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Functional Mushrooms & The Menopause
How to Manage Symptoms Naturally
Experiencing symptoms related to menopause? You are most certainly, not alone.
The Menopause has gained a volatile reputation for itself throughout history – from being considered a natural phenomenon until around the 18th century – to being viewed as a disease by none other than the Victorians, who when confronted with a woman going through the hormonal transition into what we now consider to be their wisest years – deemed them to be insane (of course), sent hundreds of women to asylums, and in some instances even had their ovaries removed in an attempt to make them more “docile and compliant”.
It’s easy to romanticise the past. There is however, very little romanticising to be done about being a woman of a certain age in the Victorian era. Thankfully today we are pretty well versed in the fact that the menopause is a natural process that millions of women go through every single year.
That said, it’s still a time that we struggle to embrace as a society. While some women find the menopause a gentle jog (if not a walk) in the park, others experience disruptive symptoms, from hot flashes, mood swings and night sweats to anxiety and depression that make living life as they would like to challenging - even traumatic.Whilst are there now a number of medications available to help manage symptoms, there is no such thing as a ‘magic cure’, and an increasing number of women report experiencing overbearing side effects from menopausal therapies, such as weight gain, fatigue and psychological distress. As such, many women turn to nature as their guide, with one increasingly popular pitstop being the wise and wonderful world of medicinal mushrooms. Reishi, maitake, and shiitake in particular all showcase promising results in easing some of the symptoms. In this blog post, we will discuss the symptoms of menopause, and which medicinal mushrooms might just make the transition a little easier.
One of the less talked about symptoms of menopause is difficulty sleeping – one of the core foundations of feeling good. Instead, menopausal women can find themselves tossing and turning for hours, unable to get comfortable or quieten racing thoughts.
In the East, Reishi is celebrated for its ability to assist with a restful night’s sleep, improve energy levels, and balance hormones impacted by menopause – one of them being progesterone; the natural decline of which during menopause may be a major culprit for sleep disturbance.
Progesterone has a sleep inducing effect by stimulating the brain to produce a neurotransmitter called ‘gamma-aminobutyric acid’ (GABA), so the more progesterone you have, the more GABA you’ll produce. Melatonin, another vital hormone for sleep, also decreases with age. Secretion of melatonin is partly influenced by oestrogen and progesterone – therein compounding the issue.
In a multi-level interaction network analysis of Ganoderma Lucidum, 34 sedative-hypnotic components were identified, demonstrating that Reishi exerted an anti-insomnia effect via multiple central-peripheral mechanisms simultaneously. (Basically, Reishi can probably help most people get a better night’s sleep.)
Not only is this lack of sleep disruptive and exhausting, but it can also lead to weight gain. When we don’t get enough sleep, our bodies crave high-carbohydrate and high-fat foods as a way to boost energy levels. In addition, sleep deprivation can cause hormonal imbalances that make it harder to lose weight. Shiitake in particular can be helpful for menopausal women struggling with weight gain by reducing blood pressure and cholesterol.
Shiitake also contains hypolipidemic (fat reducing) components such as eritadenine and beta glucans which have been shown to decrease food intake by making you feel fuller more quickly, while maintaining optimal nutritional absorption rates. One promising in vitro animal found that Shiitake could prevent body weight gain and fat deposition. While further human research is necessary to confirm these findings – the results so far are promising.
Evidence shows that including Maitake in your menopausal toolkit could be another great way to maintain a healthy BMI. Maitake helps restore hormonal balance by improving insulin sensitivity, which in turn helps to prevent diabetes and heart disease.
It’s thought that hot flashes occur when decreased oestrogen levels cause your body’s thermostat (hypothalamus) to become more sensitive to slight changes in body temperature. When the hypothalamus thinks your body is too warm, it starts a chain of events — a hot flash — to cool you down.
Maitake contains a substance called “Ergothioneine,” which is thought to have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. In a small study of postmenopausal women, those who took a daily supplement of maitake for eight weeks reported a significant reduction in hot flashes and night sweats.
Another study published in the journal Menopause found that a daily supplement containing Reishi mushroom extract helped to reduce hot flashes by supporting the HPA (hypothalamic-pituitary-ovarian) axis. This action may help regulate oestrogen production, while also increasing the sensitivity of oestrogen receptors – making the amount of oestrogen in a woman’s body ‘go further’.
While there is no magic bullet for menopausal symptoms, incorporating functional mushrooms into your regime may help to ease some of the symptoms and improve quality of life.
In addition, medicinal mushrooms are a rich source of antioxidants and other compounds that support overall health.
If you’re interested in trying medicinal mushrooms to help with menopause, be sure to consult with your GP, a qualified herbalist or myco-therapist. Some mushrooms can interact with other medications, so it’s important to know which are right for you.
- If an individual is on immunosuppressant drugs, they cannot take any medicinal mushroom supplements.
- Reishi cannot be taken by anyone on blood-thinning medication.
- Maitake cannot be taken by anyone on antidiabetic drugs.
- Menopausal symptoms: Time of change – Beginning of a new phase of life: With medicinal mushrooms easier through menopause!’ Healing Mushrooms
- Dietary Shiitake Mushroom (Lentinus edodes) Prevents Fat Deposition and Lowers Triglyceride in Rats Fed a High-Fat Diet
- Sex hormones affect neurotransmitters and shape the adult female brain during hormonal transition periods
- Mayo Clinic: Hot Flashes
- Mycotherapy for Menopause
- Mushrooms: The Nutrition Source
- Maitake Mushroom Extract and Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome