There is a reason that turkey tail is the most prolific mushroom in the entire world growing on nearly every continent and in all regions; because it is pure medicine for the human race. The immunological strength acquired when taking turkey tail is undeniable, but that is not where this mushroom’s benefits end.
In this article, we delve into both Chinese Medicine and Western perspectives on why turkey tail is also a powerful ally for maintaining a healthy gut.
So what does ‘gut health’ actually mean?
Within the wellness world, the significance of gut health and microbiome integrity takes centre stage. While many of us might associate "gut health" with good digestion, it goes far beyond that. In reality, our gut plays a pivotal role in our overall well-being. Approximately 70% of our immune response is orchestrated by our gut, and an astonishing 95% of the body's serotonin, which affects both mood and gastrointestinal function, is manufactured by our gut bacteria.
Think of the gut as the cornerstone of holistic health. It's akin to a unique fingerprint for each individual, consisting of trillions of diverse microorganisms. Ideally, these microorganisms collaborate harmoniously to support the overall well-being of the body, ultimately enhancing your vitality and mood. So it’s a lot more important than many of us would give it credit for.
Harmonising the Spleen and Stomach
In Chinese Medicine, the Spleen and Stomach are regarded as the "root of postnatal life," responsible for transforming food and water into Qi. When the Spleen and Stomach are in harmony, they efficiently extract nutrients from food while effectively eliminating waste. Turkey tail is believed to tonify and regulate these vital organs.
From a Chinese Medicine standpoint, turkey tail is considered a Qi tonic, helping to strengthen the digestive organs and improve their function. It supports the transformation of food into Qi and promotes the smooth flow of this vital energy throughout the body. By doing so, it aids in overall digestion, absorption, and nutrient assimilation, ultimately contributing to gut health.
Cooling and Detoxifying
In Chinese medicine, the concept of balance extends to temperature and detoxification. Turkey tail is believed to have a cooling and detoxifying effect on the body. This cooling property is especially beneficial for individuals with heat-related digestive issues, as it helps rebalance the body's internal temperature.
Furthermore, turkey tail is thought to have an affinity for the Liver, which plays a pivotal role in detoxification. If you want to learn more about the Liver through the lens of Chinese Medicine, check out our blog 'Through The Taoist Lens: The Liver & Gallbladder'. A properly functioning Liver aids in the elimination of toxins from the body and helps maintain a healthy immune system. Turkey tail's detoxifying qualities, according to TCM, support the Liver in its role, contributing to overall gut health.
Beta-Glucans and Inflammation
From a Western scientific perspective, turkey tail's gut health benefits are attributed to its bioactive compounds, particularly beta-glucans. These complex sugars have been extensively studied for their anti-inflammatory properties. Chronic inflammation in the gut can lead to conditions like Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), Crohn's disease, and ulcerative colitis.
Beta-glucans in turkey tail have been found to reduce inflammation in the gut lining. They do so by modulating the immune response, helping to alleviate inflammation-related symptoms and improve gut health. Scientific research supports the use of turkey tail as a natural means to address gut inflammation and its associated conditions.
Gut Motility and Polysaccharides
Another crucial aspect of gut health is motility, which refers to the movement of food through the digestive system. Impaired gut motility can lead to discomfort, constipation, and bloating. Turkey tail, with its rich content of polysaccharides, plays a role in improving gut motility.
Polysaccharides are complex carbohydrates found in turkey tail that help regulate the contractions of gut muscles. Research has demonstrated that these compounds can enhance gut motility, reducing the risk of constipation and associated digestive issues. In this way, turkey tail supports the Western perspective of optimal gut function.
Strengthening the Gut Barrier
The gut barrier is a vital component of gut health, acting as a protective layer of cells that prevents harmful substances from entering the bloodstream. A compromised gut barrier, often referred to as "leaky gut," is linked to a range of health problems. Turkey tail contributes to the maintenance of a healthy gut lining, thus supporting barrier function.
Western science identifies turkey tail's compound, polysaccharide-K (PSK), as a key player in this regard. PSK has been shown to strengthen the tight junctions between cells in the gut lining, preventing the passage of harmful substances into the bloodstream. This reinforces the gut barrier's integrity and underscores turkey tail's significance in maintaining gut health from a Western perspective.
Turkey tail, as seen through the dual lenses of Chinese Medicine and Western science, emerges as a holistic approach to promoting gut health. From a TCM perspective, it harmonizes vital organs, cools and detoxifies, and invigorates Qi and Blood. In the Western scientific context, turkey tail's prebiotic and probiotic properties, anti-inflammatory compounds, influence on gut motility, and support for the gut barrier function are all essential facets of its gut health benefits. By incorporating turkey tail into your daily routine, you can harness the combined wisdom of these two traditions to fortify your gut and enhance overall well-being.
If this article has ignited a desire to dive a little deeper into medicinal mushrooms and tonic herbs and digestive health, then check out some of our podcast episodes below!