Healthy Mushrooms

By Ben Fuchs | Pharmacist Ben

(PharmacistBen) Next to supplements, nothing contains more nourishment value per gram of edible material than superfoods which WebMD defines as “multitasking food substances that provide multiple disease-fighting nutrients”. Although a quick internet search will reveal dozens of various foods that claim superfood status including eggs, yogurt, algae and various fruits and vegetables none can boast more nutritional value than the humble, crepuscular and manure-munching mushroom.

Healthy Mushrooms

Chris 73 via Wikimedia Commons

Mushrooms and their uncouth and downright toxic cousins called toadstools (“tod” is the German word for death) are neither plant or animal or bacteria, and instead fall into a separate classification called fungi. They are botanically referred to as “fruiting bodies”, a plant structure that produces spores, which can be thought of as a type of seed specific to fungus and molds.

Mushrooms are members of one of the six great kingdoms of life, the Fungi (the others are the Plant, Animal, Archaeal, Protistal and the Bacterial), and like their fungal cousins, the molds and yeasts they contain tremendous medicinal value. And, although many are inedible and some deadly, the nutritional relevance of edible mushrooms appreciated by culinary types as a delicacy since ancient times, is off the charts.

The most important of their nutrient elements are a type of non-sweet sugar called polysaccharides which compose the bulk of the solid portion of the typical mushrooms. Polysaccharides can be thought of long chains of repeating and identical chemical chunks that form a cage-type network that allows them to effectively trap water. This ability to hydrate itself in what is essentially a sponge-like fashion, accounts for the characteristic gel like texture of the typical mushroom. One of these polysaccharides, a substance called chitin, which gives the mushroom cell a certain solidity and structure, is regarded as one of the most common organic molecules in the natural world, second in abundance only to its chemical cousin cellulose which provides a similar structural support for the cells of plants.

The mushroom’s polysaccharides also are responsible for many of the important health benefits associated with mushrooms, most especially when it comes to fighting cancer. In fact there is no food that has ever been shown to have more anti-carcinogenic effects, and their tumour fighting properties have been exploited by medical men throughout history. They’re a mainstay of ancient Chinese anti-cancer medicine and even today modern medicine has come to appreciate the significant t immune boosting properties of the simple fungi. In a 2012 article published in the journal Food and Function, mushrooms were described as having evident clinical (anti-tumour) results and having the ability to activate numerous human immune cancer destroying cells of the human immune system, including white blood cells and natural killer cells. But polysaccharides do more than strengthen immunity and fight cancer. One in particular called beta glucan has been used for everything from improving liver health to lowering blood fats and fighting wrinkles. Its wonderfully sun protective and I’ve formulated many a sun protecting skin care product with it. It’s particularly effective in eye creams.

Mushrooms are also an important and rare source of vegan friendly Vitamin D. Typically only found in animal foods, Vitamin D has powerful immune strengthening properties of its own. And as it turns out Vitamin D from mushrooms, although not as long acting as Vitamin D3 animal version, is absorbed as effectively. Keeping in mind the best Vitamin comes from the reaction between skin cholesterol and the sun, food based vitamin D from animal products or mushrooms can be an important secondary source. And vitamin D does more than boost the immune system and fight cancer. Adequate levels in the blood can help prevent heart disease, diabetes and immune disorders, the big 3 causes of degenerative disease and an early demise.

Mushrooms are also a source of other helpful nutrients including the B-vitamins, Vitamin C, and helpful non nutrients like nerve cell growth factors for improving brain health and anti-microbials to fight viruses and bacteria’s. When you include the easy to absorb minerals like magnesium and potassium which are especially easy to absorb in their mushroom form, and fibers with blood sugar stabilizing and hormone balancing properties, it’s hard to imagine a more nutrient dense superfood than the simple little mushroom.
Four most common medicinal mushrooms:

Maitake Mushrooms – mineral rich mushroom, often found growing on the bottom of trees supports immune system health, used to treat cancer supports healthy blood sugar and provides cardiovascular health benefits.

Reishi Mushrooms – One of the oldest of the medicinal mushrooms; use recorded in Chinese medical texts as early as 200 BC, and handbooks on Reishi were the first illustrated publications in the history of Chinese mushroom medicine. High concentration of medicinal elements including blood thinning compounds and plant steroids give Reishi a bitter taste that makes them difficult to eat but when sipped on as a pre-meal tea, the same bitter qualities can help improve secretion bile, enzymes and stomach acid for digestive health benefits.

Shitake Mushrooms – One of the tastiest of medicinal mushrooms considered to be the most popular gourmet mushroom in the world. Produces high amounts of Vitamin D3 when exposed to sunlight. Detoxification properties being studied for removal of heavy metals and hydrocarbon (oil spill) contamination from soil.

Cordyceps – The athletes mushroom; Cordyceps supplements used by Chinese Olympians for its respiratory and oxygenation support properties. Loaded with anti-oxidants and prized for its anti-aging and adaptogenic (biochemistry stabilizing) properties, may stimulate libido and improve male sexual performance. Contains sedative properties that can be leveraged as in a soothing, sleep promoting bedtime tea.

Posted by Ben Fuchs in Health

Youngevity’s Dietary Supplement Z-Radical

By Ben Fuchs | Pharmacist Ben

One of the things I always look for in a good nutritional supplement is value. And boy does Youngevity’s dietary supplement Z-Radical have value. Its active ingredient, fucoidan is a potent and unique bio-molecule with a chemical structure that makes it tremendously versatile. Derived from ocean vegetation, fucoidan absorbs and holds water like a sponge; this property is called hygro-scopicity (Latin for “moist looking”) and it’s responsible for the gooiness that is seaweed’s most obvious characteristic.

Z-RadicalScientists know fucoidan as a “sulfated polysaccharide”. This somewhat unwieldy nomenclature simply refers to the fact that this fabulously functional nutritional molecule is a complex of many sugars (poly = many, saccharide = sugar) with an element of sulfur attached. The complex sugar polysaccharide portion of fucoidan is, as described by its designation, made up of various sugar molecules. While most folks have heard of the more common sugar molecules such as glucose and fructose, fucoidan is composed of lots of pieces of a lesser known sugar called fucose, which is considered to be one of the 8 biologically active sugars (in addition to glucose, the most biologically active of all essential sugars, the others are mannose, lactose, xylose, N-acetyl neuraminic acid, N-acetyl glucosamine and N-acetyl galactosamine).

When sugar molecules are strung together in long polysaccharide chains some interesting properties emerge. The most dramatic is the aforementioned greatly enhanced ability to absorb water. This water trapping effect gives polysaccharides a slimy mucous-ey quality that plays an important role in healing wounded biological tissues especially in the digestive system. It may not sound very pretty but the water-trapping mucoid slime basically coats and soothes inflamed and irritated digestive tissue not only calming and healing irritation, but just as importantly “sliming’ away toxic substances like H-Pylori and other pesky bacteria as well as potentially irksome food particles (e.g. gluten and other allergy causing proteins). This makes polysaccharides like fucoidan super helpful for all digestive ailments including Celiac Disease, Crohn’s Disease, Ulcerative Colitis and Irritable Bowel Syndrome.

Z-Radical PowderThe sulfur attachment to the polysaccharide provides benefits too. First of all, sulfur, being water soluble, enhances the hygroscopic nature of fucoidan. That means even more sliminess and even more coating and soothing benefits for inflamed digestive tissue. And the sulfur attachment can be cleaved by the enzymes to releasing the element from its sugar attachment and making it available for use on its own. Formation of collagen, detoxification and activation of important biomolecules like cholesterol and Vitamin D are examples of sulfur dependent biological functions that can be enhanced by the cleavage of sulfur from its polysaccharide attachment. Finally, because of sulfur’s inherent attraction to protein molecule to proteins sulfation of the polysaccharide allows fucoidan to attach itself to various enzymes and tissues enhancing its biological activity even further.

Fucoidan’s complexes of sugars have significant and well-researched anti-cancer properties. A quick search of the scientific website pubmed.com reveals several pages of studies that that demonstrate fucoidan fights various forms of The Empower of Maladies, including cancers of the breast, prostate and skin. And it can help lessen the side effect severity of chemotherapy and radiation. Even if you’re not concerned about cancer, fucoidan provides all-around support for our body’s built-in defenses, the immune system. With the regular assaults on our bodies through food water and air, even if you’re healthy and a-symptomatic, using supplemental fucoidan can be an important maintenance strategy to prevent degeneration and illness before bodily breakdown begins.

Perhaps the most notable role that fucoidan plays in helping keep a human body healthy involves its ability to keep blood circulating smoothly. Embolisms and thrombosis and other defects in blood clotting are a significant and often fatal health condition. According to the National Blood Clot Alliance, every year, up to two million people develop clots. Blood-thinners like Warfarin and Pradaxa, consistently best selling drugs in America, are also among the most toxic and troublesome to monitor. While certainly not as potent as pharmacological agents, in non-critical conditions, the gentle and non-toxic anti-coagulant effects of fucoidan should at least be considered as a therapeutic alternative to toxic medications.

What more could you want in a nutritional supplement! OK, how about anti-inflammatory effects? Once again a quick search of the scientific literature reveals numerous studies that prove this multifunctional and completely non-toxic nutritional/food substance can improve all the markers of the inflammatory process including reduction in pain and blood clogging fiber formation. And for joints, fucoidan may be helpful in treating both osteo and rheumatoid arthritis.

If you’re thinking that you want to make fucoidan a part of your daily supplement regimen (good idea!), I can think of no better and more cost effective product source than Youngevity’s Z-Radical. Each bottle is 90 percent fucoidan and contains 50 mg of the stuff in every ounce (2 tablespoonfuls). According to Dr. Don VerHulst, MD, the physician who formulated the Z-Radical, that’s enough to stimulate stem cell growth an important marker of anti-aging and healing, within 30 days, when taken on a daily basis. It’s pretty reasonably priced, you can use it for general health or to effectively address various health challenges and on top of all of that, it’s berry and banana vehicle tastes pretty good darn good too!

Featuring pure, natural fucoidan, ZRadical™ is an advanced biotherapeutic drink that combines the best of nature and science. This powerful blend is formulated to support immune, cardiovascular, neurological and joint health.
Zradical 32 fl oz
Zradical 4 Pack
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Posted by Ben Fuchs in Health

Connective Tissue & Raisin Bread

By Ben Fuchs | Pharmacist Ben


-Connective tissue is one of 4 main tissues in the body.  The others are nerve, muscle and epithelial tissue.

-Connective tissue is made up of cells and a matrix that is akin the raisins and bread.

-Most significant connective tissue cells are called blast cells and the manufacture the connective tissue matrix they are embedded in.

-These blast produced substances are fibers which provide structural support and polysaccharides that function as shock absorbers.

-Many health issues such as autoimmunity are manifestations of connective tissue breakdown.  So are the general signs of aging including bone fragility, muscle weakness, wrinkles, and thinning skin.


The human body is made up of 4 systems.  Biologist’s call these systems “tissues”, they’re made up of cells and they in turn comprise everything that makes up a living body.  These tissue systems include nerve tissue which forms the nervous system, epithelial tissue which forms skin hair, nails, glands and all surfaces, skin and within and muscle tissue which makes up the muscular substance of the body.

Connective Tissue & Raisin BreadThe 4th and most abundant tissue system is called connective tissue (CT) and boy is this stuff cool.  Connective tissue is not only the most abundant tissue in the human body, it’s the most abundant biological tissue on the planet.  In a sense connective tissue is like raisin bread.  It’s made up cells and “stuff” which can be thought of as analogous to raisins (cells) and bread (“stuff”).  Of course in the body we have various types of raisins/cells and a matrix that is much more complex then bread, still, simplistic as it may be, this practical kitchen pantry visual can give a rough idea of the structure of connective tissue.

Of the numerous types of cells in connective tissue by far the most important are the blast cells, which are responsible for the manufacturing of connective tissue.  These cells are called by various names, depending on where in the body they’re found.  The prototypical connective tissue blast cell is called the fibroblast. The fibroblasts are the connective tissue workhorse cells.  They produce fibers that keep epithelial and muscle tissues strong, elastic and well supported and slimy mucus-like substances called polysaccharides.  The only tissue system that does not include connective is the nervous system. While surrounded with CT on its perimeter the nervous system as its own specialized version of CT called “glia”.

Connective tissue can be though as matrix that holds the body’s structures and organs in place.  Because the vast majority of the body is connective tissue, understanding what it is and how to maintain its strength integrity is critical for keeping the body healthy and vital.  The aging process is largely marked by accelerated breakdown and sluggish repair of connective tissue.  And because connective is derived from processes that occur in blasts, feeding and nourishing and as well as detoxifying these critical hard working manufacturing cells is job #1 for healing, repair and anti-aging.

As noted above, connective tissue blast cells produce two major classes of substances that form the bread/matrix that they, in raisin-like fashion are embedded in.   Biologist’s call these two substances fiber and slime. OK, not really.  The fiber component is made up of what is called collagen along with some elastin and a smattering of a third substance called reticulin.  The gooey slimy substance is called polysaccharide whose wet mucoid nature is a manifestation of its high water absorbing capacity.  The slimy nature of polysaccharide water-trapping properties allows it function as very efficient biological shock absorber.

For most connective tissues the fibers predominate, but in the case of a very specialized type of connective tissue, fibers are scarce (or they should be, a harbinger of a disease and an early demise  is  an excessive amount of blood fiber formation) and the wet polysaccharides rule.  This specialized connective tissue is basically liquid or gel-like and it’s called the blood.  Yes, that’s right; even though it’s rarely thought of as such, the blood is a (connective) tissue.

Almost all health challenges, including arthritis, vasculitis, cellulitis and heart disease have a connective tissue connection.  CT is home to cells of the immune system, so connective tissue is often a target of autoimmune disease.  And because of its role in supporting the body, the classic wrinkling, shrinking and shriveling effects of old age as well as bone and muscle weakness and fragility are all likely to occur as blast cells slow down the connective tissue matrix degenerates.

Because of the relationship between connective tissue and the appearance of aging, collagen and other CT structures are often the target of advertising and marketing claims for various anti-aging and beauty aids such as skin firming products and wrinkle creams and cellulite wraps.  Yet unbeknownst to consumers who spend billions of dollars a year on such potions and lotions and pills in a largely futile attempt to restore a youthful appearance , the key to staying and looking young, vital  and healthy is to make sure connective tissue cells are being fed, oxygenated and kept free of toxicity.  Below are my Top 12 strategies and tools for building strong connective tissue.

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#1 Vitamin C 1000-5000mg a day – the key that turns on the production collagen fibers the strongest most connective tissue substance and responsible for its  steel like tensile strength.

#2 Glycine (1-2 grams a day)  – the primary amino acid in connective tissue, glycine provides  the firmness of CT.  While not essential (the body makes its own glycine) increasing intake through diet and supplementation can assure a steady supply.  Whey protein is a great source of glycine.  And straight glycine supplements are also easily available via health store or the internet.

#3 Hyaluronic acid (100-200mg a day) – this under-appreciated complex sugar molecule contributes to detoxification and provides building blocks for healing soothing and growth and repair of connective tissue.

#4 Sulfur (MSM1000-3000mg a day) provides key support structure element for connective tissue.  As nutritional content and consumption of sulfur veggies (onions, garlic, shallots, broccoli, cauliflower) containing declined rates of osteoporosis increased.

#5 Creatine Monohydrate (1 teaspoonful 3 or 4 times week, after workouts) – tripeptide (3 amino acids) that support blast energy and structure of bone and connective tissue.

#6 Gelatin (1 teaspoonful to 1 tablespoonful in 8 oz. of water once a day- source of connective tissue building amino acids.  Soothes digestive tract inflammation for improved absorption of nutrients.

#7 Eat protein (at least ½ gram per day per pound of body weight)– connective tissue is made up mostly of protein.  Eating enough protein assures a constant supply of these amino acids.  Look for sulfur containing protein (meat seafood, whey, egg).  Dairy and egg protein also supply growth factors which can stimulate the production of a thick robust CT.

#8 Bone soup –this delicious traditional food is a spectacular immune booster (Jewish penicillin) and it’s glycine and protein  co0ntent are substantial easy to absorb.  Eat liberally, look for the recipe on pharmacistben.com.

#9 Practice deep breathing techniques – Healthy oxygenation slows down secretion of bone busting cortisol and improves energy production.  Lung muscles also propel lymphatic fluid promoting detoxification.

#10 Exercise – acute physical stress and weight bearing pressure stimulate blast cells production.

#11 Stay away from pro-inflammatory foods –This includes processed foods and refined sugar but food allergens including beans and veggies can all have anti bone building effects too. Inflammation promotes degeneration and slows down anabolic (building) activity of blast cells.

#12 Correct digestive health issues – minerals like calcium, magnesium and zinc and protein all key players is connective tissue health require healthy digestive functioning.  Taking bile salts, digestive enzymes and apple cider vinegar with meals can improve absorption of connective tissue building nutrients.

Raisin bread is a bread that contains raisins. Its invention has been attributed to Henry David Thoreau. It is often classified as a sweet bread and is sometimes combined with cinnamon sugar. Served toasted or as a dessert, the bread is commonly found in the United States, Northern Europe, Germany and Australia. [Read more: From Wikipedia]

Posted by Ben Fuchs in Health