REISHI POLYSACCHRIDES AND COLITIS
If it weren’t for the sudden announcement of the resignation by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on August 28, many people would not have noticed this autoimmune disease that requires life-long treatment-ulcerative colitis.
Most people cannot tolerate multiple days of abdominal pain and diarrhea caused by bacterial infections, let alone ulcerative colitis with symptoms such as hemafecia, fever, vomiting, dehydration, and weight loss. The former can be cured by medicines while the latter is the inflammation and damage of the intestinal mucosa caused by unknown reasons. The medicines can not eliminate the disease and can only suppress inflammation and relieve related symptoms.
In fact, the problem of ulcerative colitis lies in “the inflammation that shouldn’t occur never stops.” When the immune system that initiates the inflammatory response fails, the inflammatory response becomes a health killer and may even cause cell cancer.
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Figure 1 Schematic diagram of the large intestine and endoscopic images of ulcerative colitis
The large intestine includes the cecum, colon, and rectum (left picture): the cecum is connected to the small intestine to prevent the reflux of food entering the large intestine; the colon controls the digestion and absorption function of the large intestine and forms the residue into feces, which are temporarily stored in the rectum for discharge. Ulcerative colitis occurs mainly in the mucosal tissues of the colon and rectum. Endoscopy will show inflammation and ulcers in the colonic mucosa. (Photo/Wikimedia Commons)
Reducing inflammation is only palliative while regulating immunity can effect a permanent cure.
Regarding the problem of immune disorders, existing drugs can only set about the “symptoms” caused by immune disorders.
“Regulating immunity and strengthening and consolidating body resistance” is originally the gold-lettered signboard of the Reishi mushroom. According to the scientific literature published so far, it is known that whether it is polysaccharides or triterpenes from Reishi mushroom, they can regulate immunity and play an important role in the improvement of ulcerative colitis.
Reishi mushroom polysaccharides reduce the severity of colitis.
Both the report published by the Department of Immunology of China Medical University in the Journal of Immunology Research in 2018 and the report published in the Food & Nutrition Research by the Department of Food Science and Engineering of Jinan University in 2019 coincidentally proved that the oral administration of Ganoderma lucidum polysaccharides at a preventive dose in 2 to 3 weeks can significantly reduce the severity of ulcerative colitis attacks (Figure 2).
Figure 2 Ganoderma lucidum polysaccharides reduce the symptoms of ulcerative colitis.
Mice supplemented with Ganoderma lucidum polysaccharides (100 mg/kg per day) for two weeks in advance had less weight loss and lower disease activity (light weight loss, diarrhea and hemafecia) with longer length of the colon (indicating less inflammation and damage) and less severe tissue damage (including the degree of mucosal tissue damage and leukocyte infiltration) when the acute attack of ulcerative colitis was induced. (Source/Reference 1).
Why can Ganoderma lucidum polysaccharides improve ulcerative colitis? Two research reports analyzed from two different perspectives: “regulating immune response” and “regulating intestinal ecology”:
Mechanism 1: Ganoderma lucidum polysaccharides regulate inflammation and inhibit Th17 cells
A study by China Medical University found that mice that had been supplemented with Ganoderma lucidum polysaccharides in advance had fewer inflammation-related cytokines in the colorectal mucosal tissue during the acute attack of ulcerative colitis (Figure 3). There were not so many natural killer cells and Th17 cells that promoted inflammation, but B cells that can secrete IgA, the main antibody of mucosal tissue, grew against the trend.
These immune changes not only help alleviate the inflammatory response and help the intestines to resist possible infections but also have the opportunity to correct the imbalance of Th17 cells and regulatory T cells (Treg) and improve the autoimmune problem of ulcerative colitis from the source.
Every autoimmune disease has a key factor that promotes its onset and exacerbates its deterioration. For ulcerative colitis, it is one of the T-cell subtypes called Th17 cells. The secreted cytokine IL-17 (IL-17A is the most important one) can fight various bacterial and fungal infections through inflammation and is an important role of the intestinal immune barrier.
Excess is just as bad as deficiency. Th17 cells and “regulatory T cells” will check and balance each other, with more on one side and less on the other. The function of regulatory T cells is to maintain autoimmune tolerance (not to launch an immune response to one’s own family members) and to put the brakes on the inflammatory response in a timely manner. Therefore, when Th17 cells are too active, regulatory T cells will become weaker and more inflammation will occur.
The imbalance of these two groups of cells is considered to be the key to detonating ulcerative colitis. In the above-mentioned study of China Medical University, although the regulatory T cells in the mucosal tissues of the mouse large intestine were not increased by the intervention of Ganoderma lucidum polysaccharides, the secretion of Th17 cells and IL-17A has been significantly reduced (Figure 3), which should be a good start for the balance between Th17 cells and regulatory T cells.
Figure 3 Ganoderma lucidum polysaccharides regulate immunity and improve colitis.
For mice that had been supplemented with Ganoderma lucidum polysaccharide for two weeks (100 mg/kg per day), during the acute attack of ulcerative colitis, the inflammation-related tumor necrosis factor (TNF-α) and interleukins such as IL-1β, IL-6, IL-4, IL-17A in the colonic mucosa tissue significantly reduced, and the level of Th17 cells also significantly reduced, but the level of regulatory T cells was not statistically significant (in comparison with the colitis mice that had not been supplemented with Ganoderma lucidum polysaccharides). (Source/Reference 1)
Mechanism 2: Ganoderma lucidum polysaccharides regulate the intestinal ecology and help adjust the imbalanced immunity.
Research from Jinan University found that Ganoderma lucidum polysaccharides can adjust the ratio of the intestinal flora of experimental rats (such as reducing the pathogenic flora, increasing the flora that resists inflammation and secrets short-chain fatty acid), and promote the intestinal tract to secrete more short-chain fatty acids (Figure 4), which in turn regulates the immune response of the intestinal mucosa and reduces the severity of ulcerative colitis.
A large part of the material absorbed by the large intestine is produced by bacteria living in the large intestine. When those polysaccharides that cannot be digested by the small intestine (such as dietary fiber, Ganoderma lucidum polysaccharides) enter the large intestine, they will be broken down into various short-chain fatty acids by a group of bacteria that depend on them for a living. These acetic acids, propionic acids and butyric acids not only nourish the intestinal cells but also protect the mucosal barrier and regulate the immune response. Compared with this kind of friendly bacteria, some intestinal bacteria are the promoters of inflammation. When the proportion of each other is out of balance, it is often the beginning of an illness.
Studies have confirmed that the imbalance of the intestinal flora ratio and insufficient secretion of short-chain fatty acids can cause immune disorders and induce ulcerative colitis. Ganoderma lucidum polysaccharides can reverse the situation, regulate immunity by regulating intestinal ecology, and further improve ulcerative colitis. Isn’t it cool? (To be continued-Ganoderma triterpenes)
Figure 4 Ganoderma lucidum polysaccharides regulate intestinal ecology and improve colitis
The mice were fed with Ganoderma lucidum polysaccharides for 3 weeks (393.75 mg/kg per day) and was then induced an acute attack of ulcerative colitis. Their inflamed intestines usually have the phenomenon of increased Proteobacteria flora, decreased Firmicutes flora, and decreased short-chain fatty acid secretion. However, in the large intestine protected by Ganoderma lucidum polysaccharides, the two major floras have experienced significant growth and decline, and the content of short-chain fatty acids has also risen sharply. (Source/Reference 2)
Wei B, et al. Suppression of Th17 Cell Response in the Alleviation of Dextran Sulfate Sodium-Induced Colitis by Ganoderma lucidum Polysaccharides. JImmunolRes. 2018 May 20;2018:2906494. doi: 10.1155/2018/2906494. eCollection 2018.2. Xie J, et al. Ganoderma lucidum polysaccharide improves rat DSS-induced colitis by altering cecalmicrobiota and gene expression of colonic epithelial cells. Food Nutr Res. 2019 Feb 12;63. doi: 10.29219/fnr.v63.1559. eCollection 2019.
About the author/ Ms. Wu Tingyao
Wu Tingyao has been reporting on first-hand Ganoderma lucidum information since 1999. She is the author of “Ganoderma lucidum: Ingenious Beyond Description” (published in The People’s Medical Publishing House in April 2017).
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