Mushrooms – whether your taste buds enjoy this edible dietary fungus or not, medicinal mushrooms are a major part of integrative cancer care. Medicinal mushrooms are undoubtedly the most studied natural cancer-fighting compound out there. They are known to elevate our immune system, protect our healthy cells from DNA damage (thus reducing side effects of chemotherapy or radiation), and be cytotoxic to cancer cells. Let’s explore this fascinating area of medicine!
A variety of medicinal mushrooms are all around you! If you knew where to look, you could find different species living on trees and on the ground right outside in your back yard. In fact, some can even be found in the grocery store. There have been a few studies showing that in women who had higher dietary intakes of mushrooms, this higher intake may be protective against developing breast cancer later in life.
Very often, people who are fighting cancer want to take supplements that can help their body to fight off the cancer. But it can be very difficult, and very confusing, to navigate all of the information from well-meaning friends and family, and from the Internet. But with medicinal mushrooms, there is impressive research with respect to taking these supplements, and prolonged survival. There have been studies on individuals with breast cancer, lung cancer, colon cancer, esophageal cancer and leukaemia/lymphoma, all showing improved 1 year, 2 year and 5 year survival rates among those who supplement with medicinal mushrooms.
For anyone new to integrative cancer care, it is helpful to remind one that one of the exciting aspects about this area of medicine is that conventional treatments (chemotherapy and radiation) and natural treatments seem to work better together. Study after study after study support this theory, and again show that using conventional treatments and natural treatments at the same time seem to get better tumour responses than when either one is used on its own. A very large, recent meta-analysis showed that when one particular medicinal mushroom was used alongside chemo/radiation, patients were 50% more likely to have a positive tumour response, compared to those who did not take a mushroom supplement. This was true for all types of cancers, at all stages.
A great fear of chemotherapy and radiation is the side effects. The side effects are well known, and upon experiencing them, most people describe them as “indescribable.” The side effects are known to be intense, and can be quite severe and long lasting. However, another major exciting aspect to integrative cancer care is that natural therapies serve as protectors to our body, and can reduce or even entirely prevent the side effects of chemotherapy and radiation. There are too many studies to even cite, but the vast majority have findings that include reduced rates of immune suppression, chemo brain, peripheral neuropathy, pain, fatigue, and more.
Medicinal mushrooms are an extremely safe supplement to include in your integrative cancer care. Extracts are more effective than teas or dietary sources, therefore be sure to consult with an experienced botanist or naturopathic doctor for further information.