Mycelium - The Inconceivable Organism

Ashley Sheffer
June 22, 2020

Mycelium are arguably one of the most under appreciated organisms on our planet. In recent years scientists, architects, designers, doctors have finally started to really look at the important roles they can play. Mycelium contain a whole host of applications to our current world challenges. whether you are in need medicine, food, or biodegradable materials, these organisms multifaceted. Believe it or not, these guys can actually consume our waste products, physically break down toxins in the environment providing a ton of biodiversity just by breaking down matter and turning it into soil.

What the heck is it?

If you look closely, you will find mushrooms popping up in forests, in trees or within rotting logs. But when you see the physical mushroom, you are only seeing a VERY small part of it. The mushroom is only what’s called the fruiting body . Its job is to explode from the ground, spread their caps, and spreading millions of spores into the air to reproduce. Once they have matured enough, they rot and decompose back into the ground soil. Inside this soil is the filament network of this mushroom. This is the mycelium. These fungal threads span literally thousands of miles and are capable of growing within a single cubic meter of soil. WOW!

Mushrooms as Medicine

So now that we know mycelium lives in the ground, rotting logs and even in poo! They have no choice but to encounter millions of bacteria, viruses, microorganisms and other pathogens. Their goal is to attack the mycelium, and are all competing or trying to consume the mycelium. And this is how mycelium evolved to create antibiotics, polysaccharides and all sorts of enzymes in order to protect itself from infections. One of the most interesting things i recently read about was how Penicillin is one of the more known antibiotics derived from fungi! Why doesn’t anyone talk about this? And on top of that, there are so many more being discovered every day within human health, among other things like the environment and the health of bees. For the purpose of simplifying, we are going to focus on mostly human health in the article.

Mushrooms and the Gut

Because mycelium are loaded with these polysaccharides, proteins, minerals, vitamins (B, D), and are low in fat and free of cholesterol, there is nothing bad you can say about them. And when it comes to the health of our specifically our gut, they become very intriguing little things.  Containing high levels of enzymes, antimicrobial agents, antiviral compounds, it grows in the ground beneath our feet and in the forests around us, mycelium is the cellular foundation of our food webs, creating nutrient rich soils. because we know that mycelium is a digestive membrane, it destroys many environmental toxic wastes, and has actually spawned an entire new science -- called "Mycoremediation." Incorporating mycelium in your diet, garden and yards can help neutralize irritants that challenge our immune systems.

Mycelium chooses bacteria that not only helps it digest food, and stave off predators, but also helps the plant communities that give rise to the ecosystems in which the mycelium resides, so fruits (mushrooms) can be produced. This is why products stemming from mycelium can aid digestion and help promote beneficial bacteria in our microbiomes. They are also prebiotics for the microbiome -- augmenting the growth of beneficial bacteria such as Acidophilus and Bifidobacterium. Recent research now shows that Reishi and Turkey Tail mushrooms not only support the immune system, but also balance the microbiome in favor of these beneficial bacteria, resulting in better digestion!

Reishi Mushroom

Opening our minds to these beautiful organisms will benefit in our pursuit of good health. The key is to make sure the products you consume are Certified Organic, US grown (better inspections), and that you know where they are grown and who is growing them. This is so important because there is a lot of deceptive advertising motivated by maximizing profits by minimizing costs, which jeopardizes quality. Adding mushrooms to your diet is probably one of the most important additions to the foods you can ingest that will improve your health!


References

Kumar Pallav, Scot E Dowd, Javier Villafuerte, XiaotongYang, Toufic Kabbani, Joshua Hansen, Melinda Dennis,

On Opisthokonta. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Opisthokont

Daniel ALeffler, David S Newburg and Ciarán P Kelly. "Effects of polysaccharopeptide from Trametes versicolor and amoxicillin on the gut microbiome of healthy volunteers: A randomized clinical trial." Gut Microbes. 2014 Jul 1;5(4):458-67. http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.4161/gmic.29558

Nathalie M. Delzenne & Laure B. Bindels. "Gut microbiota: Ganoderma lucidum, a new prebiotic agent to treat obesity?" Nature Reviews Gastroenterology & Hepatology. 12, 553–554 (2015). http://www.nature.com/nrgastro/journal/v12/n10/full/nrgastro.2015.137.html

Vanessa Moser. "The Human Microbiome: The Brain-Gut Axis and its Role in Immunity." Graduate Research Projects. Paper 7. 12-2014. http://knowledge.e.southern.edu/gradnursing/7

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