Wondering how to use medicinal and functional mushrooms for your endometriosis symptoms?
You've come to the right place!
My name is Kate, and I'm the founder of Remeday and an avid mushroom researcher. I also happen to struggle with endometriosis. And while I have excision surgery scheduled in December of 2023, I've struggled with endometriosis-related pain for more than seven years.
One of the most effective long-term pain solutions for me has been medicinal mushrooms.
In this article, I'll walk you through what endometriosis is, what functional mushrooms are, which are best for endometriosis symptoms, and how to get started.
The most important takeaway:
Medicinal mushrooms are not a cure for endometriosis. They are also not a potent pain killer. However, anecdotal and early research suggests that they may be powerful allies in battling the inflammation, hormonal, and pain-related symptoms that come with the disease.
I personally use them to help manage symptoms. And I heard from some other folks in the mushroom industry who have as well.
Are you ready? Let's dive in!
Endometriosis is a complex and often painful medical condition that affects millions of women worldwide. It occurs when tissue similar to the lining of the uterus (endometrium) grows outside the uterus, where it doesn't belong. Here, we delve into the essential aspects of understanding endometriosis:
What is endometriosis?
Endometriosis is a chronic gynecological condition characterized by the presence of endometrial-like tissue outside the uterus. This tissue can grow on various pelvic structures, such as the ovaries, fallopian tubes, bladder, and even the intestines. Unlike the normal endometrial tissue inside the uterus, these abnormal growths, called endometrial implants or lesions, respond to hormonal changes in the menstrual cycle. They can cause inflammation, pain, and the formation of scar tissue (adhesions).
What causes endometriosis?
The exact cause of endometriosis remains unclear, but several theories exist:
Retrograde Menstruation: One prevalent theory suggests that during menstruation, some menstrual blood flows backward into the pelvic cavity instead of exiting the body. This blood carries endometrial cells that implant and grow in various areas.
Immune System Dysfunction: Dysfunction in the immune system may fail to recognize and remove endometrial cells growing outside the uterus.
Hormonal Factors: Hormones, particularly estrogen, play a role in the development and progression of endometriosis. Higher levels of estrogen can promote the growth of endometrial tissue.
Genetic Predisposition: Some families have a higher risk of endometriosis, suggesting a genetic component.
Environmental Factors: Certain environmental toxins may contribute to the development of endometriosis, though research in this area is ongoing.
What are the common symptoms of endometriosis
Endometriosis manifests with various symptoms that can vary in severity:
Pelvic Pain: The hallmark symptom is pelvic pain that often intensifies during menstruation. The pain can be debilitating and affect daily life.
Painful Periods (Dysmenorrhea): Severe menstrual cramps are a common complaint, and they may start before menstruation and persist throughout.
Painful Intercourse (Dyspareunia): Many women with endometriosis experience pain during sexual intercourse.
Chronic Pelvic Pain: Endometriosis can lead to chronic pelvic pain, even outside of menstruation.
Irregular Menstrual Bleeding: Some women may have irregular or heavy menstrual bleeding.
Digestive Issues: In cases where endometrial implants affect the intestines, digestive problems like diarrhea, constipation, or abdominal pain can occur.
Infertility: Endometriosis can be associated with fertility issues due to adhesions and scarring that affect the reproductive organs.
How does endometriosis affect the quality of life?
Endometriosis has a profound impact on the physical and emotional well-being of those affected:
Quality of Life: The chronic pain and unpredictable nature of endometriosis can significantly lower a woman's quality of life. Daily activities, work, and relationships can be disrupted.
Mental Health: Living with chronic pain and potential infertility can lead to anxiety, depression, and stress.
Fertility: For women trying to conceive, endometriosis can be a major obstacle, although many can still have successful pregnancies with appropriate treatment.
Social and Economic Costs: The condition often requires medical interventions, surgeries, and medications, leading to substantial healthcare costs. It can also result in lost workdays and productivity.
Are you looking for a doctor who specializes in Endometriosis? I've had incredible success finding a specialist from the list on Nancy's Nook: https://nancysnookendo.com/find-a-doctor/
What are functional mushrooms?
Functional mushrooms, also known as medicinal mushrooms, have been used for centuries in traditional medicine systems such as Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and Ayurveda. These mushrooms are valued for their potential health benefits and medicinal properties. Here, we explore what functional mushrooms are and how they can positively impact health:
Defining functional mushrooms
Functional mushrooms are a group of fungi that contain bioactive compounds with therapeutic properties. Unlike the common edible mushrooms found in the grocery store, functional mushrooms are used specifically for their potential health benefits. These mushrooms have gained popularity for their adaptogenic, immune-boosting, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant properties.
What are the medicinal properties of functional mushrooms?
Functional mushrooms contain a range of bioactive compounds that contribute to their medicinal properties. These include:
Polysaccharides: Many functional mushrooms are rich in polysaccharides, which are known for their immune-boosting effects.
Triterpenoids: Triterpenoids are compounds with anti-inflammatory properties that may help reduce inflammation and alleviate pain.
Beta-Glucans: Beta-glucans are polysaccharides known for their immune-modulating effects, enhancing the body's defense mechanisms.
Adaptogens: Some functional mushrooms, like Cordyceps and Reishi, are considered adaptogens, which means they can help the body adapt to stress and maintain balance.
Antioxidants: Functional mushrooms are often high in antioxidants, which can combat oxidative stress and protect cells from damage.
These medicinal properties make functional mushrooms a potential complementary approach to managing various health conditions, including endometriosis.
However, it's essential to understand how specific mushrooms can be tailored to address the unique challenges posed by endometriosis.
What are the Benefits of Using Medicinal Mushrooms for Endometriosis?
Endometriosis can bring about a range of debilitating symptoms, and while functional mushrooms are NOT a cure, they may offer several potential benefits in managing this condition.
Before we move on, we have to be honest...
Research about endometriosis is extremely limited.
And we aren't aware of any studies or trials that look at the use of mushrooms for endometriosis specifically.
Nevertheless, medicinal mushrooms have been used in traditional and ancient medicine for thousands of years for inflammation, pain management, hormone regulation, and more.
Anecdotal evidence and some parallel (and very loosely related) studies suggest that certain functional mushrooms may be helpful for individuals with endometriosis.
Here are some of the potential benefits of using medicinal mushrooms for endometriosis symptoms support:
Many functional mushrooms, such as Reishi and Chaga, are known for their anti-inflammatory properties. Inflammation is a key component of endometriosis and can lead to pain and discomfort. These mushrooms may help reduce inflammation, potentially easing some of the associated symptoms.
Endometriosis often causes severe pelvic pain and cramping. Lion's Mane and Reishi mushrooms, in particular, have been traditionally used for pain relief. While more research is needed, these mushrooms may offer some relief from the pain associated with endometriosis.
Some functional mushrooms, like Cordyceps, are believed to have adaptogenic properties, which means they may help regulate hormonal imbalances. Since hormonal fluctuations play a significant role in endometriosis, these mushrooms might help stabilize hormone levels.
A strong immune system is essential for managing endometriosis. Certain mushrooms, including Maitake and Shiitake, can boost the immune system, potentially aiding the body's ability to manage the condition.
Endometriosis can be mentally and emotionally taxing. Reishi mushrooms are known for their potential to reduce stress and anxiety. A calmer mind can contribute to overall well-being.
Improved gut health
The gut-brain-endometrium connection is an emerging area of research in endometriosis. Functional mushrooms like Turkey Tail may support gut health, potentially influencing the condition positively.
Oxidative stress is linked to inflammation and pain. Some functional mushrooms, like Chaga, are rich in antioxidants that can help combat oxidative stress.
It's important to note that while these potential benefits are promising, individual responses to functional mushrooms can vary.
And we really cannot stress this enough. Mushrooms should never be seen as a standalone treatment for endometriosis.
However, with the right use, they can be part of a holistic approach to symptom management along with medical treatment.
Do mushrooms help with hormones, fertility, and other pelvic inflammatory diseases?
Here's what we heard from Alyssa Pittera, owner and founder of the incredible apothecary The Salty Rose
"My personal Journey with Reishi started long ago, but a period that stands out to me is after I received some results from hormone testing. I have struggled with my cycle since I got off birth control, and I was seeking some answers around my long cycles, and painful menses. My results indicated that my Testosterone levels were high, and I was Estrogen dominant.
I implemented Reishi tincture daily for 3 months, and when I received my next round of test results I was much more in range! I am a case study of one of course, but I found a lot of value in my own experiment. Another mushroom that has been found to be very supportive is Maitake, or commonly called Hen of the Woods. A delicious edible and incredible medicinal! Studies have shown that Maitake has the ability to increase Insulin sensitivity in women with PCOS who are having anovulatory cycles or late ovulation (resulting in very long cycles of 40-60 or more days, which is where I was at only a couple of years ago) aiding in fertility health and lessening the symptoms of PCOS.
Additionally, this mushroom has been found to be an incredible Chemoprotectant in those undergoing chemo or radiation for cancers, including breast cancer (combined with Turkey Tail, Trametes versicolor, this is an incredible fungi ally!).
Chemoprotectant mushrooms protect our healthy cells while the chemo goes after the cancer, making it more effective and less rigorous on the body, aiding those who may not be able to choose chemo as an option based on age or current strength and vitality to survive the treatment."
Mushrooms represent a holistic opportunity for a number of pelvic diseases and hormonal imbalances.
Here are some of the best mushrooms to help with endometriosis symptom management:
How to select the right functional mushroom for endometriosis
Endometriosis is a complex condition, and the choice of functional mushroom(s) should align with your specific symptoms and preferences. Endometriosis can manifest in a number of ways, and your symptoms may not be the same as someone else's.
Here's how to select the most suitable mushroom(s) and understand their potential effects on your endometriosis symptoms:
Assess your unique symptoms
Before choosing a functional mushroom, it's essential to assess your endometriosis symptoms. Take note of the following:
- Your Pain Level: Consider the severity and type of pain you experience. Some mushrooms, like Reishi and Lion's Mane, may be more effective in addressing pain.
- Your Level of Inflammation: If inflammation is a prominent symptom, look for mushrooms with strong anti-inflammatory properties, such as Reishi and Chaga.
- Any Noticable Hormonal Imbalances: If hormonal imbalances are a concern, mushrooms like Cordyceps may help in regulating hormones.
- Your Level of Fatigue: If you experience fatigue, Cordyceps, known for its energy-boosting properties, may be a suitable choice.
- How Much Stress and Anxiety: For managing stress and anxiety associated with endometriosis, Reishi and Lion's Mane are known for their calming effects.
Using reishi mushrooms for endometriosis
Reishi mushrooms, scientifically known as Ganoderma lucidum, are revered in traditional medicine for their potential health benefits. When it comes to managing endometriosis, Reishi offers several potential advantages:
Anti-Inflammatory Properties: Reishi mushrooms contain compounds that have demonstrated anti-inflammatory effects. Inflammation is a central component of endometriosis and often leads to pain and discomfort. Reishi's anti-inflammatory properties may help reduce these symptoms.
Pain Relief: Endometriosis frequently causes severe pelvic pain and cramping. Reishi's analgesic properties may offer relief from this pain, making it a valuable addition to your endometriosis management plan.
Stress Reduction: Managing the emotional and mental toll of endometriosis is crucial. Reishi mushrooms are well-regarded for their potential to reduce stress and anxiety, potentially contributing to overall well-being and quality of life for individuals with endometriosis.
Using chaga mushrooms for endometriosis
Chaga mushrooms (Inonotus obliquus) are known for their potential health benefits, particularly in addressing inflammation and oxidative stress. For those with endometriosis, Chaga may offer the following advantages:
Antioxidant Effects: Chaga mushrooms are rich in antioxidants, including melanin and polyphenols. These compounds combat oxidative stress, which can exacerbate endometriosis symptoms. Incorporating Chaga into your routine may help reduce oxidative damage.
Anti-Inflammatory Properties: Like Reishi, Chaga also possesses anti-inflammatory properties. By reducing inflammation, Chaga may alleviate pain and discomfort associated with endometriosis, offering a natural approach to symptom management.
Immune Support: A robust immune system is crucial for managing endometriosis. Chaga's immune-boosting properties can support the body's ability to cope with this condition and potentially reduce the frequency and severity of symptoms.
Using maitake mushrooms for endometriosis
Maitake mushrooms (Grifola frondosa), also known as "hen of the woods" due to their unique appearance, are a lesser-known but highly regarded functional mushroom. When it comes to managing endometriosis, Maitake offers several potential advantages:
Anti-Inflammatory Properties: Maitake mushrooms contain compounds like beta-glucans and polysaccharides, known for their anti-inflammatory effects. These properties may help reduce inflammation in the pelvic region, potentially alleviating pain and discomfort associated with endometriosis.
Pain Management: Maitake mushrooms have been traditionally used for pain relief. While research is ongoing, their potential analgesic properties make them a promising option for those seeking natural pain management strategies.
Enhanced Immunity: Maitake mushrooms are celebrated for their immune-boosting properties. They contain beta-glucans that can stimulate the immune system, potentially enhancing the body's ability to combat endometriosis-related challenges and infections.
- Hormone Regulation: Hormonal imbalances are a common feature of endometriosis. Some studies suggest that Maitake mushrooms may help regulate hormone levels, which can be particularly beneficial for individuals experiencing hormonal fluctuations as part of their condition.
Using lion's mane mushrooms for endometriosis
Lion's Mane mushrooms (Hericium erinaceus) are distinct for their unique appearance and potential cognitive benefits. For individuals with endometriosis, Lion's Mane may offer the following advantages:
Pain Relief: Lion's Mane has been traditionally used for pain relief. While research is ongoing, this mushroom may help mitigate pelvic pain and discomfort associated with endometriosis, providing a natural alternative to pain management.
Cognitive Benefits: Coping with the mental and emotional aspects of endometriosis is crucial. Lion's Mane's potential cognitive benefits, such as improved focus and mood, can help individuals better navigate the challenges of this condition.
Nervous System Support: Lion's Mane is believed to support the nervous system. This support may contribute to overall well-being, promoting resilience in the face of the physical and emotional toll of endometriosis.
Using cordyceps for endometriosis
Cordyceps mushrooms (Cordyceps sinensis) are renowned for their adaptogenic properties and potential benefits for hormonal balance and energy. Here's how Cordyceps may benefit individuals with endometriosis:
Hormone Regulation: Cordyceps' adaptogenic qualities may help regulate hormonal imbalances, which are often a part of endometriosis. By stabilizing hormone levels, Cordyceps can play a role in managing endometriosis symptoms.
Energy Boost: Endometriosis-related fatigue can be overwhelming. Cordyceps are known for enhancing energy levels, making them a valuable addition to the management plan for those who experience fatigue as a symptom of endometriosis.
Immune Support: Cordyceps mushrooms are also known for their immune-boosting properties. A stronger immune system can better equip the body to manage endometriosis and its associated challenges.
Combining Medicinal Mushrooms for Endometriosis Symptoms
The good news is, you don't just have to take one medicinal mushroom at a time. In fact, it's common to take more than one mushroom for comprehensive symptom support.
Mushrooms for pain and inflammation: combining reishi, chaga, and maitake
Endometriosis often brings with it significant pain and inflammation, which can have a profound impact on an individual's quality of life. By combining Reishi and Chaga, both of which are known for their anti-inflammatory properties, you can create a powerful synergy in managing these symptoms from different angles.
Reishi (Ganoderma lucidum): Reishi is revered for its potent anti-inflammatory properties. It contains bioactive compounds such as triterpenes and polysaccharides that may help reduce inflammation throughout the body. By incorporating Reishi into your endometriosis management plan, you can target the inflammatory component of your pain, potentially experiencing relief and improved comfort.
Chaga (Inonotus obliquus): Chaga is rich in antioxidants and also possesses strong anti-inflammatory effects. Its wealth of antioxidants, including melanin and polyphenols, can help combat oxidative stress, which often contributes to inflammation and pain in individuals with endometriosis. By including Chaga alongside Reishi, you're addressing pain and inflammation from both an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory standpoint, potentially providing more comprehensive relief.
- Maitake mushrooms (Grifola frondosa): Maitake mushrooms have a well-documented history of use in traditional medicine systems, often for their potent anti-inflammatory effects. In the context of endometriosis, these properties can help reduce the inflammatory response in the pelvic region, potentially providing relief from pain and discomfort. While more research is needed to understand the mechanisms fully, Maitake's history as a pain-relieving agent suggests its relevance in managing endometriosis-related pain.
Hormonal imbalances and fatigue: combining cordyceps, chaga, and maitake
Endometriosis can disrupt hormonal balance, leading to a range of symptoms, including fatigue. Combining Cordyceps for hormone regulation with Chaga for energy-boosting antioxidants can be a valuable approach to addressing these issues.
Cordyceps (Cordyceps sinensis): Cordyceps is well-known for its adaptogenic properties, which means it may help regulate hormonal imbalances. By stabilizing hormone levels, Cordyceps can contribute to managing endometriosis-related hormonal symptoms, potentially reducing mood swings and other hormonal disruptions.
Chaga (Inonotus obliquus): Chaga, as mentioned earlier, is packed with antioxidants that combat oxidative stress. Fatigue is a common complaint among those with endometriosis, and oxidative stress can exacerbate feelings of tiredness. Chaga's energy-boosting antioxidants can help combat fatigue, providing you with more energy and stamina to cope with the challenges of endometriosis.
- Maitake mushrooms (Grifola frondosa): While ongoing research is exploring the full extent of Maitake's influence on hormones, preliminary studies suggest that Maitake may help regulate hormone levels. This potential hormonal balancing effect can be particularly beneficial for individuals experiencing fluctuations in estrogen and progesterone, which are common in endometriosis.
Stress and cognitive challenges: combining Reishi and lion's mane
Managing the emotional and cognitive aspects of endometriosis is essential for overall well-being. Combining Reishi for stress reduction and Lion's Mane for cognitive support can help address these challenges effectively.
Reishi (Ganoderma lucidum): Reishi is renowned for its ability to reduce stress and anxiety. Its adaptogenic properties may help regulate the body's response to stressors, potentially leading to improved mental and emotional resilience. By incorporating Reishi, you can better manage the stress that often accompanies endometriosis.
Lion's Mane (Hericium erinaceus): Lion's mane is unique among functional mushrooms for its cognitive benefits. It may enhance focus, memory, and overall cognitive function. For individuals dealing with cognitive challenges and emotional stress due to endometriosis, Lion's Mane can provide support in maintaining mental clarity and emotional well-being.
By combining these functional mushrooms, you're not only addressing the physical symptoms of endometriosis but also the emotional and cognitive aspects, creating a more holistic approach to managing the condition.
Remember to consult with a healthcare professional to ensure that this combination is suitable for your specific needs and that it doesn't interact with any other medications or treatments you may be receiving.
For example, if you plan to have endometriosis excision surgery, you should stop taking all herbal and fungal supplements at least two weeks beforehand, as some medicinal mushrooms can increase blood flow.
How to Take Mushrooms for Endometriosis
Functional mushrooms can be incorporated into your diet or wellness routine in various ways, each offering unique advantages. You'll want to look for a high quality mushroom extract powder. Or, you might like to try teas or tinctures.
In either case, the quality of the product is paramount. Some products out there have incredible marketing but they don't invest in product quality or proper extraction techniques. Sometimes the best products will come from your local mushroom farm.
Medicinal mushroom extracts
Supplements offer a convenient and consistent way to integrate functional mushrooms into your wellness routine. They provide a precise dosage of mushroom extracts, making it easy to control your intake and optimize your health. This method is especially beneficial if you prefer a no-fuss approach to supplementation.
When choosing supplements, prioritize reputable brands that undergo third-party testing for quality and purity. Look for clear ingredient lists and reliable extraction methods.
Powders are easy to integrate into your routine. In fact, many brands now offer mushroom powders in capsule format if you want a no-fuss way to take them.
If you're going the traditional powder route, try adding a teaspoon to your morning coffee or tea. Or, add to smoothies and yogurt.
DOSAGE: The recommended dosage of functional mushroom supplements for endometriosis will vary from product to product. In general, one teaspoon of powder extract is the ideal dosage. You can increase your dosage a few days before your period starts if you find that helps with pain management. Consider starting with a lower dosage if you're new to functional mushrooms.
Mushroom teas and tinctures
Mushroom teas and tinctures offer a traditional and comforting way to enjoy the health benefits of functional mushrooms. Teas provide a soothing experience, allowing you to adjust the strength and flavor to your liking. If you like the taste of mushrooms, a savory mushroom tea might be a great choice for you. Just make sure you choose a brand that you trust.
Tinctures, when taken under the tongue, offer rapid absorption, granting quick access to the bioactive compounds. This author personally prefers tinctures because they're easy to take on the go and can be added seamlessly to my morning coffee.
However, be mindful of alcohol content in tinctures, especially if you have sensitivities or dietary restrictions. Ensure that the ingredients come from high-quality mushroom sources and that tinctures are made using a reliable extraction process.
DOSAGE: The amount of tea and tincture you should take will vary from product to product. In general, the typical dosage will be one tea bag, steeped, or one dropper of tincture. Consider upping your dosage a few days before your period starts if you find that helps you manage your symptoms better.
Recommended mushroom products for endometriosis
Here at Remeday, we are committed to providing no-fuss education about medicinal and functional mushrooms. That's why we only ever recommend products we've tried ourselves AND would recommend to family and friends.
As someone who struggles with endometriosis, I can confidently recommend the following products:
This is my favorite combination extract powder. It contains super mushrooms like reishi, chaga, maitake, and shiitake, all of which are great candidates to reduce the inflammation that comes with endometriosis. I like to take a teaspoon in my morning coffee.
If tinctures are more your speed, you might love this tincture from Urban Moonshine. I like to take a full dropper (or two!) any time my period symptoms get quite bad.
Remember, mushrooms are not a replacement for excision surgery or other treatments. But for me, personally, I find that they help manage my symptoms greatly.
If you're looking for high-quality, 100% New England and sustainably sourced mushroom products that are thoughtfully and carefully extracted, we highly recommend our friends over at The Salty Rose.
Important Safety Considerations
Using functional mushrooms for health benefits can be a valuable addition to your wellness routine, but it's essential to approach them with care and safety in mind. Here are a few important safety considerations before you take functional mushrooms for endometriosis.
Consult a healthcare professionalBefore adding functional mushrooms to your regimen, especially if you're taking medications or other supplements, consult a healthcare professional. They can provide personalized advice, assess potential interactions, and ensure that mushroom consumption aligns with your overall health goals.
Potential side effects
While medicinal mushrooms are generally considered safe, you should be wary of potential side effects including:
Allergic Reactions: While rare, allergic reactions to mushrooms can occur. If you're allergic to mushrooms or have a history of allergies, exercise caution when trying functional mushrooms and start with a small dose.
Gastrointestinal Distress: Some individuals may experience mild gastrointestinal discomfort when consuming functional mushrooms, particularly in higher doses or with certain varieties. This can include symptoms like bloating, gas, or upset stomach. Starting with a lower dose and gradually increasing it can help mitigate these effects.
The importance of quality and sourcingWhen purchasing functional mushroom products, opt for reputable brands that undergo third-party testing for quality and purity. This ensures that you're getting a reliable and safe product.
Dosage and moderationIt's generally recommended to start with a lower dosage and gradually increase it as needed. This approach allows you to assess your tolerance and monitor for any adverse effects.
Monitor your body's responsePay attention to how your body responds to functional mushrooms. If you experience any unexpected or severe side effects, discontinue use and seek medical advice.
By following these safety considerations and seeking professional guidance, you can incorporate functional mushrooms into your wellness routine with confidence, potentially enjoying their health benefits while minimizing risks.
We hope you found this article helpful! As always, our team is always here if you have any questions.
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