Mycotherapy is the use of medicinal mushrooms to improve your health, it plays a key role in Traditional Chinese Medicine but many functional practitioners like myself also use these mushrooms.
It is a factor to consider when looking at the different cultural experiences of menopause. Asian cultures have long consumed mushrooms and in general, they have a much milder experience of the transition compared to the average western women who don’t traditionally eat medicinal mushrooms. Please note the standard mushrooms purchased in a western supermarket aren’t the ones we are talking about here.
I have been prescribing medicinal mushrooms for over a decade now. Initially, I started using them to help women with auto-immune conditions modulate their immune response. Eg it lowers their antibody levels. It's something I have pretty much give all my Hashimoto women and this has been rather successful. What I have noticed over time is the plethora of other benefits they all seem to be experiencing. So I have dug deeper into the research and I now recommend the use of medicinal mushrooms to ease menopausal symptoms.
In my book “From Invisible to invisible”, the natural menopause revolution. I mention many factors that predispose a woman to a possibly more intense transition. These include stress and adrenal dysfunction, suboptimal liver function, thyroid dysfunction, poor diet with blood sugar irregularities, and possibly viral infections.
Medicinal mushrooms are adaptogenic meaning they help you adapt to stressful situations and reduced the stress burden on your body. They are organ tonics good for the liver, kidneys, and lungs, as mentioned above they help improve thyroid function but by reducing the level of thyroid antibodies, they help regulate blood sugar levels by improving insulin sensitivity. They are also antimicrobial and anti-viral. Yes, they reduce ALL of the factors discussed that predispose a woman to a more intense menopausal transition and more! Yes more, some are also specific hormone regulators.
Additional general benefits of medicinal mushrooms include:
There are many different varieties of medicinal mushrooms and I’m more likely to prescribe a mushroom complex than a single variety so you will receive multiple benefits. If I’m looking at immune modulation due to an auto-immune disease I’ll use a product with a base of maitake, shitake, reishi. If it's more menopause-related symptoms let's take about a few varieties that shine for different reasons.
Maitake - GROWTHS
I think of maitake as the mushroom for reproductive growths. Many women transitioning into menopause will find themselves with the diagnosis of fibroids. Fibroids have a few different triggers for growth. Estrogen dominance is one but another less commonly considered factor is insulin-like growth factors. Maitake helps reduce abnormal growths by regulating insulin sensitivity. This action can also help trigger ovulation in perimenopausal women with PCOS as this is another reproductive growth associated with insulin resistance.
Post-menopausal women can still benefit from taking Maitake. As it may help slow down osteoporosis by stimulating osteoblasts and reducing bone loss.
Reishi - HORMONE REGULATOR
Reishi mushroom is a hormone regulator. It may reduce hot flushes by supporting the HPA (hypothalamic-pituitary-ovarian) axis. This action may help regulate estrogen production. While also increasing the sensitivity of estrogen receptors, making the amount of estrogen you have to go further.
It may help reduce pelvic inflammation and its associated pain.
Reishi has research suggesting it may help reduce abnormal growths especially those linked with breast and ovarian cancer.
It may help improve sleep and energy levels
Many TCM practitioners think of Reishi as a supporter of spiritual growth and intelligence. Yes, please.
Cordyceps - ENERGY and SEXUAL DESIRE
One of the key benefits of taking cordyceps is having more energy. This may be due to the increase in blood oxygenation. I find exhausted women are less likely to want to particulate in sexual activities. Cordyceps may help provide a healthy libido and may increase your sexual satisfaction by improving blood flow to your genitals.
Increased blood flow may also increase your exercise performance and boost strength.
This mushroom may also provide a healthier HPA axis and therefore better hormonal balance.
It may also improve sleep.
Lion’s mane - COGNITION AND MOODS
The active constituents of Lion’s Mane easily cross the blood-brain barrier and promotion healthy cognition and brighter moods. It does this by producing nerve growth factors and brain-derived neurotrophic factors these produce new neural pathways and strengthening existing ones, while also supporting the production of myelin sheaths that surround your nerve pathways. Essentially meaning a healthier and happier brain, one that promotes learning and memory, while relieving you of your menopausal mood swings, irritability, anxiety, or depression. Historically this mushroom was reserved for Royals only.
I hope you have enjoyed this brief introduction to mycotherapy. If I have introduced a new concept that you would like to try, please speak to your health care provider to check it's suitable for you first. If you do not have a health care provider consider working with me.