Over 300 clinical studies have explored the relationship between stress and the immune system (1). Several studies have shown that chronic stress can create inflammation, disturb the immune system, and make us more vulnerable to viral and bacterial infections (2). The immune-suppressing effect of stress is especially concerning when it comes to dealing with HPV.
Stress & HPV
The human papillomavirus (HPV) is the most common sexually transmitted infection, and it can potentially lead to serious health problems like cervical cancer. As there is no cure for the infection, we rely on our immune system to suppress the virus. When we are stressed and our immunity is lowered, our ability to suppress HPV significantly decreases. Some experts believe that ongoing stress has such a profound negative impact on our body’s natural defenses that close to 90% of illnesses are directly caused by it.
To give our body the best chance to heal from an active HPV infection, it is important to manage our stress effectively. Yoga, tai chi, and meditation are all proven methods you can try if stress is negatively affecting your health.
How Can Medicinal Mushrooms Benefit Immune Function?
Besides stress management techniques, we can also tap into nature’s pharmacy and take certain medicinal mushrooms to boost our immune function. Ancient civilizations around the world have been using mushrooms for thousands of years, especially in Asian countries. More recently, the scientific community has finally started to pay attention to their unique, healing properties. A number of current studies are focused on how we can use medicinal mushrooms to enhance our health.
Medicinal mushrooms boost the immune system by increasing the activity of various immune cells. They are also thought to prime the immune cells so that they become more efficient at defending against future invaders (3).
Reishi, for example, has been shown to boost the production of natural killer cells, a type of immune cell that is primarily responsible for hunting down and killing cancer cells and other cells that are infected by viruses (4). AHCC, a cultured extract of several species of medicinal mushroom mycelia (roots), is also supported by sound evidence. Specific to HPV, AHCC has shown promising results in long-term suppression of the virus.
Some of the most common medicinal mushroom supplements are:
- Shiitake (Lentinula edodes)
- Reishi (Ganoderma lucidum)
- Chaga (Inonotus obliquus)
- Cordyceps (Cordyceps sinensis)
- Turkey tail (Trametes versicolor, Coriolus versicolor)
- Lion’s mane (Hericium erinaceus)
Medicinal mushrooms do much more than just support immune function. They have been found to improve brain health, reduce inflammation, fight free radicals, and more. Mushroom supplements are truly nature’s medicine, so consider tapping into their healing potential.
- Psychological Stress and the Human Immune System: A Meta-Analytic Study of 30 Years of Inquiry: National Institutes of Health, 2004.
- Chronic stress promotes colitis by disturbing the gut microbiota and triggering immune system response: National Institutes of Health, 2018.
- Mushrooms and Health Summit Proceedings: National Institutes of Health, 2014.
- Studies on the immuno-modulating and anti-tumor activities of Ganoderma lucidum (Reishi) polysaccharides: National Institutes of Health, 2004.