Do you struggle with depression or anxiety? Feeling overwhelmed, on edge or just a little bit flat?
Depression and anxiety are at an all-time high in today’s society. Since the pandemic started in 2020, the number of people experiencing mental health struggles has soared. The World Health Organisation reports that approximately 350 million people worldwide are affected by depression alone!
The chances are if you’re not suffering from mental health challenges yourself, you know someone that is.
But what can you do about it?
Doctors, antidepressants, anti-anxiety meds and therapy are the traditional solution - but more and more people are looking for alternative options, particularly when you have an understanding around how a more holistic, natural approach can be powerful for your health.
Lifestyle changes, dietary overhaul and vitamin supplements are three natural ways to positively impact mental health.
But there’s another option too.
An all-natural, safe and simple solution.
And not just any old button mushroom like the kind you find in your salad.
Lion’s mane mushrooms.
A hairy little medicinal mushroom is being increasingly being referred to as the best mushroom for the brain.
These small edible fungi, found in parts of North America, Europe and Asia, are completely safe, non-toxic, non-psychedelic (so they don’t give you a high like magic mushrooms) and their use is fast gaining traction due to their impressive mental health benefits.
The Superpowers of Lion’s Mane Mushrooms
In our previous post, we discussed the main benefits of this magical mushroom. If you haven’t read it yet, you’re missing out. Head over to the blog now to give it a read…
But in summary, Lion’s mane mushrooms are pretty exciting. They have been shown to:
- Strengthen brain cells and stimulate the growth of new ones, for increased focus, performance, memory and overall brain health.
- Reduce inflammation because they are packed full of antioxidants.
- Support your immune system by feeding the healthy bacteria in your gut.
- And most importantly - improve mood and mental health.
But Can They Really Make A Difference To Anxiety & Depression?
When you’re caught in a downward spiral of chaos and despair, it’s likely that mushrooms are the last thing you think about. But we want to change that!
You see, Lion’s mane has been shown to have antidepressant effects.
Research has shown that over time, healthy compounds in lion’s mane mushrooms can help to reduce both the physical and mental symptoms of brain disorders such as anxiety and depression.
But how does it work? How can a small, hairy mushroom help with such chronic and frustrating mental health problems?
How Inflammation Influences Mental Health
Every year, more studies highlight the relationship between inflammation - your body's process of fighting against things that harm it - and mental health.
Inflammation is a natural - and good- part of your body’s immune system.
Inflammation is key to your survival. It is your body’s defence reaction against an attack. When something is harming your body’s cells - be it exposure to toxins, infection or psychological stress - your body produces small protein cells called cytokines to rush to its aid.
But you see, while some inflammation is good, too much inflammation is bad.
Research shows that in a continuously inflamed state, a growing list of your internal bodily systems are affected negatively, such as your:
- Immune system
All of which are essential components of emotional state.
In short, inflammation affects how we feel, from feeling a little grumpy to longer-lasting mental health issues.
Whilst we know that mental illnesses are often related to chemical imbalances in the brain, alternative theories suggest that brain disorders may be the result of chronic brain inflammation - inflammation that is long-lasting or constantly recurring.
To put it simply, chronic inflammation affects your brain and your body - and can have a significant impact on your mental (and physical) health.
The good news is that lion’s mane mushrooms are anti-inflammatory. Research shows they help to combat inflammation and reduce many of the symptoms associated with depression.
The Gut:Brain Connection
You’ve probably heard this phrase a lot, and rightly so. The relationship between our gut and brain is indisputable. As time goes on, more and more research is showing that mental health is closely linked to the health in your gut.
But why? It could be due to something called the gut-brain axis.
The gut-brain axis, also known as the GBA, is the two-way communication system between your brain and your gut. When the gut isn’t happy, messages sent to the brain via the gut-brain axis don’t always get there effectively - communication breaks down - and the way you feel suffers as a result.
On the flip side, when your brain state is compromised, communication again breaks down and this time your digestive system takes a hit.
You’ve probably experienced this yourself. Lost your appetite when going through a break-up? Had stomach ache when you’re nervous? Struggled with indigestion, nausea or IBS when you’re going through stress?
The good news is that research shows that tweaking our gut microbiome - the microorganisms living in your intestines that control the digestion of food and other bodily processes - can help to improve brain function, health and mood.
What’s gut bacteria got to do with mushrooms? Keep reading to find out…
How Lion's Mane Mushrooms Can Help Mental Health
The Lion’s mane mushroom is a functional food - one that holds health benefits beyond its nutritional value. Lots of research is continuously being funded to learn more about just how powerful it is.
The researchers of one such study, observing the effects lion’s mane treatment had on mice, go so far to say that “Lion's mane may constitute a strong alternative therapy for depression."
But How Does It Work?
It’s pretty simple.
We now know that inflammation and gut health play a big part in mental health disorders such as anxiety and depression.
Lion’s mane mushrooms have been shown to alleviate symptoms of brain disorders by reducing inflammation and increasing the diversity and richness of gut flora - improving gut health in general.
But that’s not all…
Compounds found in the mycelium and fruiting body of these medicinal mushrooms have been found to promote the growth of healthy neurons - the nerve cells that form part of your brain and nervous system.
Researchers believe that this regrowth, repair and improved functioning of the hippocampus (the area of your brain in charge of emotional responses) may explain the reduction of symptoms of anxiety and depression when you supplement Lion’s mane.
It can be fast too! This study found that new brain cells were being produced in the hippocampus after only 4 weeks of starting a lion’s mane supplement!
Amazing stuff for a mere mushroom.
To Put It Simply…
Research shows that Lion’s mane mushrooms can help to reduce inflammation, improve gut health and reduce the symptoms of mental health disorders such as anxiety and depression.
What’s Different About Lion’s Mane Mushrooms?
There are many medicinal mushrooms out there, so why does Lion’s mane have such potent medicinal effects?
Researchers think it has a lot to do with the blood-brain barrier or BBB.
The BBB is responsible for deciding what gets into your brain and what doesn’t. It protects your brain from toxins by preventing them from entering the brain and sending them into the bloodstream instead. It is also responsible for allowing nutrients to cross over into the brain.
The result is that many things that we may want to enter the brain, never actually make it through. The BBB blocks its pathway and even though it’s a good thing it never makes it into your brain where it needs to be.
This is one of the reasons some natural alternatives to medicines don’t always work as well as they might.
What’s so special about this weird looking fungi is that it passes through the BBB, where many supplements simply can’t. Lion’s mane mushroom supplements directly access our central nervous system, right up there in the driver's seat.
So Can Lion’s Mane Mushrooms Cure Anxiety & Depression?
Researchers around the world have been discovering the incredible benefits of this superfood, and their findings are impressive. We believe that Lion’s mane is one of the best natural supplements to improve mental health.
From brain fog to chronic disease, these marvellous mushrooms can work wonders. Reducing anxiety and depression, improving mood, aiding better focus and strengthening your immune system too.
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