It used to be, as August slowly wound its way to an end, plenty of people looked at the onset of fall with dread. Sure, parents have long celebrated - with guilt tinged ecstasy - the thrill of sending their kids back to school, but many lamented the return to work following summer holidays.
That has changed.
Buoyed by the concept of a September Reset, no longer is fall a time where a reduction in daylight and resumption of responsibility creates an obstacle to personal enjoyment or advancement.
But there’s always a catch: If you get a dog someone has to walk it, if you swipe your credit card you eventually have to pay it off and, if you want to enjoy your fall, you’ll have to deal with the looming spectre of cold and flu season.
While Covid-19 has certainly added new layers to the fall season – we all dream of days when big waves relate only to surfing - the return to the office, less daylight, and more time indoors has always meant an increase in illness during this time of year.
Still, there is plenty we can do to boost our immune system in order to stay healthy and take advantage of the change in seasons.
Shake It Off
As mentioned, the realities of fall and winter make it more difficult to stay healthy.
The more we’re indoors, the more easily viruses transfer. This shouldn’t really be a surprise and, if you have kids in daycare, you’re more aware of this than most.
Even if your time is spent primarily with adults, it’s not like you can rely on them either. The reasons people don’t wash their hands are numerous, and studies from both North America and Europe are not comforting.
While you can’t know for certain whether your co-workers are doing their part to keep you healthy, you can control how you go about boosting your immunity.
As Summer Farm Markets shutter for the season and u-pick berry fields begin to sprout pumpkins, healthy fruits and vegetables that were readily available - and cheaper - in the summer become more scarce and costly.
Therefore, it’s necessary to have access to immunity boosting superfoods through the fall and winter months. Topping many lists, quite justifiably, are mushrooms.
Specifically, Reishi mushrooms can improve overall body health via the enrichment of beneficial bacteria within the microbiome. [i] That is, they act as a prebiotic to stimulate the growth of microbiota bacteria; in turn, these microbiota activate the immune system into action.
In addition, Reishi fruiting bodies are a significant source of Beta-glucans, soluble fibers found in the cell walls of plants and bacteria; when administered during in vivo studies, these fungal β-glucans are well known to stimulate the immune system and boost resistance to various infectious diseases; importantly, this is true even when the fungal β-glucans have been isolated from other sources.[ii]
Making Reishi mushrooms part of your daily wellness routine draws on the connection between earth and body while protecting you from those co-workers who can’t draw the connection between their hands and the soap dispenser.
The Head & The Heart
It’s not your imagination; we do tend to gain more weight during the fall and winter months.
There are a variety of reasons why and, as with handwashing, our reasons for not exercising are numerous even if they aren’t really any more justifiable.
The thing is, you can get away with this lax attitude in July and August.
Yes, you may have a drink in hand, but you’re frequently outdoors on a hike, playing beach volleyball, or joining friends and their kids at a local playground - hopefully you’d ditch the alcohol for that last one.
And on those days where you’re not particularly active? Well, you may even (gasp!) walk to your patio of choice.
During the summer exercise finds you, whereas in fall and winter you have to put effort into finding ways to exercise. This can be a big obstacle.
With work days also becoming longer and more focused, it can be difficult to find the energy to exercise after a long day; so, to support your workout goals, it is worth making Cordyceps mushrooms part of your wellness routine.
In human studies with older participants, those taking Cordyceps showed enhanced oxygen utilization during intense exercise[iii]; this is noteworthy because enhancing aerobic capacity will improve outcomes by prolonging and intensifying workouts.
Couple that with evidence supporting the clinical use of Cordyceps as an effective method of reducing fatigue[iv] and you have a powerful partner for your fall workout goals.
To be physically sharp, you need to be mentally sharp, and Lion’s Mane mushrooms are noted for their brain boosting properties and ability to boost mind clarity.
Since ancient times, Lion’s Mane has been used for both nutritional and medicinal purposes and recent scientific studies have focused on its ability to improve cognition.
Specifically, Lion’s Mane has shown the capacity to increase neurogenesis in the hippocampus and cerebellum, with the hippocampus being most notable owing to its involvement in higher cognitive function, such as memory processes.[v]
Such studies investigated specific protein markers representative of cell proliferation activity and newborn neurons occurrence. Basically, these protein markers created a baseline from which to measure the creation of new neurons, and research data confirmed the results of a previous study on non-human subjects by Ryu et al. ([vi]) supporting the notion that Lion’s Mane extract promotes hippocampal neurogenesis.
With powerful benefits, and ever expanding ease of access, mushrooms should become as much a part of your daily routine as packing an umbrella to work and enjoying a cocktail by the fireplace upon returning home.
The fall season has plenty to offer, so make sure you’re healthy enough to enjoy it.
-- Written by Jared Stevens --
[i] Li, Miaoyu, et al. “Role of Dietary Edible Mushrooms in the Modulation of Gut Microbiota.” Journal of Functional Foods, vol. 83, 2021, p. 104538., https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jff.2021.104538.
[ii] Camilli, G., Tabouret, G., & Quintin, J. (2018). The Complexity of Fungal β-Glucan in Health and Disease: Effects on the Mononuclear Phagocyte System. Frontiers in Immunology, 9, 673–673. https://doi.org/10.3389/fimmu.2018.00673
[iii] Yi, X., Xi-zhen, H. & Jia-shi, Z. Randomized double-blind placebo-controlled clinical trial and assessment of fermentation product of Cordyceps sinensis (Cs-4) in enhancing aerobic capacity and respiratory function of the healthy elderly volunteers. Chin. J. Integr. Med. 10, 187–192 (2004). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF02836405.
[iv] Song, Jingjing et al. “Studies on the Antifatigue Activities of Cordyceps Militaris Fruit Body Extract in Mouse Model.” Evidence-based complementary and alternative medicine 2015 (2015): 174616–174616. https://www.hindawi.com/journals/ecam/2015/174616/
[v] Ratto D, Corana F, Mannucci B, Priori EC, Cobelli F, Roda E, Ferrari B, Occhinegro A, Di Iorio C, De Luca F, Cesaroni V, Girometta C, Bottone MG, Savino E, Kawagishi H, Rossi P. Hericium erinaceus Improves Recognition Memory and Induces Hippocampal and Cerebellar Neurogenesis in Frail Mice during Aging. Nutrients. 2019 Mar 27;11(4):715. doi: 10.3390/nu11040715. PMID: 30934760; PMCID: PMC6521003.
[vi] Ryu, S.; Kim, H.G.; Kim, J.Y.; Kim, S.Y.; Cho, K.O. Hericium erinaceus Extract Reduces Anxiety and Depressive Behaviors by Promoting Hippocampal Neurogenesis in the Adult Mouse Brain. J. Med. Food. 2018, 21, 174–180.