Turkey Tail and its Benefits for Gut Health
Turkey Tail Mushroom is most commonly praised for its capacity to boost resilience against viruses and pathogens, but one of the lesser-known abilities of this medicinal powerhouse is its benefits for optimal gut health.
This majestic shroom can be found in the wild all over the world, growing on dead and fallen trees and stumps and goes by many names from yunzhi in China, meaning cloud mushroom to elfenbankje in Holland meaning fairy bench. More research is thought to have been conducted on Turkey Tail Mushrooms than any other mushroom or fungus on the planet, validating the path laid by ancient herbal wisdom. Slightly sweet, and energetically warm, Turkey Tail has been used in traditional Chinese medicine for centuries to clear dampness, strengthen the physique, increase energy and support chronic illness nourishing the spleen and qi.
The importance of gut health and microbiome integrity is a widely discussed topic in health circles today. We can sometimes hear the word ‘gut health’ and be forgiven for automatically thinking it means good digestion, but in reality, this is just the tip of the iceberg. Our gut governs approximately 70% of our immune response and our gut bacteria is even responsible for manufacturing approximately 95% of the body's serotonin supply which influences both our mood and gastrointestinal activity.
The gut can be thought of as the foundation for whole-body health. Each person’s gut microbiome is completely individual, sort of like a fingerprint, made up of trillions of diverse microorganisms, which in a perfect world work together in harmony to support the optimum health of the whole body, essentially helping you to feel better and have more energy. As the father of natural medicine, Ancient Greek physician Hippocrates said over 2,500 years ago ‘all disease begins in the gut.’ A healthy and balanced gut microbiome helps us absorb nutrients from the food we eat, influences the brain and the immune system and also helps to regulate our metabolism, skin health, heart health, hormone balance and much more.
Turkey Tail & The Gut Microbiome
In the world of mushies, Turkey Tail’s ability to help restore the diversity and population of beneficial bacteria in the gut is beginning to be more widely recognised.
Turkey Tail Mushroom is a well-known source of prebiotics largely due to its unique PSP and PSK polysaccharopeptides. Prebiotics are fibres that feed and strengthen beneficial bacteria and help them flourish in your gut, promoting overall digestive health and adaptability.
A 2014 study set out to assess the prebiotic effects of polysaccharopeptide PSP from Turkey Tail and its impact on the intestinal microbiome. 24 healthy participants received a PSP Turkey Tail extract over a period of 8 weeks. The results showed clear and consistent changes to microbiome health and increases in ‘good’ bacteria, in line with Turkey Tail’s activity as a prebiotic.
A 2013 test-tube study mirrored these results finding a Turkey Tail extract to have modified the gut bacterial composition by increasing the population of beneficial strains of gut bacteria Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus while reducing potentially harmful bacteria Clostridium and Staphylococcus.
Turkey Tail & Immune Cell Activation in the Gut
Studies have indicated that the PSP and PSK found in Turkey Tail Mushrooms have strong immune-supporting effects which are potentially triggered when they come into contact with immune cells in the digestive tract. Our digestive tract contains primordial immune receptors that specifically recognise the unique beta-d-glucans which then instigates a complex immune response including greater surveillance and antibody production to target harmful pathogens and aspects of the immune system that aren’t functioning optimally.
We like to say you’ve got to nourish to flourish and nourishing the gut is a pathway to radiant health, with Turkey Tail Mushroom being a great companion to have on the journey. Some additional ways to support your gut integrity and health include:
- De-stressing and focusing on cultivating states of calm where possible – chronic stress can wreak havoc on your gut microbiome and intestinal permeability, due to the many lines of communication between the gut and the brain.
- Cutting back on sugar – Over-indulging in sweet treats can significantly alter the gut microbiome's condition and function.
- Get dirty – Our ancestors were immersed in nature and were exposed to a much greater microbial diversity from the surrounding environment as a result. Research has found that exposure to certain microbe-rich environments can have a protective effect on the gut microbiome.
- Visit your local farmer’s market – Buying your veggies from organic farmer's markets is thought to have a positive impact on your gut microbiome as they are more likely to have been grown in microbe-rich soil, going on to increase our own microbial diversity.
- Know your gut – There are many different eating regimes often recommended for gut health like going dairy-free or enjoying a lot of fermented foods. However, as our microbiomes are so unique it can be a good idea to work with a professional or get your gut microbiome tested ( we use Viome ) to understand what approach might be best for you.
If you decide to work with Turkey Tail Mushrooms, we’d love to hear how you go. Drop us a note in the comments!