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Opinion

Discovering Mental Wellness: A Mom's Guide to Functional Mushrooms

Double board-certified Integrative & Functional Medicine Doctor, Dr. Bindiya Gandhi shares her journey with functional, non-psychedelic mushrooms for her own mental health and well-being.

Discovering Mental Wellness: A Mom's Guide to Functional Mushrooms

Dr. Bindiya Gandhi

My journey through motherhood as a medical doctor has been an enlightening experience, especially when it comes to understanding stress and its impact on our mental well-being.

I've noticed the recent surge of interest in alternative wellness practices and how micro-dosing mushrooms has been under the spotlight with moms, as noted in research conducted by Colorado Public Radio's Allison Sherry.

But from my own testing of these mushrooms, I've found something safer, less intimidating and equally beneficial for mental wellness: functional, non-psychedelic mushrooms.

These functional mushrooms, like lion's mane, reishi and chaga, aren't psychedelic but are still pretty “magic.” They've been recognized for their proven cognitive benefits, and with new research backing up these benefits, it's high time we moms take advantage of these little wonders to help us manage stress and enhance our mental well-being.

You'd be surprised at how easy it is to incorporate these fungi into your daily life.

Photo of the chaga mushroom Chaga Mushroom

So, what are functional mushrooms?

The fungi kingdom is expansive, hosting over 1.5 million varieties of mushrooms. Among these, a small subset known as functional mushrooms has potent benefits.

They're non-toxic, adaptogenic — which essentially means can help the body adapt to occasional stress; ginseng is another example — and safe for long-term use. Plus, they have been used for centuries to enhance longevity, vitality and immune resilience. The term “functional” derives from their capacity to improve physiological and cognitive performance.

How do functional mushrooms work?

While functional mushrooms share some common traits — like being adaptogenic — each species has specific impacts on your body. For example, a lion's mane mushroom can stimulate your brain to produce more nerve growth factors and boost cognitive function, whereas a turkey tail mushroom has been known to support immune function.

Photo of the reishi mushroom Reishi Mushroom

How often should functional mushrooms be taken, and is there an optimal time?

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Consistency is the key to reaping the benefits of functional mushrooms — and I found the best results from daily use. However, it's important to note that the timeframe to experience the effects varies depending on your body's current state, including stress levels, sleep deprivation, deficiencies or overstimulation. All functional mushrooms are caffeine-free and non-stimulating, so you can take them anytime.

What benefits can one expect from consuming functional mushrooms?

Functional mushrooms, each with unique benefits, offer many wellness opportunities. Chaga can provide antioxidant-rich immune support, while lion's mane is known as a cognitive booster to enhance brain function. And reishi, the "Queen of Mushrooms," shines for its calming benefits. Sipping on a reishi-infused beverage regularly can bolster your body's stress response and help you unwind, promoting a calm state of mind and a restful night's sleep.

How do I know that they work?

Choosing the right functional mushrooms requires a bit of knowledge:

  1. Ensure it's extracted. If it isn't explicitly stated, inquire with the company or skip it because extraction is crucial for bioavailability.
  2. Look for the fruiting body (the top of the mushroom), not mycelium, as it's the most potent part of the mushroom. Consuming mushroom mycelium often means ingesting filler grains.
  3. Scrutinize the quantity. Aim for a minimum of 500 mg of extracted fruiting bodies per serving to get substantial benefits.
  4. Consider the format. It is essential to choose something you'll consistently use, be it a pill, a tincture or a powder. There's no use investing in mushroom supplements if they're going to collect dust in your cabinet.
Dr. Bindiya drinking a cup of Four Sigmatic's Think Organic Coffee of Dr. Bindiya Gandhi

It sounds complicated – but it isn't.

Integrating functional mushrooms into your daily routine doesn't have to be complicated. When introducing them into my diet, I used products that already had these potent ingredients, like Four Sigmatic's Think Organic Coffee. It was an easy option for me since there was no extra thinking time or pills to take; it was just a cup of coffee, which I was already drinking.

Embracing functional mushrooms has been a game-changer in my journey toward enhanced mental wellness. They have helped me manage stress better, sleep more soundly and function more optimally — both physically and mentally. And as a mom, we all deserve this kind of nourishment and self-care.

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So, here's to embracing small changes for big impacts. After all, motherhood is a continuous learning and growth journey — for our children and ourselves.

Author:

Dr. Bindiya Gandhi is a double board-certified Integrative & Functional Medicine Doctor, who helps thousands transform their overall health.

She is the medical director at Atlanta Functional and Integrative Medicine - Revive ATL MD a comprehensive clinic focused on total body healing, including decreasing inflammation, improving hormonal imbalance, helping women get pregnant, weight loss resistance, chronic stress, gut health, and more.

After dealing with her own medical crisis and eventually improving her overall health to rebalance her hormones and conceive naturally, she has been focused on finding the cause of issues instead of treating the symptoms and holds a special passion for female hormonal cases.

This article was originally published on Jul 20, 2023

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