Cooked white mushroom consumption stimulates antibody production while potentially still playing an anti-inflammatory role.
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.
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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 post for additional context: Vitamin D from Mushrooms, Sun, or Supplements?
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