Mushrooms and Immunity

Image Credit: Mario Spann / Flickr. This image has been modified.

Mushrooms & Immunity

There’re lots of products that promise to boost your immune system—who wouldn’t want that? Well, millions of people suffer from autoimmune diseases, inflammatory diseases, and allergies.  Their 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 alertness 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 metric tons a year, and for good reason. They accelerate immunoglobulin A secretion. Let me explain.

Though skin is considered our largest organ, we actually interface with the outside world more through our mucous membranes, which occupy our largest body surface area. These include the lining of our mouth, our entire digestive tract, our reproductive and urinary systems, inside the breast glands, and on our eyeballs. 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. That defense is called IgA, immunoglobulin A, our type A antibodies. Dietary intake of certain foods may improve mucosal immunity by accelerating IgA secretion, but no studies have ever been conducted on mushrooms, until now.

In the study “Dietary Intake of…White Button Mushroom Accelerates Salivary Immunoglobulin A Secretion in Healthy Volunteers,” people were split into two groups. Half ate their normal diet; half ate their normal diet with cooked white button mushrooms every day for a week. Then using the “passive dribble method” for collecting saliva, scientists just measured the amount of IgA they were pumping out. If you check out my 5-min video Boosting Immunity While Reducing Inflammation you’ll see the graph. There was 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 the shrooms, before falling back to baseline.

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.” I show in the video a comparison of the anti-inflammatory properties of a variety of different varieties of mushrooms. Researchers think it might be the phytonutrient pyrogallol, found in mushrooms as well as in our old friend amla (Indian gooseberries), that similarly appears to reduce inflammation while at the same time boosting immune and anticancer function.

See how else we can improve our immune function in Boosting Immunity Through Diet, 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:

-Michael Greger, M.D.

PS: If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to my videos for free by clicking here and watch my full 2012 – 2015 presentations Uprooting the Leading Causes of Death, More than an Apple a Day, From Table to Able, and Food as Medicine.


Michael Greger M.D., FACLM

Michael Greger, M.D. FACLM, is a physician, New York Times bestselling author, and internationally recognized professional speaker on a number of important public health issues. Dr. Greger has lectured at the Conference on World Affairs, the National Institutes of Health, and the International Bird Flu Summit, testified before Congress, appeared on The Dr. Oz Show and The Colbert Report, and was invited as an expert witness in defense of Oprah Winfrey at the infamous "meat defamation" trial.

29 responses to “Mushrooms & Immunity

Comment Etiquette

On, you'll find a vibrant community of nutrition enthusiasts, health professionals, and many knowledgeable users seeking to discover the healthiest diet to eat for themselves and their families. As always, our goal is to foster conversations that are insightful, engaging, and most of all, helpful – from the nutrition beginners to the experts in our community.

To do this we need your help, so here are some basic guidelines to get you started.

The Short List

To help maintain and foster a welcoming atmosphere in our comments, please refrain from rude comments, name-calling, and responding to posts that break the rules (see our full Community Guidelines for more details). We will remove any posts in violation of our rules when we see it, which will, unfortunately, include any nicer comments that may have been made in response.

Be respectful and help out our staff and volunteer health supporters by actively not replying to comments that are breaking the rules. Instead, please flag or report them by submitting a ticket to our help desk. is made up of an incredible staff and many dedicated volunteers that work hard to ensure that the comments section runs smoothly and we spend a great deal of time reading comments from our community members.

Have a correction or suggestion for video or blog? Please contact us to let us know. Submitting a correction this way will result in a quicker fix than commenting on a thread with a suggestion or correction.

View the Full Community Guidelines

  1. I read an article about mushrooms anti cancer properties that Michael Gregor presented July of 2013 and started eating more mushrooms. I started my back pack season and spent 12 days in the Wilderness, on the last day I found some curious yellow orange mushrooms with a sweet taste and pleasant aroma and sampled them, no ill effect so two hours tried more and it ‘knocked’ me out for 12 hours, I was convulsive and had muscle spasms, had to be extracted by Black Hawk Helicopter by 101st Airborne division out of Boise Idaho, spent 2 days in the hospital. I had many strange dreams, was delirious, hallucinating, saw devils, talked to God and sat on Jesus lap, visited by Satan and his 6 ‘agents’ who were there to kill me but was rescued by Muhammad Ali, Smoking Joe Frazer and George Foreman at the last second. Took nine days for the drug effect to watched out. It was a mushroom of the Genus Aminita, full of Muscarine and Isobetic acid. I still eat wild mushrooms, but just the few I know well!

      1. Yes I saw it, I thought by testing (with 2 small bites) before I hate 2 big handfuls I would be alright, but was mistaken. It was quite an experience, I was euphoric for 9 days after I woke up, took a month to get my strength in upper body back, had about 9000 dollars in medical bills, my insurance covered 6,500 of it. Got to ride on a black hawk helicopter, but my long time friend Bill Hickey died of a heart attack recovering my backpack gear in the Frank Church Wilderness 2 days later, that was what really hurt….

        1. Brian R Gard: When I saw your first post, my eyes got big and I read it with a big grin on my face as it read like a cautionary, but amusing tale.

          This second post though, shows a real, tragic cost. I’m sorry to hear that you went through all that. It is kind of you to share it with [us].

          I wish you future health and more successful experiments.

          1. Thanks Thea, my friend Bill Hickey had an obvious medical condition but was too stubborn to deal with it, he had Pernicious Anemia and had medicine for it, He was really a tough fellow and a modern day mountain man, he was really mad at me when we talked on the phone in the hospital, but set out to recover my gear, I was cautioning him not to do it in one day, just getting there in that rough terrain was a full day, but he had reputation of over doing things and would of likely died the same way eventually, his family told me that. I just miss him…

  2. Dr. Greger, is it possible to eat too many mushrooms? I absolutely love sauteed mushrooms (with no oil) and could easily go through one conventional carton a day. I regularly include mushrooms as a part of my nutritarian/ immune supportive diet, but am just wondering if there is a limit I should abide by.

  3. My boyfriends mom bought me a ninja duo for christmas, i m truly trying to use it for all advantages i can have with it, That being said, I am having a definite problem with my seasonal allergies this time of the year (Live in Florida ) Our weather this winter has been unusually flip flopping from week to week . warm a few days, cold a few , anyways was trying to find different recipes to boost my natural immunities to the allergens in the air. what are the benefits of the portabella mushrooms as well in some of these recipes? I love both but the meatier mushrooms seem like they may have more benificial qualities to me .

  4. Just wondering, I’m a fan of dehydrating vegetables and some fruits. Do you see any concerns with mushrooms pre-pared in this manner before consuming by sprinkling over or through e.g. salads, pasta, stir fries?

  5. No problem at all! Go for it and glad you’re including mushrooms in your diet so frequently!

  6. I rarely purchase natural medicines but winter upon winter of endless infections (I work as a primary care PA in an FQHC) it was suggested that I take host defense my community comprehensive immune support. So in January of 2018, I bought the product very skeptically. Anyway, it has been two months, my two small children have since been sick twice, and of course, I am constantly exposed to all the infectious disease world has to offer at my place of work and I have not gotten sick once. Thus, here I am starting to explore mushrooms a bit further. The blend I am taking has 18 different mushroom ingredients and I am a bit concerned (as natural medicines are not controlled in the US) that I could potentially be doing harm to my kidneys or liver without knowing it. I purchased this product because it is made by the company of Paul Stamets of Ted talk fame and mycologist extraordinaire. I know you can’t comment on the quality of a mushroom supplement, but is there any valuable research being done on mushroom supplements? I am intrigued and although my healt could be coincidence I do find it interesting especially given my history.

  7. Thank you for sharing and spreading awareness! Mushrooms are really indeed a magical fungus.
    As studies progress, it unfolds a lot of possible uses and applications in science and medicine.
    I hope this could be the future treatment of a lot of diseases. It has endless capabilities!

  8. I cannot wait to see what mushrooms can offer in the future of medicine. I hope that this magical plant would not be abused and misused. Everything, if used properly and moderately proves to be beneficial.

  9. Thanks for sharing this informative post and spreading awareness about mushrooms. Mushrooms are definitely magical fungus. As studies progress, it unfolds a lot of possible uses and applications in science and medicine. I hope, this could be medicine for many diseases in future.

  10. This is a wonderful compilation of the benefits of mushrooms and the future it can bring to the medical field. This potential can be of great help to the public.

  11. a lot of copies out there that will inform you on mushrooms but this BLOG is beyond that. nice, simple, get right to it type blog.. interesting facts i learned also ! thank you for sharing this

  12. I am a mushroom eater and my family loves mushroom too. Mushrooms have helped me in shifting perspectives and focusing more outside me, renewing empathy and the desire to connect with others.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This