Our hormones are the master controllers of our wellbeing.
Hormones determine whether we’re able to be vibrant and energised, they inform our mood, digestion, stress levels, sleep cycle, whether we’re able to reproduce, gain muscle, lose weight, fight off disease and pathogens, and more!
In light of the importance of our hormones, a lot of the core dis-ease and problems people face is because of the imbalance of their hormones.
Whether we’re talking about the production of serotonin impacting our mood and state, or the regulation of cortisol on our stress response, whether we’re able to break down and utilise our food for fuel, switch on those survival instincts to avoid traffic accidents, grow from a baby to an adult, and the ability to have children.
When our hormones are out of balance, when homeostasis (balance) isn’t happening, we experience anxiety, depression, infertility, insomnia, chronic fatigue, inflammatory states – cardiovascular disease, ageing, cancer, auto-immunity, metabolic disease, psoriasis, and gut issues.
All of these are inextricably linked to endocrine dysfunction, with our endocrine system being our hormone system.
The endocrine system is made up of key glands, that secrete our hormones, and these hormones signal other hormones, cells, organs and systems to function via negative feedback loops.
Within us women, hormone imbalances are becoming more and more common - with PCOS (polycystic ovaries syndrome), endometriosis, infertility, oestrogen dominance, menopause causing pain, frustration, low-self esteem and confusion.
Optimising our endocrine system and restoring balance to our hormones is at the basis of living an amazing, healthful life. And here is where the superfood mushrooms can help.
On a grand scale, superfood mushrooms aid women’s health in their ability to up-regulate our immune system, raise our resistance to stress and help our bodies to detoxify all the harmful xeno-estrogens – which act as hormone disruptors and are present in numerous cosmetics, plastics and foods, such as additives, artificial flavours and factory farmed meats.
This along with their ability to restore balance to insulin resistance and decrease inflammation, which helps to lower excess oestrogen within the body.
Reishi mushroom is an excellent liver support and helps to remove these harmful toxins from our body, and is especially nurturing for our adrenals.
Maitake, in particular, has shown in research to be useful in restoring hormonal balance by improving insulin sensitivity. Insulin resistance and obesity see’s subcutaneous fat acting like an organ system, releasing oestrogen and inflammatory markers into the body. So addressing the metabolic disruption can minimise the negative effects of additional oestrogen in the body.
PMS is one of those terms that gets thrown around all too often to describe any and every emotional reaction that women do, regardless of what time of the month it actually is.
Cordyceps is prized for its energizing properties, helping to fight off fatigue and restore energy.
Lion’s Mane can help calm the nerves, relieve stress, help with mood swings, depressive moods, irritability and anxiety, along with Reishi to help with stress, depression, and promote balance, calmness and a strengthened meditative practice.
PCOS (polycystic ovary syndrome) occurs when there is a higher prevalence of androgens (male hormones) in us females. This throws our hormone balance out of whack, and PCOS manifests as irregular or no periods, heavy periods, pelvic pain, facial hair, acne along the jawline, difficulty conceiving and is linked to many metabolic diseases– insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes and obesity.
Maitake is helpful for those suffering from PCOS due to its beneficial activity on insulin sensitivity and has been shown in recent studies to induce ovulation and regulate menstrual cycles. Maitake working to help restore normal insulin levels thus decreasing inflammation, and this can help to reduce PCOS.
Endometriosis is when tissue starts to grow in abnormal places within the uterus, such as on our fallopian tubes and ovaries. This causes immense pain, abnormal and painful periods and infertility. The cause of endometriosis isn’t known.
Research has shown Reishi mushroom may help reduce pelvic inflammation, which is helpful for women suffering from endometriosis, uterine fibroids, dysmenorrhea and pelvic inflammatory disease (PID).
Being women we are forced to deal and adapt to numerous life and hormonal changes. And menopause is one of these times, and something we can’t avoid– it’s an inevitable part of our evolution and ageing process. But it doesn’t have to be all bad!
Menopause is known for the decline of sex hormones, which sends the body into a whirlwind of symptoms, famously for its hot flashes, night sweats and irritability.
Research shows Cordyceps mushroom can help to mitigate the symptoms of low estrogens, such as irritability and mood swings, through stimulating the release of estrogen, (17B-estradiol).
These symptoms are brought about by the over-excitation of nerves, which is where Reishi can also be useful in balancing out the over-stimulation. Cordyceps is also well known for boosting libido and sexual vitality, which is a nice little “side-effect” if I do say so myself.
Research has discovered that Cordyceps also inhibits MAO breakdown (monoamine oxidase)– enzymes which break down serotonin (our feel good and happy hormone), which means it’s able to float around for longer within the brain, improving our mood and state.
Reishi mushroom can help with restlessness, insomnia and hot flashes, alongside strengthening the liver - an active constituent of Reishi. In TCM (traditional Chinese medicine) hot flashes is associated with a dysfunctional liver, so strengthening and supporting the liver throughout menopause, can potentially help mitigate the discomfort.
During menopause, memory can be impacted, with mood swings, anxiety, irritability and depressive states also experienced. Research supports Lion’s Mane’s amazing ability to boost new neural networks, strengthen existing neural patterns and boosting mood.
A 2010 study showed women who used Lion’s Mane for 4 weeks, reduced anxiety and depression among menopausal women, further strengthening how Lion’s Mane can help menopausal symptoms and improve overall well-being.
Cordyceps is traditionally known for boosting libido in males, but anecdotal reports and studies throughout China have reported that the same occurs in women.
Low libido in women is associated with hormone imbalances, stress, medications, a decline in emotional well-being and fatigue.
Cordyceps mushroom is able to significantly boost energy levels, and Reishi has the magic of helping to manage stress and emotional wellbeing, making these two a power-packed duo in reigniting that libido and sex life. And with sex strengthening our immune system, psychological well-being, decreasing inflammatory markers and stress, improving our sex drive has all the benefits.
As infertility among couples becomes a more openly discussed topic and IVF more commonplace, reasons for the incidence have been attributed to our changing lifestyles and the amount of stress we’re exposed to.
Luckily, with medicinal mushroom’s becoming so easy to access and utilise, we’re able to stack more chips in our favour of falling pregnant.
Cordyceps sinesis has been utilised amongst IVF patients and those struggling with fertility. Research has seen its usefulness in boosting female fertility and improving IVF success.
This is thought to be the case as it stimulates 17B-estradiol (oestrogen) production through various pathways including aromatase expression – with aromatase being the enzyme for oestrogen production.
This application of boosting oestrogen not only has beneficial effects for fertile women but also menopausal and older women, acting to increase both testosterone and oestrogen levels, helping to mitigate menopausal symptoms. And with oestrogen being bone protective, can help prevent osteoporosis and bone weakening in older females.
The negative impact of stress on fertility is a well-known link and occurrence within our world, so utilising the ultimate anti-stress herb – Reishi, prior to pre-conception and treatment can decrease the release of cortisol within the body, mitigating inflammatory cascades and negative implications when trying to fall pregnant.
Reishi can help to strengthen the adrenal glands and reduce stress in women seeking to conceive and decrease the negative impact that stress has on fertility.
Adding to this, women who are stressed about conceiving and their fertility may find Reishi useful in decreasing their stress-levels and associated symptoms, e.g insomnia, irregular sleep cycles, shortness of breath, irritability, nervousness and anxiety.
Additionally, the impact of insulin resistance and the inflammation associated with imbalances within the body can cause issues with fertility and conception. Maitake has been shown in numerous studies to re-normalise insulin feedback pathways in the body, mitigating stress-induced fertility issues.
Pregnancy requires a lot of Jing– our primordial life force energy that is the foundation for our ability to be thriving individuals, as explained by Taoists. Our Jing can be thought of as our energy reserve, and it’s important that we nourish, protect and foster this precious substance.
We have pre-natal Jing, which is determined in-vitro and determines our constitution. With this in mind, it’s important that we nurture our own Jing as to pass that onto our children and give them the best possible health and strength.
Without being pregnant, us ladies exert a lot of our Jing (leaking Jing) in our everyday lives, managing families, businesses, friends, family and ourselves. Consuming medicinal mushrooms throughout pregnancy can help to cultivate our Jing and strengthen the organ systems– decreasing the fatigue and bodily stress that occurs with pregnancy, and supporting recovery post-pregnancy.
Reishi is particularly great for strengthening the immune system throughout and mother’s who use Reishi throughout their pregnancies report calmer babies and less complicated births.
It’s also important to note that evidence supporting the usage and safety of medicinal mushrooms in pregnancy and breastfeeding is limited, this fact alone makes it difficult to evaluate the risks and benefits of using it. Always consult with your healthcare professional regarding their usage.
Utilising Cordyceps, Chaga and Reishi post-pregnancy and while breastfeeding can help to heal the body, revitalise organ systems and boost the immune system. This can then be passively passed onto our babies, strengthening their immune systems and constitutions.
With evidence linking a wide range of childhood and adult health issues, such as skin issues, low immunity, digestive problems and learning difficulties to early exposure and nourishment, adding mushroom’s to your post-pregnancy regime can help to strengthen the babies microbiome and immune system, diminishing future health ailments. Prevention is always better than treatment.
The incidence of breast cancer tends to increases with age, and so again, prevention is always better than treatment.
Studies show Reishi’s triterpenes also have the ability to suppress NF-kB, which is considered to play a role in the growth of hormone-dependent cancers, such as breast and ovarian. (19, 23, 26)
Polysaccharide-K (PSK) extract from Shiitake, Maitake, and Turkey Tail have been shown in numerous trials to be beneficial for breast cancer. Additionally, consuming medicinal mushrooms during cancer treatment up-regulates and supports the immune system improving survival rates and decreasing side effects of treatments such as chemotherapy and radiation. (24, 25)
Agaricus blazei has also been shown in studies to enhance NK cell activity in those with gynaecological cancers – cervical, uterine and endometrial, as well as reduce side effects from chemotherapy. (27)
All the medicinal mushrooms, due to their polysaccharide complexes and immuno-modulating properties activate and up-regulate the bodies own immune defences. Turkey Tail has the most extensive research regarding cancer, thanks to the infamous mycologist Paul Stamets.
Although Candida is a fungal organism, medicinal mushrooms are the king of the fungi kingdom and can be utilised as part of an anti-candida protocol to kill off this unwanted pathogenic yeast - as they’ve evolved to have anti-fungal defences in order to survive.
Candida causes thrush, UTI’s, and is linked to IBS, IBD, gut-dysbiosis and auto-immune conditions such as Crohn’s and UC.
Shiitake, Oyster, Turkey Tail and Reishi all show anti-fungal actions within studies. It’s also suggested that chitin– a type of polysaccharide and non-soluble fibre found within mushroom cell walls, can help prevent the colonisation of Candida species within the microbiome / intestinal wall.
As women, we often put our own wellbeing and health on the back burner to be there for everyone else or do what we have to do to get to where we want to be. It’s important to nurture and balance our hormones, so we’re able to really own and encompass our strong feminine energy and go after our dreams.
Incorporating medicinal mushrooms into our daily routine, whether it’s a teaspoon in your morning coffee, tea, smoothie, baking or cooking, will ensure we’re able to support ourselves and our health in the best way possible. This will enable us to deal with stress better, decrease hormonal imbalances, restore vibrancy and Jing to our lives, carry and raise healthier children and just be the badasses that we naturally are!
Eliza is the millennial nutritionist– a health, mindset and abundance enthusiast obsessed with helping millennial's experience living at a higher level. Her relaxed new age approach and understanding of nutrition and wellness sees her empowering and coaching individuals to understand that their health is the ultimate asset. Upon experiencing first hand the power and place of tonic herbalism and medicinal mushrooms in everyday life, Eliza’s become an adaptogen fangirl and feels their utilisation in today’s world is essential for abundance and wellbeing.