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How These Mushrooms & Adaptogens Can Help Grow Brain Cells, Reduce Anxiety, and Fight off Depression

Dr. Caroline LeafWhen many of us think of mushrooms, we either think of the ones we cook with, the ones people use to get “high” or the ones that are very dangerous. But did you know that certain mushrooms are superfoods that can boost your mental and physical health? In this podcast (#217) and blog, I speak with Tero Isokauppila, a health and wellness expert and founder and CEO of Four Sigmatic, a company that creates everyday health products to upgrade your daily routine. We discuss why mushrooms are good for our moods, minds, and mental health, what adaptogens are and how to use them, how superfoods like mushrooms can improve our physical health and help us deal with stress, common myths about mushrooms, simple ways to upgrade your daily health routine and more!  

As Tero points out, the brain and nervous system is the next frontier in science. This is a very new field of science, and we are learning more and more every day, including how the brain gets energy. Only certain compounds that can enter through blood-brain barrier, so it can be challenging for brain to get good nutrition.

Superfoods like cacao and certain mushrooms have compounds that are small enough to cross the blood-brain barrier and provide the brain with different nutrients. In fact, cacao is one of the most nutritionally diverse foods in the world, which is why Four Sigmatic has a range of healthy hot cacao drinks to help you improve your health. A lot of the smaller compounds in cacao are neurotransmitters that can pass through this blood-brain barrier and activate the brain, providing nutrients and energy that can improve our mental and physical wellbeing.

Science is just beginning to show how and in what way natural compounds like mushrooms and cacao, which have been used for centuries in different cultures, improve our health. This is a new, exciting era of wellness!

However, since the science is so new, there are a lot of misconceptions about mushrooms out there that need to be addressed:

  1. Mushrooms are not plants – they are fungi. Fungi is its own biological kingdom, one that is closely related to humans. We share up to 50% of our DNA with fungi!
  1. They don’t all grow on the ground. Many mushroom superfoods like lion’s mane actually grow on trees.
  1. They are not all psychedelic. Superfood mushrooms like reishi, lion’s mane and cordyceps will not get you “high”.
  1. They are not weird or “kooky”. Mushrooms are among the most researched foods in the world. Many of them are important ingredients in pharmaceuticals.
  1. They are not all poisonous.

Ancient foods like mushrooms are important for immunity, gut health and brain power. Just like certain foods in the plant and animal kingdom are nutritionally dense, certain mushrooms are really good for us! For example, the lion’s mane mushroom, which grows on trees, can help with the remyelination of nerve cells, which can, in turn, improve thinking speeds and stimulate the growth of brain cells. Studies have even shown that this mushroom may help prevent or reduce the symptoms of cognitive decline. Cordyceps is another great mushroom for our health, which increases maximum oxygen intake and help fuel the brain and body, while mushrooms like reishi can help combat the negative effects of a high stress environment, as they support the HPA axis and endocrine system, which can help balance the stress response.

These superfood mushrooms are also adaptogens. These are ancients plants or mushrooms that help you adapt to physical and mental stressors. They are natural, non-additive foods that you can eat every day to boost energy and stamina. However, they are not just uppers or downers; they are non-specific (impacting multiple systems in body) and restore harmony to brain and body.

Four Sigmatic also has their own range of edible skincare products! Why? Your skin is your largest organ. What you put on your skin is absorbed into your body and can impact your mental and physical wellbeing. As research has shown, we should be aware of what we are putting into AND what we are putting onto our body. Indeed, many artificial skin products can actually negatively impact the blood-brain barrier and our health!

However, as Tero points out, nutrition is not the be all and end all of health. Our mind and what we think is really important too, as well as our lifestyle practices! This is why, every day, Tero makes sure he takes care of both his mental and physical self-care by:

  1. Choosing to see obstacles as opportunities to grow and learn.
  2. Starting the morning hydrated.
  3. Taking naps, a siesta or breaks after a meal, which includes meditation and mindfulness practices and using his acupressure nail bed mat (which helps the nervous system and releases tension). Taking breaks are so important if we want to stay healthy and happy!!
  4. Practicing regular deep breathing (for more on how to do this listen to my recent podcast episode #216 and check out this blog).
  5. Getting outside every day and exercising.
  6. Eating real foods rich in nutrients and antioxidants like those found in cacao. Check out Four Sigmatic’s delicious products to find ways to incorporate these superfoods into your daily routine!
  7. Practicing mental self-care through brain building and self-regulation. For more mental self-care tips, pre-order my new book 101 Ways to be Less Stressed, which is now on sale at 20% off! You can also check out my app SWITCH, which is a great tool for helping you learn how to manage your mind every day, deal with the roots of your mental distress, and overcome thought patterns and behaviors that impact your wellbeing through the mental process of reconceptualization.
  8. Doing thermal exercise. This includes heat exposure, such as using a steam room or sauna as well as cold exposure, like taking an ice bath or cold shower. (For more on why saunas are so great for your mental and physical health and to learn what sauna I use every day, check out podcast episode #192 and blog, and for more on cold exposure and mental health, listen to my recent podcast episode #216 and check out this blog).
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