October 10 is World Mental Health Day

Though it’s important every day, World Mental Health Day is marked annually on October 10. It was established in 1992 by the World Federation for Mental Health (WFMH), an organization representing over 100 mental health associations in over 120 countries. Their goal is to educate the public about mental health and mobilize efforts to improve it.

To mark the day, we’ve rounded up some ways you can support your own mental health.

What Is Mental Health?

Mental health is a state of emotional well-being in which an individual can realize their own potential, cope with the normal stresses of life, work productively and fruitfully, and contribute to their community. Mental health is an important part of overall health and wellness as it includes the ability to enjoy life and to develop a wide range of skills and interests. It affects all aspects of our lives, including our physical health, work performance, and connection with others.

Mental health can be impacted by many different factors, including:

  • Stressors
  • Trauma
  • Depression or anxiety disorders
  • Substance use disorders (including alcohol and drugs)
  • Chronic conditions like pain, fatigue, hormonal imbalance, autoimmune diseases, and anything that affects one’s ability to enjoy life

Our mental health affects what we think about ourselves, how we relate to others, and what choices we make.

What Are Some Ways to Improve Mental Health?

Mental health conditions can affect anyone. So, if you’re struggling with your mental health, or know someone who is, it’s important that you know you’re not alone. Here are some ways to take care of yourself:

  • Reach out for help, whether that be by talking to a friend or family member or going to see a therapist or health practitioner.
  • Practice self-care by taking time for yourself each day. This could mean taking a walk outside on your lunch break, practicing ten minutes or more of breath work or meditation, or doing some stretches or taking a soothing bath at the end of your day instead of immediately turning to the TV.
  • Eat healthy, brain-supportive foods like omega-3-rich nuts (walnuts are shaped like brains!), seeds, and fatty fish, as well as leafy greens, brightly coloured vegetables, and berries.
  • Keep your gut healthy by including fermented foods like sauerkraut, yogurt, kefir, miso, and kimchi, as they provide good bacteria (probiotics) that are key to our emotions. The digestive system provides more feel-good serotonin than the brain.
  • Include movement activities. This might be going to the gym or playing a sport, but it can also be stretching, going for a hike in nature, walking your dog (or cat—getting to be more common!), doing some yoga or tai chi, and even just taking the stairs or parking your car a little further from where you need to be.
  • Get enough restorative sleep. Create a wind-down routine and shut off backlit screens a few hours before bedtime, address sleep disorders like sleep apnea, and make sure your bedroom is geared for a restful environment.
  • Seek joy. That doesn’t mean always being joyful, of course, but find activities, places, people, and animals where you can feel pleasure, awe, flow, peace, and comfort.
  • Express yourself. While we may not enjoy feeling angry, frustrated, sad, hurt, lonely, fearful, anxious, or worried, suppressing our emotions and pretending they aren’t happening doesn’t necessarily make them better. Of course, there’s a time and place for strong emotions, but stoicism isn’t always the best approach. What we feel is valid and important.
  • Practice gratitude. Some days this can be particularly difficult, but seeking and expressing gratitude for even the tiniest of things can help shine a bit of light.

Mental health concerns affect everyone, whether we realize it or not. The good news is that there are many ways we can help ourselves stay mentally healthy—not just during this special day, but every day of the year.

How Can Reishi Improve Mental Health?

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), reishi mushroom is one of the top herbs for calming the nervous system. It is also recognized as a powerful adaptogen, meaning it helps the body adapt to stressors and can support the body’s natural defences against physical, chemical, and biological stressors. This makes reishi an excellent choice for people looking to improve their mental health as well as their physical health.

Reishi is known to have a very positive effect on the mind, and many people use it for mental health issues, including:

Depression: Reishi can help reduce depressive symptoms by balancing hormones and supporting neurotransmitters. The anti-inflammatory properties of reishi also help reduce the risk of developing depression in the first place.

Anxiety: Reishi can help reduce anxiety by regulating neurotransmitters, balancing hormones, and reducing inflammation.

Stress: Reishi has been shown to reduce stress levels by increasing serotonin production while decreasing cortisol production (the stress hormone).

Reishi may be a strong tool for improving mental health and stabilizing mood swings. It’s a great option for anyone suffering from depression or anxiety. And the best part is, you can use reishi to complement your existing treatment plan, not replace it. So, what are you waiting for?

The more we talk about mental health, the more others will realize they aren’t alone. And hopefully, they’ll feel comfortable reaching out to get help if they need it. Knowledge is power, after all.

Reishi’s Fighting Effects Against Cervical Cancer

Did you know that at least 80% of women will have been infected by the human papillomavirus (HPV) by age 50? It is estimated that more than 100 types of HPV exist and at least 14 of these are cancer-causing. While certain strains of HPV cause genital warts, others produce abnormal cells on the cervix (detected by Pap tests) that can result in cervical cancer. If it is not treated or detected in time, this disease can be fatal.

How can HPV infections lead to cancer?

About 70% of cervical cancers and pre-cancerous cervical lesions are caused by two strains of HPV. If the body’s immune system cannot effectively fight off an HPV infection, the virus can remain for years and, over time, cause normal cells to become cancerous. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), cervical cancer is the fourth most common cancer in women around the world, with 570,000 women newly diagnosed with it in 2018.

Fortunately, most cervical cancers can be prevented. With routine screenings, health care providers are better able to detect and remove precancerous cells before they progress. HPV vaccines are also available, but they cannot treat existing infection.

How can reishi help prevent and fight cervical cancer?

Known as the “mushroom of immortality,” while it cannot keep us alive forever, reishi has many general health benefits. It has been used for thousands of years in China and Japan to promote health and longevity. Researchers have found that reishi contains powerful adaptogens and compounds, including polysaccharides and triterpenoids like ganoderic acid, that support immune function and antibody production.

Our immune systems can become weakened by poor diet, insufficient restorative sleep, stress, age, chronic infections, and other diseases. When this happens, viral infections like HPV are able to take greater hold, multiply, and increase our risk for certain kinds of cancer.

As a result, the health community is paying more attention to medicinal mushrooms, especially their immune-supporting and antiviral benefits. In addition, scientists are studying these fantastic fungi to learn more about their cancer-fighting therapeutic potential. Research has demonstrated, for example, that fungal polysaccharides can modulate immune function. That means that these compounds help to strengthen the body’s immune response when needed, combating the growth of infection and decreasing the likelihood that it will form cancer cells. Through reishi’s ability to enhance our immune surveillance system, it can help the body identify and eliminate abnormal molecular patterns, thereby improving its protection from cancer-causing viruses, including HPV.

Further to this, reishi’s antioxidant capacity helps reduce free radical damage that could result in cancer. Additionally, studies suggest that the ganoderic acids—unique to reishi mushroom—have antitumour properties by being toxic to cancer cells (cytotoxic) and causing cancer cells to undergo their own programmed cell death (aptosis). And, because reishi supports healthy liver and kidney function, it can also help with the detoxification of carcinogens and strengthen the body if chemotherapy or radiation therapies are used.

Prevention is Key

While reishi mushroom, alongside conventional medical therapies like surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy can be employed to fight an existing cervical cancer, prevention is the best approach. This means getting regular Pap tests, but can also mean considering the HPV vaccine and practicing safe sex. In addition to all of its other health benefits, taking Japanese red reishi mushroom offers another layer of protection against getting cervical cancer.

Ushering In Movember with Reishi Mushrooms

Ushering Into Movember

Did you know that one in nine Canadian men will develop prostate cancer in their lifetime? Each year, more than 1.4 million men are diagnosed with prostate cancer worldwide, with more than 205,000 men living with this common disease in Canada. This month, we thought it would be the perfect opportunity to usher in Movember and discuss how reishi mushrooms can benefit prostate health.

About Prostate Cancer

The prostate is a walnut-sized gland that plays a significant role in the reproductive system and urinary system in men. It lies just below the bladder and in front of the rectum. As with most cancers, prostate cancer occurs when cells cease to act normally in the body.

As men age, they are more likely to develop prostate cancer. The risk of prostate cancer increases after age 50, and it is most common among men over 60. The prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test is sometimes employed to screen for prostate cancer. Because PSA is a protein is produced by both cancerous and non-cancerous prostate tissue, a small amount of PSA does enter the bloodstream. However, cancerous prostate cells produce more PSA, so a physician will consider the age of the person, the size of the prostate, whether the person is taking certain medications that can affect PSA levels, and how quickly those PSA numbers change from test to test (if they do more than one test).

Despite this, there is some good news to be found. Caught early, prostate cancer is largely treatable. Additionally, some types of prostate cancer are extremely slow growing, so not all prostate cancers are treated. Regardless, most of us would rather try to prevent prostate cancer and safely treat even low risk cancers. This is where reishi mushrooms can help.

Reishi Mushrooms and Prostate Health

Studies (1, 2, 3, 4) have shown that compounds, including the polysaccharide beta-glucans, found in reishi mushrooms prevent cancer cell growth. The Journal of Oncology published an article that discusses three cases where tumours shrank in cancer patients who started taking reishi mushrooms.

Researchers in Israel found that reishi mushrooms contain molecules that block male hormones (androgens) from acting on cancerous cells. Unless treated, these hormones can cause cells to multiply uncontrollably into cancer tissue, particularly at the early stages of the disease.

Prostate cancer drugs, such as Flutamide, also interfere with androgen reception. According to the Israeli study, reishi extracts, on the other hand, achieve the same results at a fraction of the cost and without any significant side effects. What’s more, the study showed that reishi was even more efficient than Flutamide.

Keep in mind that current studies on reishi mushrooms and prostate cancer are still in their early stages. So, it is important follow specialist recommendations and to wait until further studies have been conducted before hailing the reishi mushroom as a cure. But they can certainly be considered for preventative use and as a supportive addition to conventional treatments. Especially as reishi mushrooms can also help alleviate chemotherapy-related and radiation-related side effects.

The Other Health Benefits of Reishi Mushrooms

Reishi mushrooms aren’t just good for your prostate – they can benefit your entire body. There are several active healing ingredients found in these medicinal mushrooms that can boost your overall health.

Triterpenes, for instance, are acidic molecules that have the ability to turn off allergic reactions in your body. Polysaccharides can prevent cancer cell growth. Phytosterols can inhibit cholesterol absorption from your intestines, thereby reducing levels of LDL cholesterol.

Numerous studies around the world have shown that reishi mushrooms can be used as treatment or prevention for an array of diseases and illnesses, including diabetes, liver disease, inflammation, flu, autoimmune disorders, cancer, stomach ulcers, sleep disorders, fatigue, heart disease, hypertension, and high cholesterol.

This Movember, whether you have struggled with prostate cancer or not, grow a mustache or not, and have a prostate or not, consider that reishi’s powerful anti-inflammatory and immune balancing properties can help to keep disease at bay.

What is Red Reishi?

As we continue the conversation on immune boosting, I’d like to also introduce an prestigious adaptogenic herb that has been used for centuries in TCM as a tonic, the Reishi mushroom. Due to its scarcity in the wild, it is traditionally referred to as the “divine herb”, and folktales of its immortality were widespread. According to classical texts, Reishi is divided into five different types, each colour resembling one of the five elements. I will cover Red Reishi in this post as it is most commonly used today:

Red reishi tastes bitter and is neutral in property, with the following functions:

Releases chest stagnation & benefits heart Qi – It’s red colour and bitter taste determines its benefits in the heart, and replenishing the emperor organ’s Qi will improve circulation in the cardiopulmonary system, hence unblocking any stagnation. Studies have also shown reishi’s benefits in treating respiratory and cardiovascular illnesses.

Tonifies middle & benefits essence – By tonifying Qi in the middle jiao and replenishing the body’s essence, this allows the herb to replenish all the vital organs responsible for our immunity. This function is also reflected in the fact that the beta glucans in reishi act as a prime immunostimulant to prevent infections, and that its adaptogenic qualities aid in battling fatigue.

Calms mind & increases wisdom – Last but not least, reishi is well known for its stress alleviating properties, which is illustrated in this function. Moreover, the herb is shown to be effective in preventing memory loss in Alzheimer’s as well as treating depression.

How does your Immune System work?

In the unprecedented times of the pandemic, immunity has been the talk of town across the globe. From professional advice to casual topics amongst friends and family, everyone is trying to find ways to strengthen their immune system in hopes of not becoming a victim of the virus. However, as I always say, understand what you are dealing with before blindly following advice, so let’s first look at how our immune system functions from a TCM standpoint.

In TCM, immunity is translated into the theory of the battle between righteous and pathogenic Qi. Righteous Qi is the energy that runs in our organs and meridians, which is what keeps our defenses up, while pathogenic Qi is any type of energy that throws our body out of balance. Hence, when our righteous Qi is strong, we have a strong enough army to fend off any type of pathogens that are trying to invade. On the contrary, when our righteous Qi is weak, practically any pathogen can launch a successful siege on our body.

In terms of organs, our immunity is dependent on the lungs, spleen & stomach, and kidneys. If our immune system is like an army, the lungs’ respiratory components make up the frontline general and fortress walls, the spleen and stomach’s digestive function becomes the supply base, and the kidneys’ storage of original Qi is the country’s treasury. In order for the army to be strong, these organs must be functioning in optimal condition, so it is pertinent to supplement them when boosting immunity.

Six Amazing Health Benefits of Red Reishi

For centuries, medical practitioners in East Asia have used reishi mushroom because of this its long list of therapeutic pluses. But only recently has awareness about this highly revered superfood reached the shores of the western world. So, why is red reishi gaining so much popularity around the globe? Today, we want to dive a little deeper into the amazing health benefits of this miraculous medicinal mushroom.

Increase calm and reduce anxiety

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), reishi is known as ling zhi, or the “herb of spiritual potency.” When a person feels anxious, depressed, manic, or agitated, or suffers from a mental illness, TCM practitioners may describe this as the spirit or “Shen” being out of balance.

Reishi is categorized in its materia medica of herbal medicines as an herb that helps “calm the Shen.” As such, it can help calm the nervous system during times of stress, without causing sleepiness. So, you can still go ahead with operating large machinery (e.g. driving) when you take reishi, unlike some sedative herbs. In fact, reishi mushrooms are also considered “Qi tonics,” loosely meaning they can improve energy.

Stress comes in a number of forms. It includes physical stressors like extremes in temperature, lack of nutrients, insufficient restorative sleep, infection, or disease. Stressors can also be mental and emotional ones like loss of a loved one, loneliness, fear, worry, anger, frustration, being overwhelmed, depression, and more. It is no wonder why this medical mushroom is the go-to tonic in TCM.

Boost the immune system

No matter the time of year, colds and flus are always a concern. One of the most beneficial effects of consuming reishi mushroom is its ability to support the immune system. The beta glucans, compounds found in this holistic herb, have been shown to promote a healthy immune response to fend off diseases and infections.

Fight off cancer

While so much surrounding the cause of cancer remains a mystery, fortunately, great strides have been made in treatment options, including reishi mushrooms. Studies have shown that including reishi mushroom supplementation renders conventional chemotherapy and radiation therapy treatments more effective at killing cancer cells. 3 Furthermore, the study groups who received reishi reported that their quality of life after these powerful conventional cancer treatments was higher than the control group who did not receive reishi during their treatments.

Further studies have shown promise with inhibiting the growth of cancer cell lines, potentially preventing cancer from developing. 2,6 Thus, reishi mushroom may be helpful as both a supportive therapy and also a preventative one for cancer.

Promote liver health

The liver plays a crucial role in eliminating toxins. So, if you want to ensure your liver is working in peak performance, consider giving reishi a try. Studies have demonstrated that triterpenes found in reishi has been shown to prevent free radical damage and support healthy liver function. 6

Keep allergies at bay

If you are looking for a more natural way to manage allergies, take reishi. Studies have revealed that the compounds found in Japanese red reishi are an effective treatment for allergies 5 and other respiratory ailments. Researchers also detected that the ganoderic acids found in this herb act as a natural antihistamine.

Reduce cardiovascular risks

Did you know that reishi mushrooms can help lower blood pressure? The ganoderic acid in reishi is responsible for a variety of heart health benefits, from decreasing high blood pressure 4 and reducing excessive cholesterol levels to lowering the risk of dangerous blood clotting. There is also evidence to suggest that this mushroom can improve blood flow and reduce plaque build-up on artery walls. 1

Choosing Reishi Supplements

When it comes to reishi mushrooms, the advantages of using this natural medicinal wonder are far too many to ignore. But it’s equally important to make sure you are getting a quality product with the medicinal compounds that your body can use.

  1. Firstly, if you are only getting the mycelium (root-like structure) found in some reishi supplements, you are missing out on the ganoderic acids and other useful compounds found in the fruiting body (cap and stem).
  2. Second, if you are getting a supplement that has only ground up the mushroom and is not an extraction, then you are unlikely to be able to absorb many of the important compounds, and those compounds are also not going to be in sufficient quantities to have true medicinal value.
  3. Third, a quality reishi mushroom is one that is grown cleanly in a high-nutrition foundation and allowed to sufficiently mature.

Summer Colds and Reishi

No one wants to think about viruses and infections in the middle of summer, but you should. After all, the last thing anyone wants to do is to spend their vacation suffering indoors.

It might not be cold and flu season just yet, but it’s never too early (or too late for that matter) to start thinking about reducing the risk of getting sick. Without further ado, here are some healthy living tips that will help keep your body, mind, and spirit humming all year long.

Eat Healthy
Yes, we know. You’ve heard this one a million times before—so, what’s one more time. How well you eat has a huge impact on how your body can handle pathogens. You don’t need to get fancy here either. Stick with the basics. Consume natural (organic if you can) foods, make sure you get a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables, as well as good sources of protein and healthy fats.

Wash Your Hands Often
Hey, we’re humans—and as humans, we touch. It’s how we interact, learn, and communicate with the world around us. The problem, however, is that it is also how we come into contact with a host of nasty germs.

If you could manage to keep your hands away from your face, those germs you picked up from touching the elevator button, the change in your wallet, or handle of that door would not have entry to your body. Problem is that the average person touches his or her face about 16 times per hour. Your nose itches, you brush your hair out of your face, you rest your chin on your hand, or worse yet, you chew your nails. Germs, welcome to your body. It’s a hard habit to break, but do your best not to manhandle your face too much.

At the very least, if you want to stay cold and flu-free year-round, do yourself one simple favour by keeping your hands clean.

Sleep Well
Missing out on the occasional good night’s sleep isn’t going to do much harm, but making it a habit sure will. Yes, summer months mean longer days for many of us who are wanting to take full advantage of the sun, the festivals, the barbeques, and the outdoor activities. But irregular sleep patterns wreak havoc on your immune system, opening doors to infection and sickness.

Getting seven to eight hours of good quality downtime helps the body restore itself and stave off harmful bacteria and viruses.

Think Positive
Did you know there is direct correlation between your health and how you think? The mind-body connection is well established, making it an important part of your overall well-being. Practicing yoga, meditation, and visual techniques are all great ways to refocus your mind and release stress.

Take Japanese Red Reishi
Japanese red reishi isn’t known as “The Great Protector” for nothing. This marvelous mushroom has been used for thousands of years for its virus busting abilities. It has powerful adaptogenic and immune-boosting properties that regulate your body’s antibody production, helping protect you from harmful bacteria and viruses the full year round.

Viruses and bacteria don’t take a summer vacation, so taking just one capsule daily of Mikei Japanese red reishi helps keep the immune system supported. Because, as you know, summer colds suck.

7 Ways to Reduce Antibiotic Use

Antibiotics are vital medications. They have performed wonders in treating bacterial infections, preventing the spread of disease, and minimizing the complications of illness. But overuse and misuse of these drugs have led to antibiotic resistance—a serious global health problem that is degrading the effectiveness of these medications.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has created a global action plan to address the growing issue of antibiotic resistance, and as part of this initiative, has dedicated a week in November to World Antibiotics Awareness Week. No matter what the date is today, limiting antibiotic use to maintain their effectiveness is something to keep in mind year-round!

​Preventing infectious diseases

Of course, no one wants to get sick in the first place. In order to limit your use of antibiotics, the “ounce of prevention” adage really does hold true. With some healthy proactive habits, you can help keep bacteria and viruses at bay. And, while you are still likely to get sick on occasion, the fewer, the better.

Since bacteria and viruses can easily be spread from one person to another—especially during the cold and flu season—follow these steps to help you stave off illness.

First, let’s cover the stuff you’ve probably been told a hundred times over, but it’s still important to re-iterate.

​Sing Happy Birthday.

What?! Yes, twice while washing your hands. Doing so will mean that you’ll wash your hands long enough (at least 20 seconds) to remove germs. Washing your hands is the single most important thing you can do to prevent catching and spreading infection.

Don’t pick your nose. Made you read this one too, didn’t I? Also, avoid touching your face, in general. Most of us touch our faces several times a day. Unfortunately, that is how bacteria can spread throughout your body. If your hands are carrying pathogens, they can enter your body through contact with your eyes, nose, and mouth. So, whenever possible, avoid direct contact with your face.

​Be dense.

Well, not you, but make sure your food is nutrient-dense. It cannot be overstated that eating healthy is key to good health and a strong immune system. Make your plate colourful by including vegetables that are green, orange, red, and yellow. This is one way to ensure you are getting plenty of antioxidants through the plant phytonutrients (i.e. nutrients from plants). Some white or beige foods are also healthy, like cauliflower, daikon radish, and mushrooms.

​Saw logs.

What I mean is, get plenty of sleep. When you are at rest, your body can do its repair. Have you noticed that you’re more likely to get sick when you’re short on sleep? It’s not a coincidence.

​Be like a good restaurant that wants to avoid getting sued.

The first rule in the restaurant business is (or at least should be), “don’t make your customers sick” Cook, prepare, and store your food properly. Food can be a major source of dangerous microorganisms. Once they get into your system, they can multiply and cause illness. To prevent illness, properly clean your food preparation areas, wash your hands before and after you handle food, and store food at appropriate temperatures.

​Japanese red reishi mushroom to support a healthy immune system

Now on to the piece you may not have known but will be glad to find out.

Reishi mushroom is known the world over for its power to support the immune system, amongst other things. Hailed as “The King of Mushrooms,” this miracle fungus has been used in Chinese medicine for over 2,000 years—and for a host of great reasons.

While it is classified in the Chinese herbal materia medica as calming the nervous system (which it can) to address insomnia, anxiety, fatigue, and poor memory, it is also used to treat lung weakness and low energy. As such, it can be used as a remedy for Lung energy weakness, including symptoms of coughing and wheezing. In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), Lung energy weakness can result in poorly regulated immune function, meaning you might get sick often or struggle with an immune system disorder.

Reishi mushrooms have more recently been studied for their antimicrobial activity. Without going into the biochemical details, reishi mushrooms—when you include the fruiting bodies (the cap and stem, not just the mycelium root-like structure)—contain a wide array of compounds like terpenes, terpenoids, and quinones that have natural antibacterial, antifungal, and anti-parasitic effects. The polysaccharides in both the fruiting body and the mycelium also provide immune system support.

That combination of supporting a healthy body and immune system along with fighting off infection makes Japanese red reishi a powerful ally to take through the cold and flu season so that you can reduce the chance that you’ll need to take antibiotics. Just make sure you get the whole mushroom, fruiting body included.