Gut-Friendly Mushrooms Could Help Aid Probiotic Treatments and Regulate Cholesterol

Gut-Friendly Mushrooms Could Help Aid Probiotic Treatments and Regulate Cholesterol

Seraiah Alexander
Seraiah Alexander
May 24, 2024
4 min

Mushrooms seem to be the epitome of functional foods because they’re not only delicious, versatile additions to every meal but also have more health benefits than we can count. They pack a nutritional punch with so many vitamins, minerals, amino acids, antioxidants, and bioactive compounds, and now, science is finding just how useful mushrooms are at improving our gut microbiome and reducing cholesterol levels in the process.

Recent research has uncovered the role of gut bacteria in breaking down cholesterol, opening new avenues for probiotic treatments (1). Mushrooms, known for their prebiotic properties, may be able to enhance these probiotic effects to lower cholesterol levels.

Understanding cholesterol and gut bacteria

Cholesterol is crucial for our body since it helps us build cells and create hormones. There are two main forms of cholesterol:

  • Low-density lipoprotein (LDL)

LDL, referred to as “bad cholesterol,” leads to the buildup of fatty acids in the arteries, narrowing them and increasing the risk for cardiovascular diseases like heart attack and stroke.

  • High-density lipoprotein (HDL) HDL helps remove LDL from arteries, transporting it to the liver, where it’s broken down and removed from the body. Higher levels of HDL are associated with a reduced risk of heart disease.

Recent findings have shown that our gut microbiota composition —the trillions of microorganisms living in our stomach and gastrointestinal tract —plays a critical role in cholesterol metabolism. These gut bacteria can help regulate cholesterol levels in the body by breaking it down and producing metabolites that can influence its creation and absorption in the liver.

Certain gut bacteria can convert cholesterol into a less absorbable form called coprostanol, ultimately lowering the amount of cholesterol that enters the bloodstream. Furthermore, intestinal microbiota creates short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs) during the fermentation of dietary fibers, which can further regulate cholesterol metabolism and keep the heart healthier.

Taking probiotic supplements can help introduce these beneficial bacteria into the gut, promoting a healthier balance of gut microbes and aiding in cholesterol management. However, the efficacy of probiotics can be greatly improved by including prebiotics in the diet, as they provide nourishment for these beneficial bacteria.

The role of mushrooms

Several studies have linked the role of mushrooms to promoting a healthy gut and reducing cholesterol levels. Here’s what researchers have found:

  1. Prebiotic properties Medicinal mushrooms, particularly varieties like reishi (Ganoderma lucidum), maitake (Grifola frondosa), lion’s mane (Hericium erinaceus), and shiitake (Lentinula edodes), contain unique fibers and bioactive compounds that act as prebiotics. Prebiotics are fibers that stomach enzymes cannot digest. They improve gut health by promoting beneficial gut bacteria like Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium in the gut. This promotes a balanced gut microbiota, which is essential for overall gut health (1).
  2. Polysaccharides and gut health The polysaccharides found in mushrooms, especially beta-glucans, are known to support the growth of beneficial bacteria. They also enhance immune function and help regulate cholesterol metabolism by producing SCFAs. Studies have shown that mushroom polysaccharides from species like oyster mushrooms (Pleurotus spp.) can reduce LDL cholesterol levels and support gut health by increasing the abundance of SCFA-producing bacteria (2).
  3. Reducing dysbiosis Regular mushroom consumption can help prevent dysbiosis, which is an imbalance in the gut microbiota linked to higher levels of cholesterol, cardiovascular diseases, and metabolic disorders like insulin resistance. The fibers in mushrooms improve the composition of the gut microbiome by encouraging the production of good gut bacteria. For instance, supplementation with white button mushrooms (Agaricus bisporus) has been found to correct dyslipidemia in hypercholesterolemic rats, significantly changing their colon microbiome profile (3).
  4. Bioactive compounds The bioactive compounds found in mushrooms, like antioxidants, triglycerides, phenolics, and anti-inflammatory agents, contribute to lowering cholesterol levels and preventing cardiovascular diseases. These compounds can inhibit the absorption of cholesterol in the intestines, so it is excreted out of the system. Mushrooms like reishi and maitake are known to increase the Bacteroides/Firmicutes ratio in the gut, therefore supporting anti-inflammatory and SCFA-producing bacteria to improve cholesterol metabolism (4).

Combining probiotics and mushrooms

Incorporating both probiotics and mushrooms into your diet can work together to enhance gut health and cholesterol management. Probiotics are additional supplements you can take to add more gut-friendly bacteria to your stomach. Since mushrooms feed this bacteria, they provide the necessary support for it to thrive. As more research continues to uncover the beneficial effects of mushrooms, incorporating them into your daily diet can be a delicious and effective strategy for keeping your cholesterol levels regulated and promoting your overall well-being.


  1. Nowogrodzki, Julian. 2024. “Gut Bacteria Break down Cholesterol — Hinting at Probiotic Treatments.” Nature, April. https://doi.org/10.1038/d41586-024-00955-3.
  2. Jayachandran, Muthukumaran, Jianbo Xiao, and Baojun Xu. 2017. “A Critical Review on Health Promoting Benefits of Edible Mushrooms through Gut Microbiota.” International Journal of Molecular Sciences 18 (9): 1934. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijms18091934.
  3. Nakahara, Daiki, Cui Nan, Koichiro Mori, Motoki Hanayama, Haruhisa Kikuchi, Shizuka Hirai, and Yukari Egashira. 2019. “Effect of Mushroom Polysaccharides from Pleurotus Eryngii on Obesity and Gut Microbiota in Mice Fed a High-Fat Diet.” European Journal of Nutrition 59 (7): 3231–44. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00394-019-02162-7.
  4. Asad, Farhan, Haseeb Anwar, Hadi M. Yassine, Muhammad Irfan Ullah, Aziz-ul-Rahman, Zahid Kamran, and Muhammad Umar Sohail. 2020. “White Button Mushroom, Agaricus Bisporus (Agaricomycetes), and a Probiotics Mixture Supplementation Correct Dyslipidemia without Influencing the Colon Microbiome Profile in Hypercholesterolemic Rats.” International Journal of Medicinal Mushrooms 22 (3): 235–44. https://doi.org/10.1615/intjmedmushrooms.2020033807.
  5. Li, Miaoyu, Leilei Yu, Jianxin Zhao, Hao Zhang, Wei Chen, Qixiao Zhai, and Fengwei Tian. 2021. “Role of Dietary Edible Mushrooms in the Modulation of Gut Microbiota.” Journal of Functional Foods 83 (August): 104538. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jff.2021.104538.


Seraiah Alexander

Seraiah Alexander

Content Editor

Table Of Contents

Understanding cholesterol and gut bacteria
The role of mushrooms
Combining probiotics and mushrooms

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