How can your gut affect your mood and the role of Medicinal Mushrooms in improving the microbiota?

For centuries, we have been living with the belief that our mental health is strictly connected to our physical health. However, in more recent years, science has shifted its focus to the relationship between the gut and our mental health. Emerging research highlights the importance of the gut-brain axis, and the fascinating role it plays in depression and mental health in general. 

Exploring the Gut-Brain Axis and Depression

The concept of “the gut-brain axis” is the study of the bidirectional communication between the gastrointestinal tract and the brain. It links the nervous system with the intestinal system via complex pathways and mechanisms. In its simplest form, it involves hormones, neurotransmitters, and sensory fibres all transmitting messages from the brain to the gut, and vice versa

Ongoing research has revealed that this connection can have a major effect on mental health conditions such as depression. In fact, scientists have established that in up to 70 percent of people with depression, gastrointestinal disturbances are observed before the onset of the disease

The Gut Microbiome and Mental Health 

The gut-brain axis is modulated and regulated by the gut microbiome – the collection of microorganisms that live in our gastrointestinal tract. This microbiome is made up of trillions of bacteria, fungi, parasites, and viruses, which are essential to the functioning of the digestive system and the overall health of our bodies. 

Recent research has suggested that the microbiome can regulate many functions and pathways, particularly those associated with the gut-brain axis. In fact, scientists believe that the microbiome can influence the development of mental health conditions by potentially altering neurotransmitter production, inflammation responses, and the absorption of essential nutrients. 

This means that alterations in the gut microbiome, or dysbiosis, can have a powerful effect on the gut-brain axis. And, as a result, the risk for depression increases.

Medicinal Mushrooms: Nature’s Support for Mental Health 

Fortunately, there are several natural ways to support the gut microbiome, and thus the gut-brain axis. One of these ways is by taking medicinal mushrooms, which are known for their healing properties.

Medicinal mushrooms such as reishi, shiitake and lion’s mane are a powerful source of nutrition and support for the gut microbiome. They contain beneficial compounds such as polysaccharides, beta-glucans, amino acids, and sterols, which are all essential to a healthy gut

Furthermore, medicinal mushrooms are rich in antioxidants, which help to reduce oxidative stress and support the body’s natural defences. This, in turn, can help to reduce inflammation, which is believed to be a contributing factor to the development of depression. 

Additionally, medicinal mushrooms have been known to support mental wellbeing via their effect on mood and cognitive functioning. They are thought to potentially reduce anxiety and depression by regulating the production of serotonin and dopamine. 

How does Reishi Support the Gut Brain Axis:

Reishi has been found to support the gut-brain axis by modulating the activity of the sympathetic nervous system and endocrine system, which can help lessen anxiety and improve mood. It has been found to stimulate the proliferation of beneficial gut bacteria, reduce inflammation, and improve the production of immune cells in the gut, all of which help maintain a healthy balance in the digestive system, which in turn is believed to ultimately help with mental health and function. Reishi can also help improve communication between the gut and brain, which is similarly believed to help with mental health and brain function.

The role of Shiitake in Gut-Brain axis

Shiitake mushrooms contain beneficial compounds, including beta-glucans, which can provide a powerful boost to the gut-brain axis. Beta-glucans are known to beneficially modulate the immune system by increasing the production of immune cells in the intestine and modulating the production of inflammatory cytokines. Furthermore, the beta-glucans present in Shiitake are said to have an impact on the composition of the gut microbiota. This, in turn, influences the communication that exists between the gut and the brain. In addition to the potential immune benefits, Shiitake also contains complex carbohydrates that can help to feed the healthy gut bacteria that are important for supporting the gut-brain axis. Ultimately, consuming Shiitake mushrooms can provide a range of positive benefits to the gut-brain axis.

The role of Lion’s Mane in Gut-Brain Axis

Lion’s mane has been found to have prebiotic properties. Prebiotics helps to restore balance to the gut microbiota, which is important for keeping the gut-brain axis healthy. Additionally, Lion’s mane may reduce inflammation in the gut, which in turn has a positive effect on cognitive functioning. Finally, Lion’s mane has been studied for its ability to reduce anxiety and stress, two emotional states that can disrupt the gut-brain axis.


The connection between the gut-brain axis and depression is increasingly being supported by scientific research. This means that individuals have an opportunity to address their mental health condition in a holistic manner – rather than just relying on synthetic medications.

Medicinal mushrooms are emerging as a powerful way to support mental health conditions such as depression. Not only do they provide essential nutrition to the gut microbiome, but they can also reduce oxidative stress, and inflammation, and regulate neurotransmitter production. 

By nourishing the body with the right nutrition, we may be able to support the gut-brain axis and promote mental health for ourselves and our loved ones. 


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