Immunity & Medicinal Mushrooms

Anyone with a compromised immune system is more prone to getting sick and fatigued. This is especially true when stress is high and immune system becomes hyperactive. Chronic anxiety and stress may elicit prolonged secretion of cortisol. This interferes with the natural smooth responses of the white blood cells, to the intruding pathogens or viruses.

There are two classifications of immunity. Humoral and systemic. Humoral immunity arises from the activity of antibodies directed against foreign agents (antigens) in the tissues or circulating blood. It is a quick response by the body. Cellular immunity operates inside infected cells, whereby pathogens or microorganisms are destroyed by the release of cytokines. It is slower in action. Many research studies over the last 50 years have indicated the very close relationship between stress and its effect on the body. Acute anxiety and fear tend to suppress cellular immunity while preserving humoral immunity.

According to Garbor Mate, who writes in his book ” When the body says no”, the cost of, hidden stress, the disturbed immune system reacts against the body’s own tissues, especially connective tissues like cartilage, tendons lining of joints, walls of blood vessels. Targeting joints of the limbs or spine, or surface tissues like skin or lining of the eyes, or internal organs such as heart, lung, brain. The medical conditions affected are rheumatoid arthritis, ankylosing spondylitis, systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). In the case of women with repeated failure to become pregnant the immune system may respond by reacting against the fetus.

Certain medicinal mushrooms are very beneficial for managing a wide variety of viruses and pathogens. They are also used in the treatment of immune imbalances in fertility treatments. Because of their ability to modulate the immune system they are classified as adaptogens. For anyone who is undergoing treatment in fertility clinics and have not been successful but have not found any reason for failure, please read on.

Immunological causes of implantation failure

This is a relatively new diagnostic medicine within certain IVF centres, which has made big advances in the last 5-10 years. It is still is in its infancy in Ireland and is being continuously researched. In some American IVF centres it is part of the general initial workup of investigations. If a woman has signs of gross inflammation investigations are recommended early, but otherwise offered if 3 failed cycles. “In normal pregnancy a woman’s body accommodates what is essentially a foreign body that should be destroyed by her immune system. The normal immune system is balanced between Th1 ‘autoimmune’ and Th2 ‘suppressive’ response.

Most women have a balanced system. Women with implantation failures or recurrence miscarriage may have an unbalanced immune system. They are too Th1 activated with cells that attack their pregnancy and /or too Th2 compromised lacking protective antibodies” (extract taken from “The body at War” by John Dwyer). The mother’s immune system identifies the fetal cells as intruder and the mother’s immune system reacts against it.

Attack of the egg
The female immune system attacks the egg in the ovary, the developing embryo in the fallopian tubes or at the implantation site preventing or disrupting implantation.

Attack at the Endometrium implantation site
The female immune system fails to cloak and protect the implantation site from attack – male or female initiated.

Sperm attack
Normally the sperm has antigen which triggers her immune system NOT to reject but if this is interfered with by the disruption to the immune response then this causes difficulties.

Immunology in depth

T helper cells (Th cells) are a type of T cell that plays an important part in the immune system especially in “adaptive” immune system. They help the activity of other immune cells by releasing T Cell Cytokines. These cells help suppress or regulate immune responses. They are essential in the activation and growth of cytotoxic T cells and in maximizing bacterial activity of phagocytosis such as the action of Macrophages. Mature Th cells express surface protein CD4 and are called CD4+T cells. CD4+T cells are treated as having a Pre-defined role as helper T cells within the immune system. Th helper cells produce Interferon, Gamma interleukin (IL2) and tumour necrosis factor (TNF)beta, which activate Macrophages and are responsible for cell mediated immunity and phagocyte dependent protective responses.

Th1 cell mainly develop after infection by intercellular bacteria and some viruses. Th2 cells predominate in responses to infections by gastrointestinal toxins. Th1 cells are involved in pathogenesis of organ specific autoimmune disorders such as Crohns, Helicobacter pylori induced peptic ulcer, and unexplained recurrent miscarriages. B Lymphocytes are the antibody forming cells of the immune system. They are found in blood, lymph nodes, spleen, tonsil and other mucosal tissues.

Cytokines are a large group of proteins, peptides or glycoproteins that are secreted by specific cells of the immune system. They are molecules that regulate immunity and inflammation. They assist cell to cell communication in immune responses and stimulate movement of cells towards site of inflammation and infection and trauma. They are important regulators in the immune system. A “Cytokine Storm” refers to a hyperactive immune response where the levels of released cytokinins are injurious to host cells and are associated with detrimental outcomes, such as which has happened with extreme viral and bacterial infections.

Natural Killer cells are immune lymphocytes that are a subset of lymphocytes and are involved in the innate immune responses and play an important role in the defence against viral infections, tumours and when raised above normal can prevent implantation of the embryo.

In Sims IVF clinic in Dublin, the laboratory has created specific tests called the Zip blood test and ZFB endometrial biopsy which tests for the specific imbalances of the immune system, as mentioned in the previous page. There are several other detailed tests which check for various other changes and discrepancies. They offer within the clinic particular medical treatments which involve taking oral steroids, and other immune-suppressant agents.

Natural immune regulation

Acupuncture is used to regulate the immune system alone. It’s deeply relaxing effect, along with the action on the central nervous system helps rebalance the body’s over- reactiveness. Its action can be complemented by use of medicinal mushrooms.

Medicinal Mushrooms They are used for regulation of the immune system by way of the adaptogenic quality of each mushroom. According to TCM, “Mushrooms assist by way of tonification of Qi, Blood, Yin, Yang, and Jing”. Mushrooms have been part of the culture of TCM for thousands of years, but in more recent years have been accepted by western medicine, due modern to research. Immune enhancing plants and mushrooms have been studied by Japanese researchers since the 1960’s. Mushrooms are used to restore the immune system of patients with tumours, increasing the white blood cells and deficiency of platelets, both resulting from chemotherapy. Their adaptogenic qualities help to regulate various immune related disorders. They also raise the general core energetic stamina of the individual.

Common mushrooms used to help Fertility disorders –

  • Coriolus
  • Cordyceps
  • Reishi
  • Mesima

Coriolus MRL (Turkey Tail mushroom)

John Tindall an acupuncturist working in London with HIV patients, in 1999 confirmed that Coriolus-MRL produced marked improvement in CD4 levels and viral load. They are used in more recent years in the regulation of unstable immune systems in fertility patients.

Uses

Th1/Th2 shift, leaky gut syndrome, chronic fatigue syndrome, anti- viral action on Epstein-Barr virus, and in Human Papillo virus.

TCM

Used in lung disorders, liver and kidney yin deficiency, phlegm obstructing meridians, and lungs. Spleen qi deficiencies. Nourishes the heart and spirit.

Cordyceps MRL Cordyceps sinensis

Caterpillar fungus is derived from a master strain of Cordyceps sourced from high altitudes in Tibet and Nepal. It parasites on the larvae of the Lepidoptera moth, and during each Spring grows into a finger shaped fruiting body. The MRL raw material is not harvested from dead caterpillar.

Uses

Allergic diseases, asthma, eczema, autoimmune disorders, antidepressant and anti-stress action, regulates hormones. Hypoglycaemic action and used in insulin resistant patients. Liver support especially in cirrhosis, and regenerates liver tissue.

TCM

Tonifies the lungs in Lung Yin Deficiency and defensive qi, Kidney Yang deficiency. Restores sexual vitality and used traditionally for longevity and to treat impotence. Kidney Essence Deficiency

Reishi MRL (ganoderma/ Lingzhi) –

grows on mouldering trunks and stumps in the coastal regions of China. It is known as a plant of immortality or a plant of spiritual power, and for centuries has been valued in China and Japan.

Uses

Asthma, bronchitis, allergy, resolves phlegm, antihistamine, Chronic Fatigue syndrome. Lowers blood pressure. Boosts the immune system, antiviral, anti-inflammatory. Liver protection regeneration and detoxification Used in Tumour diseases, and lowers toxic side effects of chemo and radio therapy.

Regulates

T and B lymphocytes, suppressing the expanding of Tumour cells. Supports cell renewal in bone marrow and white lymphocytes and erythrocytes, NK cells. Used in fertility treatments to regulate the immune system, acting as immune-stimulant, antibacterial, antiviral. Reduces allergy and inflammation and major depletion and exhaustion.

TCM

Nourishes the Heart and Calms the Spirit. Nourishes all Qi Deficiencies in TCM-Liver, Kidney, Lung, Heart, Spleen, Stomach, Blood, Jing

Mesima–Phellinulinteus, Meshimakobu (the black hoof mushroom /Sang huang)

It is so-called due to its hoof shape. It is primarily found in Asian countries such as China, Japan, and Korea. As a basidiomycete fungus, this mushroom often grows in large numbers on mulberry trees. The Phellinus Linteus has a distinct bitter taste. As such, it is usually consumed in the form of a medicinal tea in Korea. Notably, the mushroom is regarded as a medicine that can promote health and longevity in traditional Asian cultures.

Uses

When consumed regularly, the mushroom has been found to treat and prevent a diverse range of ailments such as diarrhoea, haemorrhages, gastro- enteric dysfunction, and certain cancers. It possesses the greatest concentration of anti-tumour properties. This makes it an ideal as an anti-cancer drug. Over the past decade, Korean scientists have been researching on the mushroom’s possible ability of improving the body’s immunity and of enhancing the effects of chemotherapy. Facilitates wound healing, anti-viral, anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant, and cytotoxic.

Anti-cancer
Although Phellinus linteus has been shown to be a possible treatment for cancer, specifically breast, prostate, bladder, bone, and lung cancer, bowel more research has to be conducted in order to obtain conclusive evidence of its efficacy. In general though, the extract from the mushroom have been known to suppress metastasis and the growth of tumours, stimulate the cell’s immune defence, and lessen inflammation. In some studies, marked improvement was witnessed in cancer patients who consumed the mushroom in conjunction with other treatments.

Anti-arthritis and anti-inflammatory, Adaptogenic
Patients suffering from rheumatoid arthritis were able to experience markedly less inflammation in their joints after consuming the polysaccharide extract from the edible fruit of the Phellinus Linteus. Their autoimmune responses also lessened greatly. Anti- inflammatory agent especially in cases of septic shock that are caused by lipopolysaccharides.

Antihistamine
Numerous studies have proven that the polysaccharides of Phellinus linteus are highly effective in treating immune imbalances and allergic reactions. Specifically, the active components in the mushroom are capable of suppressing Th2 cytokines and conversely inducing secretion of Th1 cytokines that are known to promote a more balanced immune system.

Antiallergic
Suppresses the release of histamine in the body even after the introduction of known allergic stimuli. Useful in atopic dermatitis or asthma.

Treatment for infertility
Many women who have elevated levels of NK cells and cytokine often suffer from infertility issues. Consuming Phellinus linteus has been shown to lower these components and thus increase the chances of successful pregnancies.