Can functional mushrooms help with diabetes?

Diabetes is a long-lasting illness that happens when the pancreas does not make enough insulin or when the body cannot effectively use the insulin it produces to control blood glucose. In simple terms, diabetes occurs when the level of glucose in the blood, also known as blood sugar, is too high. Glucose is the main source of energy in the human body and the body can produce its glucose and get it from the food we eat. Diabetes is a persistent metabolic condition characterized by elevated levels of blood glucose (or blood sugar), which can cause serious harm to the heart, blood vessels, eyes, kidneys, and nerves over time.

The cause of diabetes can vary and depends upon many factors such as weight, diet, inactivity, family history etc. There are two main types of chronic diabetes: type 1 and type 2. Additionally, there are potentially reversible conditions like prediabetes and gestational diabetes. Prediabetes is when blood sugar levels are higher than normal but not high enough to be classified as diabetes, while Gestational diabetes occurs during pregnancy and may resolve after childbirth. The symptoms can vary depending on blood sugar levels. Some people, especially those with prediabetes, gestational diabetes, or type 2 diabetes, may not experience symptoms whereas type 1 diabetes symptoms typically appear suddenly and are more severe. Some common symptoms of both type 1 and type 2 diabetes include:

  • Increased thirst.
  • Frequent urination.
  • Unexplained weight loss.
  • Presence of ketones in urine, a sign of insufficient insulin.
  • Fatigue and weakness.
  • Mood changes, like irritability.
  • Blurry vision.
  • Slow-healing sores.
  • Recurrent infections, such as gum, skin, or vaginal infections.

Type 1 diabetes can start at any age but often begins in childhood or adolescence. Type 2 diabetes, more prevalent, can develop at any age, with a higher occurrence in people over 40. However, there is a rising trend of type 2 diabetes in children.

Functional mushrooms possess medicinal bioactive components such as polysaccharides, lectins, lactones, terpenoids, alkaloids, antibiotics, and metal-chelating agents which can help lower blood sugar levels through various mechanisms such as slowing glucose absorption and improving hyperglycemia. The polysaccharides in functional mushrooms, particularly Beta-glucans, help modulate the immune system and reduce inflammation by inhibiting the activity of pro-inflammatory cytokines and preventing oxidative damage. Terpenoids help lower blood sugar levels by inhibiting enzymes like α-glucosidase and α-amylase, which break down complex sugars into simple sugars, thus raising blood glucose levels. Vitamin D in most functional mushrooms plays a crucial role in maintaining glucose balance and protecting pancreatic ß-cells from immune attacks as it also regulates insulin secretion by controlling intracellular calcium levels.

Reishi mushrooms contain natural compounds that can help lower blood sugar levels. If you take reishi mushrooms along with diabetes medications, it can further lower your blood sugar. Regularly including reishi mushrooms in your diet can help strengthen your immune system, reduce inflammation, promote relaxation, improve sleep, and manage stress and anxiety. Additionally, reishi mushrooms can contribute to heart health and provide antioxidant benefits.

Cordyceps may help maintain healthy blood sugar levels by acting like insulin. Cordyceps extracts have been shown to significantly reduce blood glucose levels by improving glucose metabolism and effectively lowering total cholesterol and triglycerides in the blood.

High in antioxidants, Chaga has been known to help control blood sugar. Researchers show that bioactive compounds in Chaga mushroom extract can potentially lower blood sugar. However, for patients on diabetic medication, it is important to discuss the medicines with your doctor before introducing Chaga into your diet as it can drop the blood sugar too low.

It must be noted that while functional mushrooms can help lower blood sugar levels and help your body fight and manage diabetes, they are in no way a replacement for diabetes medicine. We recommend all diabetes patients consult their physicians or a qualified medical professional before incorporating functional mushrooms into their daily diet.

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