Whether it be atop a piping hot pizza, infused in a replenishing skin mask, or part of a probiotic immune supplement for dogs, there is quite a bit of fungus among us.
With over 5 million species, mushrooms are among the more numerous and diverse lifeforms on the planet, and, as such, they are met with an array of thoughts and emotions.
Making a salad? Throw some tasty portobello on that green goodness.
Notice Fido walking excitedly toward an unknown mushroom-cap? Run to the cap like his life depended on it (because it might) and guard your puppy's tummy.
Find fungus growing between the toes? Might be time to change some things up and wash your feet the next time you shower.
Are Mushrooms Good For Dogs?
While about 1% of mushrooms are toxic, most are a welcome addition to your pooch's well being. Stick to Himematsutake, Maitake, Reishi, and Shiitake, as well as any produce-aisle fungus. Having a fungal fry? Rest easily, dogs can safely eat most cooked mushrooms as well.
It can be a major asset to you and your dog's health to become educated on the potential benefits that edible mushrooms can have. With more and more research being unearthed from the field of fungi, many startling observations have begun to come out; including insights on how mushrooms interact with the immune system.
Researchers from The Chinese University of Hong Kong, North Orissa University, and Biju Patnaik University of Technology recently wrote a scholarly review article on both the prebiotic and immune function of various mushrooms. A link to the full scholarly review can be found here.
Digestive Health of Mushrooms as a Prebiotic
It is difficult for your dog to live a healthy life without proper and healthy digestion. Health-conscious pet owners strive to include as many good dietary fibers and prebiotics in their diet. Sweet potatoes, oats, and barley are all excellent grains and starches for your canine and provide much needed fiber to move things along smoothly.
Prebiotics, on the other hand, do not seem to be as readily available when thinking about aiding the healthy passage of a probiotic. One prebiotic source that many are unaware of is mushrooms.
Peter C. Chung, a researcher out of The Chinese University of Hong Kong, published a scholarly review entitled Edible mushrooms as source of dietary fiber : Preparation and health benefits.
In it, Chung concludes:
"... [The] effect of crude polysaccharides (carbohydrates) extracted from Ganoderma lucidum on the growth of probiotics have been studied by Yaminetal.(2012) in batch-culture fermentation... Growth promotion of Bifidobacterium sp. and Lactobacillus.. prove its prebiotic effect."
What researchers have found is that polysaccharides (carbohydrates consisting of sugar molecules) from the Reishi fungus (Ganorderma lucidum) promote the growth of two widely popular probiotics in Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus. This shows beyond the researchers' doubts that it is a viable prebiotic.
Mushrooms for dogs is a wonderful source of prebiotics, combining them with probiotics can make their effect even more valuable.
Interactions With Probiotics
Human grade probiotics are increasing in demand like never before. Probiotic powder for dogs is a great way to support healthy digestion and quelling the chaos that can often creep out of their bum. What researchers are now learning is that mushrooms can aid in maintaining a healthy level of probiotic efficacy, specifically in Lactobacillus acidophilus.
"Additionally, synergetic effects of mushroom polysaccharides have been demonstrated by several researchers for the growth of probiotics. Effect of three kinds of crude polysaccharides(PSI,PS II, PSIII) from Agaricus blazei Murill (obtained by diethyl-amino ethanol cellulose column chromatography) on the growth of lactic acid bacteria have been studied by Lili and Jianchun(2008). It was found that PSI and PSII had better growth promoting effect on lactic acid bacteria than PSIII and they all promoted [healthy] lactic acid production by Lactobacillus acidophilus."
Translation: Mushrooms, such as Agaricus blazei (Himematsutake), may aid in promoting healthy growth of one of the most widely known probiotics - Lactobacillus acidophilus. While this may seem small, ensuring that your dog's gut stays colonized with good bacteria can be a tall task.
Giving a daily probiotic to your dog should be priority one in the colonizing battle, another step could be to give him some himematsutake.
Mushrooms and The Immune System Response
Age related issues in dogs can offer a sobering reminder that nothing is promised, not today, nor the chance to hold your dog close as the sun sets this very evening.
Humans are able to contemplate the specter of diseases related to growing older and can consequently adjust their diet, exercise, and lifestyle choices. Dogs are not so lucky. They only have what you are able to give them, be it plenty of exercise, the best dog food available, human-grade probiotics, or soul quenching love.
For those that have been affected by unexpected problems with your dog or cat, shocking findings on fungi's affect on the immune system have been detailed in this study.
"It has been reported that.. [healthy] immunity of the host could be stimulated [through certain mushrooms].. A protein.. isolated from Grifola frondosa extract exhibits [healthy immune system] activity by potentiating [normal] cellular functions by .. [supporting] lymphokines and IL-1(Nanba, 1993). Several studies have shown that [extracts] derived from Grifola frondosa have [healthy immune system] activity in xenographs (Kurashiga,Akuzawa&Eudo,1997)."
Grifola frondosa, or the maitake mushroom, has been found to support the immune system through normal lymphokine support within the body. While this mushroom cannot be found in your average grocery store in the United States, there are fantastic mushroom products for dogs readily available that can help with maintaining a healthy immune system.
If you suspect that your dog's immune system is compromised or there is some sort of strange growth, take him to the vet immediately. Far too often there are no signs of internal suffering before it's too late.
With age related issues only rising in conjunction with canine's lengthening lifespan, knowing about the fantastic properties of mushrooms can only assist your mindset in the situation.
There is no sure-fire way to prevent disease. A strong immune system is vital to a healthy dog. Ensure he is getting a healthy and that his microflora is balanced and you are at least helping to maintain a healthy digestion and immune system.