The mushroom is a complex organism that contains several thousand enzymes, nutrients, and proteins in a ratio that offers nutritional benefits.
As a holistic veterinarian, I believe mushrooms hold important potential value for cats' and dogs' health in the areas of immune and digestive health, normal cell growth, promoting the normal detoxification process, helping to protect against environmental stressors, and even joint and respiratory health.
In fact, I believe so firmly in the value of certain mushrooms, I use them regularly in my practice...
Mushrooms – What You DON'T See Might Be the Best Part
First, to fully appreciate the benefits a mushroom might offer your pet, let's define how they differ from molds and fungi...
Mushrooms are a fungus that forms a fleshy, above-ground reproductive structure called the "mushroom fruit body."
In contrast, fungi that are not mushrooms do not form fleshy fruit bodies.
However, the "mushroom fruit body" or the part that you can see – the stem and cap – is less than 10 percent of a mushroom's total biomass.
The mycelium is the part of the mushroom you don't see or typically eat. It's the part that lies beneath the surface of the soil.
And it's the part that may hold the most important nutritional benefits of mushrooms.
The Secret Behind What May Be Mushrooms' Greatest Gift to Mammals
Mycelium is a vast network of living cells covering much of the earth's surface. The largest biological entities on the planet, these "fungal mats" can live for decades and even centuries.
In fact, one of these gigantic mycelium "mats" currently covers 200 acres in a forest in Oregon. Mycelium is essential to a healthy forest's ecosystem – it's what nourishes and replenishes the soil.
And the job isn't always easy... Mycelium cells constantly battle against hostile environments. To aid their survival, mushrooms have developed highly efficient and proactive immune systems.
Many scientists believe these protective capabilities that have evolved over the years – the mycelia's highly adept immune system – along with its ability to break down natural organic matter are exactly what makes mushrooms so valuable to mammals.
Unlocking the Mushroom's Immune Support Code
What makes mushroom mycelium so valuable for your pet's immune health?
Beta-glucans and proteoglycans are two of the top biologically active compounds in mushroom fruit bodies and mycelia that support the immune systems of animals. Beta-glucans are chains of polysaccharides, and proteoglycans are special proteins, often found in connective tissue.
What makes mushroom-derived beta-glucans so unique in supporting health is their ability to support optimal immune function without over-stimulation.
How exactly do mushrooms support immune function?
The beta-glucans found in mushrooms are large and complex long-chain molecules. What sets certain beta-glucans apart are their unique side-branching patterns.
Other Bioactive Compounds in Mushrooms May Also Provide Immune Support for Your Pet
While beta-glucans have been the most studied component, mushrooms and their mycelium contain other bioactive compounds and proteins:
- Ubiquitin-like proteins
But that's not all mushrooms and their mycelium can potentially do for your pet...
How Your Pet's Gut Health and Digestion Affect Her Immune Function
Did you know your pet's gastrointestinal tract is her largest immune barrier?
It only makes sense that, to fully support your pet's immune system, it's equally important to support her digestion and gut health, too.
Mushrooms and their mycelium’s complex nutritional matrix of nutrients, dietary fiber, and fungal enzymes have been shown to support healthy digestion and gastrointestinal tract function.
The important enzymes produced by mushrooms include:
- Protease - helps digest proteins and, through its actions, helps cleanse your pet's blood stream of excess undigested protein
- Lipase - helps digest fat
- Amylase - helps break down starch into sugar and supplies your pet's body with energy
- Cellulase - helps break down fiber, which in turn promotes bowel health and regularity
These digestive enzymes that are part of the mushroom itself can potentially help improve the digestibility and utilization of carbohydrates and proteins in your pet's body. And they're capable of surviving the stomach's harsh, acidic conditions, too.
An Extraordinary Antioxidant – Made Primarily by Mushrooms?
Mushrooms are excellent sources of antioxidants in general, such as polyphenols and selenium, but they also contain antioxidants unique to mushrooms and their mycelium.
One such antioxidant is L-ergothioneine, which experts now recognize as a "master antioxidant" as it is transported to cells throughout the body to fight damage from oxidative stress and free radicals.
Ergothioneine is a sulfur-containing amino acid that is synthesized only by mushrooms and by fungi and mycobacteria in the soil. Plants can absorb ergothioneine through their roots and grazing animals can consume ergothioneine-containing plants.
Your pet's body can't make its own ergothioneine, so cats and dogs depend upon food sources, like plants and meat.
Modern farming practices, with their heavy use of chemical fertilizers, herbicides, and fungicides, have dramatically reduced the healthy fungal communities in our soils, thus reducing the total amount of ergothioneine in our food supply.
Until recently, wheat germ was considered the best source for ergothioneine. Researchers from a major university, using a new sensitive testing approach they developed for fungi, have found that mushrooms are a much more potent source.
Researchers are currently not aware of any other food source that contains as much ergothioneine as mushrooms.
Remarkable in many ways, ergothioneine is a unique antioxidant that can:
- Concentrate where there's lots of oxidative stress – especially eye tissue, the liver and kidneys, and red blood cells
- Go straight to the cells' nuclei to help protect cellular DNA
- Gain access to the mitochondria, the power plants of cells, potentially protecting against free radical damage that can speed up the aging process
Here's what else is unique about ergothioneine... It exists a long time in the body – about 30 days as opposed to 30 minutes or less for most other antioxidants.
Mushrooms: I Knew Their Time Had Come...
As I mentioned earlier, I've been using mushroom and mycelium blends in my practice for some time now, and although there have not been studies conducted in cats and dogs, I am keenly aware of the many potential benefits mushroom blends can offer cats and dogs for immune support and overall well-being.
Just some of the favorable responses I've heard from owners after their pets tried different mushroom blends include:
- Older dogs appear to regain some of their youthful vigor and spark...
- Skin and coat appear more lustrous...
- Support of flexibility and ease of movement...
So I decided to ask our friends at Mushroom Matrix (M2) to help me develop a blend of mushroom mycelium for cats and dogs.
Before I tell you more about the mushroom varieties we've selected for my Organic Mushroom Complex for Cats & Dogs, let me tell you a little about the extraordinary company behind this unique blend.
M2 is led by an expert team of mycologists who have worked with mushroom species from around the world since the 1980s.
A true pioneer in the field, M2 developed the proprietary Solid State Fermentation (SSF) production methodology and equipment that allows for the production of health-promoting mushrooms on organic substrate (more about that in just a minute).
M2 obtained organic certification status for all their products in 2006, so today they produce only certified organic mushrooms in their labs in San Marcos, California, just north of San Diego.
The 8 Species We Selected for My Organic Mushroom Complex for Cats & Dogs Include...
- Shiitake (Lentinula edodes)
Contains abundant l-ergothioneine and the immune system-supporting polysaccharide lentinan.
- Reishi (Ganoderma lucidum)
Known as a "three treasure" herb, it's thought by the Chinese to harmonize jung (life force), qi (energy), and shen (spirit).
- Maitake (Grifola frondosa)
The fruit bodies and mycelia of the Maitake contain high concentrations of immune-supporting beta-glucans.
- Lion's Mane (Hericium erinaceus)
Resembling a cheerleader's pom-pom more than a mushroom, this whitish mushroom improved memory and helped regain a sense of curiosity in a group of study mice. It is unknown whether the benefits in mice apply to cats and dogs.
- King Trumpet (Pleurotus eryngii)
A robust culinary mushroom with significant levels of l-ergothioneine, selenium, and beta-glucans. In animal studies, it helped maintain healthy cholesterol levels that were already within the normal range.
- Turkey Tail (Trametes versicolor)
Known for its rich supply of a particular type of polysaccharide – PSK – that may promote immune, digestive, urinary and respiratory health, and normal cellular growth.
- Himematsutake (Agaricus blazei)
Related to the common button mushroom, the Agaricus is noted for its high content of immune-supporting polysaccharides and other important cellular growth-supporting compounds.
- Cordyceps (Cordyceps militaris)
Chinese herbalists believe that Cordyceps replenishes Yin and Yang Jing and acts as a restorative tonic for extreme exertion, stress, or from normal aging. Also known for its ability to support energy, performance, circulation, respiratory health, and healthy cholesterol levels already in the normal range.
What to Look for in a Quality Mushroom Product
How can you be sure you're getting an ideal supplement for your pet?
Here are 5 questions to ask about any mushroom product:
- What's the ratio of fruit body to mycelium?
- Is it produced using solid state fermentation or "submerged fermentation"?
- Does it contain mushroom isolates or whole food mushrooms?
- What type of grain is used for the fermentation process?
- Are the mushrooms organically or conventionally grown?
While these are all important questions, some of the answers might surprise you...
Fruit Body or Mycelium – Which Is Preferable?
Mushroom expert Steve Farrar of M2 recommends choosing products that contain more of the mycelium. His reasons?
- There is more research on the mycelial stage of the mushroom, by far, than the fruit body stage
- The mycelial stage of the mushroom is easier to standardize and keep contained
- Mushrooms grown to the fruit body stage for harvesting risk environmental factors that can be more difficult to control, so there's more variation in the quality
- Mushroom fruit bodies attract airborne contaminants, both biological and industrial, so there's greater risk for contamination
Whole Food vs. Mushroom Extract Isolates: What's the Difference?
There are two primary types of mushroom supplements:
- Mushroom concentrate extracts
This is the type you commonly find on store shelves and online. Many are "hot water extracts," which means the mycelia or fruit body is boiled for extended periods to extract and concentrate the beta-glucans but you typically lose the enzymes, protein, fiber, and most of the antioxidants.
- Whole food mushrooms
With whole food mushrooms, you get the benefits of enzymes, antioxidants, fiber, protein, co-enzymes, and other important co-factors responsible for the nutrients' actions. The whole food form offers your pet support for various systems, as opposed to just beta-glucans.
Just as eating a fresh vegetable with its fiber and natural nutrients intact is the preferred way to get those nutrients, it's no different with mushrooms.
When you extract certain bioactive compounds from mushrooms, such as beta-glucans and polysaccharides, you leave behind the enzymes, coenzymes, and chelated mineral activators. These valuable compounds support the mushrooms' bioactivity and the way in which your pet's body may receive benefits from the compound. The extraction process can also damage many of the bioactive enzymes and proteins.
And here's something else to consider... Highly concentrated mushroom extracts can potentially bring unintended consequences. As powerful as they can be, an overload of certain compounds in isolated extracts may shut down the important feedback your pet's body depends upon.
The Mycelium's Substrate – Why Our Supplier Chose
Oats Over Rice
Our supplier believes oats make a better growing substrate for mycelium than hulled brown rice, the medium commonly used.
- The outer hull protects the oat seed from oxidizing and turning rancid
- Oats' cellulose, hemicellulose, and lignin stimulate the mushroom to activate a more complete set of metabolic and enzymatic pathways, vital to the mycelia's bioactivity
- Oats are easy for the mycelium to digest
- Oats' plant beta-glucans complement the fungal beta-glucans
Unlike many other mushroom products, the mycelium for my Organic Mushroom Complex is cultivated using 100% Certified Organic Whole Oats, complete with the outer hull intact.
Why M2's Proprietary Solid State Fermentation Method Raises the Bar on Quality
As I revealed earlier, M2 has developed a proprietary Solid State Fermentation (SSF) method to produce their mushrooms.
SSF is a process where the insoluble substrate – in this case, organic whole oats – is fermented with enough moisture, but without excess water. It results in higher quality production and yields while degrading the starch and enhancing nutrients.
In this process, the team cooks the oats to hydrate them to 55 percent moisture and to help remove competing fungi, viruses, yeast, and bacteria.
This substrate is now ready for the mycelium starter to be added.
At this point – and right before the biomass enters the erupting fruit body stage – the team members open the bags and slowly dehydrate the biomass to reduce the moisture content. The use of a controlled, low 118 degrees preserves live enzymes, protein structure, and the many bioactivities of each mushroom species.
Grown in bags over the next 30 to 80 days, the mycelium gradually digests the oats until the grains vanish, leaving behind a solid white mass – the mycelium biomass. Due to this length of time, almost all the oats are digested, unlike mushroom spawn, which is harvested after about seven days.
Once the mushroom biomass reaches 5 percent moisture, it is milled into a fine powder and is ready for use.
For a more comprehensive beneficial effect, look for a product using "solid state fermentation," which is based on the whole food approach where the final product contains more or most of the original compounds and co-factors.
100% Grown and Processed in the USA
With mushrooms, the growing environment matters, just as it does with other plants. Their intense ability to concentrate minerals and metals in their tissues makes polluted environments a real threat to their purity.
When grown in a polluted environment, mushrooms can concentrate heavy metals, which can be toxic, depending on the levels.
Recently, Asian (and Chinese, in particular) mushroom products have been found to contain unhealthy levels of lead, cadmium, arsenic, and chromium, most likely from widespread water, soil, and air pollution.
Although M2 mycologists select strains of mushrooms from around the globe and carry home tissue cultures of these extraordinary species, they propagate and produce all of their own mushroom mycelium in their lab in San Marcos, California.
All critical points of quality control stay totally in their hands.
Further, they routinely test for toxic heavy metals in the tissue samples, the organic oat substrate, as well as the finished mushroom ingredients, to ensure that there are no unhealthy levels of heavy metals.
My Organic Mushroom Complex for Cats & Dogs Meets All the Criteria for an Exceptional Product
As you've just seen, my Organic Mushroom Complex for Cats & Dogs contains 8 species of highly valued, health-supporting mushroom mycelium that provide an array of enzymes, nutrients, antioxidants, and immune supporting compounds.
This proprietary blend of 8 mushrooms...
- Contains 100% Certified Organic, biologically active, whole food mushroom and mycelium (not isolated extracts) to optimize the life cycle of the mushroom
- Is an excellent source of fermented foods for digestive and immune health, thanks to M2's breakthrough SSF processing methods
- Contains protein and high levels of natural whole food vitamin D2, B6, B12, beta-glucans, chelated minerals, fiber, antioxidants (including L-ergothioneine), and natural glucosamine
- Is grown and produced entirely in the U.S
- Uses oats instead of rice for its substrate, adding valuable plant beta-glucans and enhancing the mycelia's bioactivity
- Retains its bioactivity through carefully controlled processing methods
- Contains an array of beta-glucans, each with its own beta-glucan structure
- Free of additives, fillers, gluten, and unhealthy levels of heavy metals
And it's considerably higher in l-ergothioneine than other mushroom supplements.
Support for Immune Health and More...
Just to summarize, my Organic Mushroom Complex for Cats & Dogs can potentially help support your pet's:
- Immune Health
Help support your pet's immune system with beta- and alpha-glucans and polyphenols from my blend of eight health-promoting mushrooms.
Mushrooms' naturally-occurring digestive enzymes, pre-biotics, and dietary fiber support your pet's digestive functions.
- Respiratory and Cardiovascular Health
Mushroom compounds promote circulation and oxygen production.
L-ergothioneine and other mushroom compounds support your pet's normal detoxification processes.
- Joint Health
Naturally-occurring vegetarian glucosamine and essential fatty acids help support your pet's joints.
- Nutritional Health
Naturally contains vitamin D, B6, and B12, 35 chelated minerals, and over 19 amino acids to assist with bioavailability of nutrients to support your pet's liver, kidneys, and overall health and well-being.
- Skin and Coat
Natural biotin, methionine, protein, vitamins, and other unique mushroom properties help produce a lustrous coat to help your pet feel and look his or her best.
Super-antioxidant L-ergothioneine and other unique and potent antioxidants help reduce oxidative stress and protect against free radical damage.
No matter what you feed your pet – raw, canned, or dry food – my Organic Mushroom Complex for Cats & Dogs provides extra support your pet may need.
Your pet's immune system is one of his or her most precious assets. It's your job to feed it and nourish it... Why not try Organic Mushroom Complex for Cats & Dogs today and see what it can potentially do for your pet?
Right now try it risk-free with our money-back, no questions asked lifetime guarantee (please see details below). You don't have to take chances to help give your pet what I consider the best.