cultivated commercially, and only 10 of those on an industrial scale.  And I do mean industrial, rising to over 20 million tones, and for good reason. They accelerate immunoglobulin A secretion.

Though skin is considered our largest organ, we actually interface with the outside world more through our mucous membranes, that line our mouth, our entire digestive tract, our reproductive and urinary systems, inside the breast glands, on our eyeballs, occupying our largest body surface area. Our gut alone covers more area than a tennis court and much of it is only one cell thick.  One microscopic layer is all that separates us from all the toxins, viruses, and bacteria out there, and so we need one heck of a first-line defense, and that defense is call IgA, immunoglobulin A, our type A antibodies. Dietary intake may improve mucosal immunity by accelerating IgA secretion, but no studies have ever been conducted on mushrooms, until now.

Half eat their normal diet, half eat their normal diet with cooked white button mushrooms every day for a week. Then using the passive dribble method for collecting saliva, just measured the amount of IgA they were pumping out. No change in the control group, but after a week of mushrooms, IgA secretion jumped 50% and even stayed up there for a week after they stopped. This study has shown for the first time that a dietary intake of white button mushrooms—just regular white mushrooms, about a cup a day--resulted in higher IgA secretion, and the elevated secretion remained stable into week two, but then fell back to baseline. so this suggests that in arresting or slowing the decrease of IgA in individuals such as the elderly or those with immune compromise, a continuous daily intake of the mushrooms may be necessary to maintain an increased IgA secretion, meaning you can't just eat mushrooms once and expect to be protected forever, you have to make them part of your regular diet.

But if you continue to churn out 50% more antibodies, might that contribute to chronic inflammation, which is implicated in the development of a variety of diseases? No, in fact mushrooms appear to have an "anti-inflammatory capacity in vitro, suggesting that they could be regarded as a potential source of natural anti-inflammatory agents." For example here's an inflammatory response without mushrooms, and with mushrooms, both white, and a few other varieties. They think it might be the phytonutrient pyrogallol, found in a variety of mushrooms as well as in our old friend amla, Indian gooseberries, that similarly appear to reduce inflammation, while at the same time boosting immune and anticancer function.

To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video. This is just an approximation of the audio contributed by Ashley Rhinehart.

To help out on the site please email

Dr. Michael Greger

Doctor's Note

The immune boosting fruit and vegetable video I reference is Boosting Immunity Through Diet. See also Kale and the Immune System and Sleep & Immunity.

The balance between immune function and cancer is not always as straightforward as I noted. See my video series that starts with Cancer as an Autoimmune Disease.

More about mushroom magic in:

Probably best to eat cooked, though (Toxins in Raw Mushrooms?).

How else to decrease inflammation? See:

What can we do about allergic diseases? See:

And if amla is not your old friend, become acquainted:

Check out my blog posts for additional context: Vitamin D from Mushrooms, Sun, or Supplements? Mushrooms and Immunity, and Probiotics During Cold Season?

If you haven't yet, you can subscribe to my videos for free by clicking here.

  • elsie blanche

    Really cool. Thanks, Dr. Greger. I’m hoping that with time you are able
    to find other foods that have this same and or similar effect
    as the mushrooms and amla do. A very interesting study and topic
    to start the week! Thanks.

  • Plantstrongdoc

    Now I am looking even more forward to my pasta with mushrooms tonight!!!

  • Merio

    Curious… in Italy there is a great culture of mushrooms(especially in autumn)… and even i really appreciate a cup of rice with boletus edulis… now i’ve only to find if the way i eat my mushroom is okay with the findings of the studies…

  • Fly

    Should the mushrooms be cooked? I love them raw

    • Thea

      Funny, I only like them cooked.

      Unfortunately for you, I believe that eating the mushrooms cooked is the better idea. Check out this video from Dr. Greger:

      • Darryl Roy

        “Feeding studies using mushrooms and mushroom extracts have in general provided no evidence of toxicological effects of agaritine or mushroom consumption, in contrast to results of studies which have administered non-physiologically relevant concentrations of chemically synthesized hydrazine derivatives to mice. The available evidence to date suggests that agaritine from consumption of cultivated A. bisporus mushrooms poses no known toxicological risk to healthy humans.”

        Roupas, Peter, et al. “Mushrooms and agaritine: A mini-review.” Journal of Functional Foods 2.2 (2010): 91-98.

        • Thea

          Interesting!!! That’s good news to the people who prefer them raw. Thanks for the additional info.

  • Wegan

    So this is the same mushroom that you need to freeze, thaw, boil, discard the water to remove the carcinogen. I’m guessing that would get rid of the good stuff too.

  • Coacervate

    The subjects in the active group (n = 12, 41.4 ± 11.3 y old) consumed 100 g of blanched WBM daily with their normal diet for 1 wk,” Why were they blanched? Are these the same kind of mushrooms that are toxic in the raw state?

    • HereHere

      I would suspect the blanching would be to kill external bacteria. I know white button mushrooms are grown on manure normally. Even though it would be well-composted, perhaps bacteria (or viruses) can survive and contaminate the mushroom. Shiitake and oyster mushrooms are grown on wood substrates. I’m not sure about other mushrooms, like the brown/portabello, etc.

  • Thea

    I’m curious if that cup of mushrooms is a measured cup cooked or a measured cup after cooked.

    I LOVE mushrooms, but I rarely get a whole cup of cooked mushrooms as part of my daily diet. I tend to consume 1 to 2 packages of 10 ounces worth of raw mushrooms each week. (I cook them before eating.) That seems like a lot right there to me…

    Great video! Thanks for all the background info.

  • Barbara

    Hi Dr. Greger,

    Get your videos daily and so appreciate all the
    information and take it to heart.

    I’m a vegetarian, 10 years and a vegan for 2 years.
    Eat 5 times a week, oyster and enoki mushrooms
    and have been for years. Diagnosed with Alopecia
    Areata last week. The autoimmune system is attacking
    the hair follicles I am told.

    Diet was not an issue per the derma doc but again
    most docs don’t address ones diet but happily give
    prescriptions for meds and wish me a happy day!

    My question to you, can eating too many mushrooms
    as I do, compromise the immune system into overdrive?

    Thank you,


  • Darryl Roy

    NF-κB is a master transcription factor for the inflammatory response, and this review details some of the mushroom compounds that inhibit this pathway.

    Petrova, R., et al. “Fungal metabolites modulating NF-kappa B activity: An approach to cancer therapy and chemoprevention (Review).”Oncology reports 19.2 (2008): 299.

    Past work points to the caffeic acid phenethyl ester (CAPE), which blocks NF-κB binding to DNA, as the active agent in white button mushrooms.

  • OutsideMom

    How much mushrooms must one eat to gain the benefits of mushrooms in the diet? I’m not a fan of mushrooms but maybe I can hide them in some of my food. And must they be eaten daily or can I have them a couple times a week and be okay?

    • HereHere

      The research suggests to me that if you eat a pound a day for a week, you can skip a week and still get the outstanding benefits. Since there is no research (presumably) on minimum dose or frequency, I would aim for even a small amount each day. Since we have varied diets, that may be hard to do, but even eating mushrooms more frequently should help the immune system. At a minimum, once per two weeks, but because we are likely to consumer lower doses than in the study, more frequent consumption would be wise. As for taste, I do think they are an acquired taste, so try them with your favorite herbs, seasonings, etc. until you find a few ways you like them. I enjoy them steamed with my veggies, but they can be bland that way. Pan-fried with garlic and salt is usually a big hit with people. Depending on how crowded your fry pan is, they will turn out either soft or browned. Good luck with your mushroom adventures!

  • Anonymous

    To get the benefits of mushrooms do they have to be cooked as I prefer them raw.
    thank you,

  • Ronald Chavin

    Australian researchers say that the “fresh” mushrooms eaten in the following study were mostly only white button mushrooms and that the “dried” mushrooms eaten in the following study were mostly only shiitake mushrooms:

    Although the dried shiitakes were not as spectacular in preventing breast cancer in Chinese women as the freshly-eaten white buttons, freshly-eaten shiitakes might outperform freshly-eaten white buttons in another study – we don’t know:

    The 2 reasons why Dr. Greger advises us to boil white buttons before eating them is because: (1)all Agaricus mushrooms, including white button mushrooms (Agaricus bisporus) and the Brazilian mushrooms known as “mushroom of God” (Agaricus blazei) are high in cancer-causing agaritine, which can be deactivated only by boiling in hot water (or by canning). (2)white button mushrooms usually have pathogenic, Gram-negative, horse manure bacteria on the top, which can be killed by boiling in hot water but the bacterial endotoxins cannot be eliminated and will enter the human bloodstream even after the horse manure bacteria are completely killed by boiling in hot water or by the hydrochloric acid in the human stomach. It might be better to eat white button mushrooms fresh (raw) despite these 2 formidable disadvantages because the overall net health benefit is greater.

    Shiitake mushrooms, on the other hand, can be safely eaten fresh because they don’t contain much cancer-causing agaritine or horse manure. However, freshly-eaten shiitakes can cause rare, allergic skin reactions in Asians (but never in Caucasians).

    As for pyrogallol, one website says that smoked foods are extremely high in pyrogallol and that pyrogallol causes DNA damage:

  • joyce

    i am appreciative of the information you give so freely…obviously not looking for monetary gain…thankyou!!

  • Sara

    My daughter was recently diagnosed with Lupus and has been put on medication. Do you have a particular recommendation for her?

  • marlene

    wish I had the answer for an ongoing inflamation of bones..major health foods ..never deviate…..