Mushrooms and Vitamin D
Did you know that 70% of people living in the United States are vitamin D insufficient? (6)
Vitamin D has been the subject of much discussion lately as it has been identified in the medical community as a crucial compound for keeping people healthy. D deficiency can take its toll in humans in several rays ranging from fatigue, depression, muscle pain, & hair loss. Unfortunately the list continues with compromising the immune system and making one more susceptible to respiratory illness. Believe it or not, there has even been several studies highlighting a correlation of Vitamin D deficiency and severe COVID-19 cases.
Vitamin D & COVID-19
A retroactive study found that people were almost 8 times more likely to only have mild rather than severe COVID-19 symptoms and 20 times more likely to have a mild rather than critical outcome for each standard deviation (7). Another study found in New Orleans that 84.6% of COVID-19 patients in ICU had vitamin D deficiency, and only 4% of those in the ICU had sufficient levels of the vitamin . (8) Another study in Indonesia found in a cohort of 780 patients, 96% of patients with adequate vitamin D survived, while 98.9% of patients with a vitamin D deficiency died. (9)
While Vitamin D, is mostly associated with sunlight absorption, we depend on absorbing Vitamin D through foods as well. What some people don't know is mushrooms can be an excellent source of this essential vitamin.
What is Vitamin D?
In general, vitamins are incredibly essential nutrients that the body is not able to synthesize on its own. Vitamin D is one of the four fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E, and K)  and it is technically a steroid that functions like a hormone. Vitamin D is essential for many of the bodies systems. In fact, every cell in your body has a receptor for the vitamin and it regulates over 200 genes and is important for human development .
Vitamin D is often associated, accurately, with sunlight. But there is a little more nuance to the biochemistry. Aside from a small portion of people with underlying condition which prevents the synthesis of vitamin D, your body makes D from a specific type of cholesterol called 7-Dehydrocholesterol which lives in the epidermal layer of your skin. When ultraviolet light hits your skin, this compound converts to cholecalciferol also known as vitamin D3.
Sun or Food?
Some estimates say that 80% of the necessary amount of Vitamin D can come from the sun. However, this is assuming not only that one spends a lot of time in the sun, but also that they are in the ideal area of the earth for absorption andthey have ideal genetics that nurture the absorption. Thus, as globally distributed humans with a varied genetic pool that spends most of our time inside, it is crucial to intake D from diet and foods. This is even more important particularly if your diet is mainly plant-based as vitamin D is present in fatty fishes, fortified dairy products, egg yolk, beef liver. Plant based sources include orange juice, certain cereals, and last but certainly not least, a variety of species of mushrooms.
Supplementation & Deficiency
The recommended daily dose of vitamin D is between 400-2000 IU, depending on age and skin pigmentation. The darker your skin, the more sun exposure required to get enough D. The higher your age, the more D your system requires. Living in a culture which emphasizes negative effects of sun exposure and conducts life and business indoors creates a higher risk for D deficiency. Nearly 1 billion people worldwide are thought to be deficient in this vitamin . Issues arising from a lack of D include osteoporosis, certain cancers, cardiovascular disease, autoimmune diseases, infections, inflammatory bowel diseases, pyschological disorders, cognitive disorders, and obesity .
The symptoms of vitamin D deficiency range from subtle to obvious and a lack of D can lead to an inability of your body to fight off viruses and bacteria that cause illness; it interacts directly with bodily cells designed to fight off infection.
Here are some signs you might be D deficient :
Getting Sick Often:There is a link between lack of D and respiratory tract infections like bronchitis, pneumonia, COPD, and colds.
Fatigue:Feeling tired may be a sign of D deficiency and studies have shown regular intake of D has the ability to fight low energy levels.
Bone Loss and Pain:D helps maintain bone health by improving the absorption of calcium
Depression:D is also known as a mood improver as it helps regulate hormones.
Slow Wound Healing:Vitamin D's role in controlling inflammation and fighting infection helps wounds heal more rapidly.
Hair Loss:Hair loss is associated with stress, alopecia (an autoimmune disorder), and rickets. Vitamin D can reduce the risk of developing these conditions and control related hair loss.
Muscle Pain:Although causes of muscle pain are difficult to pinpoint, there is evidence to show that a lack of D may be a potential cause. D receptors are present in nerve cells called nociceptors, which sense pain. Studies have shown D deficiency led to increased sensitivity of these receptors and lowered pain thresholds.
Mushrooms and Vitamin D
Along with other foods groups, mushrooms are an excellent source of vitamin D. Like humans, mushrooms also use sunlight to synthesize D. Unfortunately, most commercial mushrooms are grown in the absence of sunlight and do not often contain sufficient levels.
Some brands are vitamin D enriched, which simply means they were placed in the sun. You can either foot the extra cost of this procedure or you can place your store bought mushrooms to dry in sunlight and increase their vitamin D contents by thousands of percent. Surprisingly, the mushrooms will retain these extra vitamins for over a year. Another solution is to (carefully and knowledgably) harvest your own edible mushrooms, but be sure to know what you are doing because some look-a-like species are highly toxic and even lethal .
Vitamin D supplements are another route for bolstering D levels in the body. However, researchers at Boston University School of Medicine discovered that mushrooms containing vitamin D2 are as effective at maintaining D levels as taking supplemental vitamin D . In addition to their high D content, mushrooms also contain powerful antioxidants, adaptogens, anti-inflammatory agents, anti-aging and anti-cancer agents, and glucose regulators. Additionally they contain vitamin C, selenium (for removing heavy metals in the body), B vitamins, and potassium. The totality of the health benefits reduces the need to purchase extra costly D supplements.
Some Vitamin D-containing Mushrooms
(Keep in mind many species need to be exposed to sunlight or harvested wild)
- Maitake *
- Turkey Tail*