In Blog, Diet, Health

I do want to let you know that the team at does receive a small affiliate commission for any product ordered through Paleovalley. This is part of how we are able to produce so many informational resources at no cost to you. If you’re not comfortable with an affiliate link—no worries, I hope that you do find the information shared to be beneficial!

Mushrooms play an important role in The Wahls Protocol® and are quickly rising up the superfood charts. They can be taken in their whole-food form, in tinctures, and in encapsulated formulas. As mushrooms rise in popularity, entrepreneurs are finding ways to produce these products on a commercial level that can be problematic for the consumer.

This is why I invited Autumn Smith from Paleovalley to share what she has learned through her deep research around the benefits, production, and cultivation of mushrooms today.

Enjoy the video here or scroll below to read the transcript:


I do want to let you know that the team at does receive a small affiliate commission for any product ordered through Paleovalley. This is part of how we are able to produce so many informational resources at no cost to you. If you’re not comfortable with an affiliate link—no worries, I hope that you do find the information shared to be beneficial!


Dr. Terry Wahls:  Welcome, Autumn. I am so glad you’re here with me today. And we’re going to introduce you to my tribe now. Forgive me, everyone. I’m going to glance at my notes so I get everything correct about Autumn. She is in Boulder, Colorado. We actually had the opportunity to meet many years ago. And she has a really interesting story. She’s a professional dancer, has been a celebrity fitness trainer, traveling the world. But she had some of her own health challenges despite being this wonderfully fit dancer. And I’ll let Autumn tell us her healing story. But what’s also remarkable is that Autumn took her personal transformation and made a pivot from her dancing and professional fitness training world into the world that she’s now in, having embraced paleo and just how healing those principles can be. So, Autumn and I share this tremendous passion.

We’re going to hand-off to Autumn here in just a minute. She is a certified eating psychology coach, a certified functional diagnostic nutrition practitioner, and she lives with her husband and her son, Maverick. I so appreciate that you’re a mom. But I also want to remind everyone that the statements made in this conversation with Autumn and I have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. And these products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. They are education to help you make a better decision that we’ll want you to discuss, of course, with your personal practitioner, as well. So welcome, Autumn, and tell my tribe all about your amazing healing journey.

Autumn Smith: Well, thank you. It’s such an honor. We’re such fans of your work. You were one of the major inspirations for me to make this pivot. And so, I’m really glad to be here. But yeah, like you said, I was always fit. I grew up a ballerina. I was trained by some principals from the Bolshoi Ballet of Russia, and then decided I wanted to make that my career. And though I was always fit, I learned some really bad habits as a ballerina that you just had to count calories, and it didn’t matter. The quality of your food didn’t matter. As long as you weren’t eating too much, you were going to be fine. That led to digestive issues, irritable bowel syndrome as I became a teenager, that no doctor at that point in time, who I met, was really able to help me fix at all. And we now know there’s that really intricate gut-brain axis. And so, when my digestive issues weren’t fixed, they snowballed and started to manifest in anxiety and depression, eating disorder. I really struggled a lot in high school. And I tried the pharmaceutical route and-

Dr. Terry Wahls: Now, Autumn, you glossed over pretty quickly, anxiety, depression, eating disorder. Could you tell us just a little bit more about that, because that is so common in our young people today?

Autumn Smith: Yes. Like I said, it started as just stomach issues, basically. I would wake up in the middle of the night and I would have excruciating pain. And then after I learned that, really nothing can be done about that, and then my life was going to be unpredictable. I wasn’t always going to be able to just enjoy social engagements, and my skin would break out. So I developed a lot of anxiety about having no control. I felt I had no control. And then when my skin got really bad, I started to get depressed. And I was all of these things, as a young dancer, and an eating disorder. I was trying to find control in my life. And so I was looking at food, nothing else. There was no predictability. And so, I really struggled. And then that anxiety and depression, I learned I had to manage it with something. And so I went the route of alcohol, drugs. I actually got kicked out of my parents’ house before I was even out of high school because my behavior got so out of control.

Luckily, I had a great base. I have a great family. And so even though I was struggling, I was able to continue. I went to college, I found the dance community. I found a modern company there that I joined. And I found some friends who later took me to Los Angeles, just said, “You need to do this. You need to dance. Are you kidding? You’re not going to do this.” So I moved to Los Angeles. And fortunately, even though I was still using my old tools, alcohol and everything else, I met my husband, and he changed my life and asked me to look for better for myself. He said, “You’re in pain. You’re doing all the right things. You’re working as a celebrity fitness trainer. From the outside, it looks great. But when I get to know you and I see the way you’re suffering, we just have to do something.” And so that’s when he got online and we looked at options, holistic options back in 2010. And he found the paleo diet, and just a few people talking about it. Probably Robb Wolf, Mark Sisson, maybe you, Dr. Wahls.

Dr. Terry Wahls: I was talking in 2011. That’s early.

Autumn Smith: Yeah. And so we decided to try it. And after 30 days, my digestive symptoms were pretty much gone. And I noticed I started to make these connections between what I was eating and the way I was feeling, which was novel, which was novel at that time for me, but so empowering, that I’ve had this amazing job. I had to quit it and went back to school to study nutrition so I could teach other people to use food as medicine.

Dr. Terry Wahls: And in my tribe, pay attention to that, we’ve had so many people in my tribe have their healing journey inspire them to pivot their profession to something that speaks to their heart in a much more meaningful way. And so I’m curious, Autumn, do you feel any differently about your life, your meaning and your purpose now than you did as a dancer, which I’m sure you also loved?

Autumn Smith: Oh, absolutely. And yeah, I dance every day. I’ve already done my dancing. And so it is such a big part of my life. And I often get people reaching out like, “You went on tour with Jennifer Lopez. Why are you selling beef sticks?” And it’s like, “Well, that was the message I needed to hear. I didn’t need to learn how to be more fit. I was always fit. I wasn’t always well.” I mean, being able to give people that piece is so rewarding for me. So yeah. Although I love both, this is the career that I was supposed to have. I fully believe that.

Dr. Terry Wahls: Excellent. Well, now let’s pivot to what we’re here to talk about. Mushrooms. I’m very excited about mushrooms. You’re excited about mushrooms. What made you so fired up about mushrooms?

Autumn Smith: Well, yeah. As I progressed on my journey and I got more education, our products are just the things I needed, and I thought my family needed. And so, I did a little genetic test one day and I found out that I have both genes for Alzheimer’s. And so I became really, really interested in, and empowered by, “Okay, well, what can I do in order to avoid this fate?” And medicinal mushrooms were on my radar pretty early. I met a really cool guy who’s been cultivating them since the 1970s. And he taught me the ropes. And when I tried them, it was a really noticeable difference for me in terms of cordyceps and its energy production. I now use it as a pre-workout because there’s so many, it’s just invigorating. And then lion’s mane, which I’m sure we’ll talk about. There’s a lot of really cool evidence around lion’s mane.

Dr. Terry Wahls: Let’s explain to my tribe, cordyceps and lion’s mane? What have you found out?

Autumn Smith: Okay. So, Cordyceps is this really cool, crazy medicinal mushroom that actually grows. Well, when Caterpillar’s hibernate in the winter, this mushroom actually goes in and grows on them and consumes them, grows out of them. That’s traditionally. They’ve learned how to harvest it in a way that doesn’t kill insects these days. But what they’ve found is that cordyceps are actually able to help you produce more ATP. So the energy currency of our body. And so it’s very invigorating. Athletes use it all the time. Like I said, I use it as a pre-workout. It just helps us have more energy. And when we have more energy, we feel better. They also call it Cordysex.

Dr. Terry Wahls: Whew.

Autumn Smith: I know. We just took a turn. Because it helps with the libido, and even with fertility. There’s a lot of really great research around cordyceps. It also has some really cool anti-inflammatory properties because of one of its compounds called Cordycepin. And so, every single day I’m taking cordyceps. And then lion’s mane, I think will be particularly interesting for your audience because they call it the mountain man mushroom or the palm palm mushroom, because it has this beautiful, it looks like a lion’s mane when it grows. And traditionally, it’s used for soothing the digestive tract. And it has some really cool gut properties, which we know is relevant to the brain. And also, it helps to disrupt biofilms. Some interesting research around that. But most notably, there are two compounds in it, hericenone and erinacines, that have been shown to cross the blood-brain barrier and actually exert neuroprotective effects.

Dr. Terry Wahls: It stimulates the growth of brain drive neurotrophic factors, and we’ve done that in multiple studies now. So very exciting. Keep going, Autumn.

Autumn Smith: Yeah. And nerve growth factor, BDNF. And then there was a really interesting 2001 study that I looked up. And at least in vitro, in the Petri dish, it was able to help promote myelination. The myelin around nerves, which I know that your audience would really, really appreciate. And again, in mice, it was a mice trial, oh, I’m sorry. In vitro. But it’ll be interesting to see what some of the evidence says. Now, there was a really cool human clinical trial back in 2009 where they gave participants, one group, 250 milligrams, four capsules of that, three times every day. So essentially, three grams of lion’s mane. And then they pitted that against the placebo. And they noticed a significant improvement in cognitive function at 8 weeks, at 16 weeks. And it seems the longer they took them, the more they got better. And then the most interesting part was the results stopped when they stopped taking them. So, there’s been other trials too on menopausal women and self-reported measures of anxiety and irritability and sleeplessness. But there’s actually a lot more evidence, I think, than most people realize around these mushrooms, mostly coming out of Asia.

Dr. Terry Wahls: Let’s talk a bit about mushrooms. So mushroom powders, lots of mushroom powders. And then there’s mushroom extract in capsules. And mushroom extract in little liquid vials. What do you have for my tribe about these powders that we can buy, the extract capsules and your mycelium, fruiting body, how should people discern what is the best product here?

Autumn Smith: Okay. That’s very interesting. And so in order to get into that, I’m just going to break down the life cycle of a mushroom. So first it starts as a spore and it germinates and these little hyphae grow out. They’re little tube-like structures. Stage two is the mycelium. It’s where these hyphae fuse together and they become a network, like a root system. And then stage three is the fruiting body. So, traditionally most of the use was around this mushroom, the actual mushroom in the fruiting body, which is stage three. A lot of the research has been done around that part too. But because the cultivation of medicinal mushrooms is expensive, time-intensive. What a lot of growers and cultivators do now is grow the mycelium on a grain. And then that becomes the product rather than using the fruiting body.

Dr. Terry Wahls: Hang on. So when they’re talking about many of these powders, it’s the mycelium and the grain that’s been grown and all ground up together? Correct?

Autumn Smith: Yes. And you can not separate it out. And they’ve done a lot of testing around that actually to see. Now, most manufacturers will tout, “Okay, we have high levels of polysaccharides, which are these long chain sugars, essentially. Beta glucans are the most famous ones. And most mushrooms are famous for having a lot of beta glucan. But what most people don’t know is these starches, the grain that they’re grown on, the mushrooms, will contain another type of polysaccharide called an alpha glucan.

And so people have actually gone in and taken products and tested them. And so, okay, well, what is the actual percentage of beta versus alpha glucan? And it’s interesting because the mushrooms, the fruiting bodies, generally have about less than 5% alpha glucans. Okay. But these products on the market, a lot of them are having mostly alpha glucans, 30 to 80% alpha glucans because of what they’re grown on, traditionally a lot of times rice or oats or sorghum, but also because of fillers. One test actually showed that some of the fillers made up 30%. And that can be dextrin and maltodextrin, a lot of times derived from corn. So essentially, those bioactive compounds, the beta glucans, are watered down in a lot of these products, unfortunately. Which is why you want to look for mushroom powders that actually standardize for their beta glucan content rather than their polysaccharide content.

Dr. Terry Wahls: Does it matter if it’s mycelium or fruiting body? What’s your opinion on that?

Autumn Smith: Yes, that is a hotly debated topic. But as I said, traditionally, the research was done around the fruiting body. And I think that there are benefits for mycelium. But what’s important to understand is most mycelium, and the research around it, is where the mycelium is grown in sterile tanks of water and they receive nutrients. And so, at the end of that process, then the mycelium is able to be separated from that. But how it’s made today is on grain, like I said. It is not separated. And so the research doesn’t necessarily cross over all the time. I’m not here to say that there are no benefits to mycelium, but I don’t think that you can necessarily assume you’re going to get the same benefits.

Dr. Terry Wahls: And the research is primarily done on the fruiting body. So there’s a lot of exciting research on the fruiting body. And there’s also interesting research just on consumption, eating mushrooms as a daily part of your diet. There’s not a lot of research about grain-based mycelium products. Now back to you, Autumn.

Autumn Smith: Yeah, exactly. And in fact, it’s really interesting. You can do this little test at home for $5. Have you heard about the iodine starch test?

Dr. Terry Wahls: Oh, no. Let’s hear that.

Autumn Smith: I want to tell you about it because I actually did it yesterday. So you take your supplements, or whatever mushroom products you’re getting. And you put about a gram of it into a test tube or into just a glass. And then you add three tablespoons of warm water and you just mix it together. And then you take tinctured iodine, and you just put 10 drops in there. Now, if that becomes a purple or a black color, that signals the presence of a lot of starch. And if it doesn’t, you know that, okay, this product isn’t primarily starch. And I know for the paleo community, for your community, just having a lot of starch in there, isn’t a great thing. And so I liked it. Yeah, I did that. And it was funny because I did five products yesterday. And our product was the only one that didn’t change at all. And the other ones did change to varying degrees. So it’s interesting.

Dr. Terry Wahls: Interesting. Okay. So I have them here. You have them?

Autumn Smith: Yes.

Dr. Terry Wahls: Some NeuroEffect. So what’s all in the NeuroEffect? And why did you design it the way you did, because it’s got more than cordyceps and more than lion’s mane?

Autumn Smith: Totally. So I designed it, again, like I do a lot of my products, for the brain. And so we did a lot of lion’s mane. So we have a gram of lion’s mane in the product. And then also, secondarily, because I loved cordyceps and I loved the way that it made me feel. We have 500 milligrams of cordyceps in there. We also have Reishi, which is the mushroom of immortality, and really, really well known for its calming effects. It has some really interesting immunomodulatory effects. It down-regulates inflammatory proteins. And it just has a lot of benefits. So we knew we needed Reishi in there. We also have something called Tramella, which is an interesting mushroom. It’s used mostly in the beauty industry, but it also has some really interesting brain benefits, at least in animal models, for learning and cognition. And then we have some traditionally used mushrooms Shiitake and Maitake as well, really well studied for immunomodulatory effects in cancer therapy as well. And Turkey Tail, which is such a potent immunomodulator. They actually turned it into medicine in Asia. They have PSK and PKP. I believe those are extracts of Turkey Tail that are used for cancer therapy.

Learn more and SAVE 15% on NeuroEffect through this link

So we added all of those ingredients. And then we added a little bit of coffee bean extract, which has actually shown, in one trial, to improve the production of BDNF, as you mentioned, which is like the brain fertilizer, by 143%. And so that’s all we did. We put these organic mushrooms that have actually been standardized and derived from the fruiting bodies with this water extraction process, which actually breaks down the chitin or the cell wall, so that they’re bioavailable, added in the neuro effect, which was the coffee bean extract. And we just created basically a compound, or a complex, that we call Neuro Effect because it was designed with the brain in mind. But there’s so many other awesome benefits for immune system, Like I said. Even, we now know the link between your cardio metabolic health and your brain health. And so it has a lot of effects on your metabolism and anti-inflammatory, anti-obesity and just on and on. So yeah, that’s what we created.

Dr. Terry Wahls: Yep. Phenomenal product. I use this. I like it a lot. So yes. And so, tell us more about getting that product. This is a new offering for your tribe and for my tribe. So when is this going out? And when will it be available?

Autumn Smith: Yeah. You can order it right now, Terry, and then we’re going to give 15% off for your tribe as long as they order it through you, and for as long as they order it through you because-

Dr. Terry Wahls: Excellent. Excellent. Excellent. And so, sometimes it’s so many capsules a day. So, how many capsules are we talking about to get all these great mushrooms?

Autumn Smith: Yeah. So it’s just four capsules a day. When it comes to mushrooms, they don’t really see a benefit to any specific time. And so you can take two in the morning, you can take two at night, you can split up the dose if you have to. I take mine first thing in the morning too.

Dr. Terry Wahls: And do you take them on an empty stomach, food, does that seem to make any difference?

Autumn Smith: It doesn’t really. Just as long as people take them. They seem to have benefits, no matter if it’s with food or without food. So just fit it into your life, is the moral of the story.

Dr. Terry Wahls: Excellent. Well, I am so glad that you had this transformation. And it’s inconvenient that you had to go through your health challenge. It’s inconvenient I had to go through my health challenge. On the other hand, at least for me, I see it was essential. It was essential that I have my health challenges so I would be motivated to learn. And now I have a much more meaningful life. And probably a much more impactful life. Because had I just been a professor of medicine, you have maybe a couple thousand patients that you see in your practice. And maybe many tens of thousands over your lifetime. But because of my personal healing journey, I’ve impacted now millions of people. And so, it’s much more impactful now that I’ve managed to have this inconvenience of my healing journey. But it transformed me in wonderful ways. So Autumn, while I’m sure it’s inconvenient that you had to have your health challenge. I see you also impacting literally millions of people in very favorable ways.

Autumn Smith: Well, thank you Dr. Wahls. That means a lot, especially coming from you. And yeah, I wouldn’t change a thing. I’m really glad that I had to suffer, if it can help other people feel better sooner than I did. So, thank you.

Dr. Terry Wahls: Well, your dancing. I want to throw out another idea for you to think about, given your passion for dancing. Dancing as  neuro rehabilitation is a growing interest in the research field. And I know there are a number of dance studios that have created neuro rehabilitation dance classes for people with Parkinson’s and neurologic disorders.

Autumn Smith: I love that idea. I love that idea because I think-

Dr. Terry Wahls: I invite you to think about that. I think that could be another ancillary career, if that would be of interest to you.

Autumn Smith: I love that suggestion. Because, like you said, I know I’m a different person when I’m able to dance. And if I could combine the products with the dancing and I’m actually working [crosstalk 00:21:54]. Yeah, it could be amazing. Well, thank you for that. Yeah. I think I’ll look into that. I’m doing my doctorate right now. And so maybe we can do something like that for the dissertation.

Dr. Terry Wahls: That would be very cool. What are you getting your doctorate in?

Autumn Smith: Actually, holistic nutrition.

Dr. Terry Wahls: Whoa, superb. So the more comprehensively we integrate our diet and lifestyle into a meaningful, joyful life, the better for our clients and the better for ourselves. So Autumn, I guess we should wrap this up. This has just been wonderful. One more time. Let’s hold up the Neuro Effects. We both love them. And we’ll have a link for you so you guys can check this out and order those Neuro Effects.

Autumn Smith: Thank you, Dr. Wahls.

Dr. Terry Wahls: Live long and prosper.

Autumn Smith: Whoo!

If you’re interested in trying mushrooms for energy and brain health, please be careful about what you choose. There is a lot of junk out there. And some of it is loaded with grains, it could do more harm than good. We talk about the NeuroEffect mushroom blend to help boost focus, mood, mental clarity—if you are interested in learning more (scientific studies are referenced) and saving 15% off your order, use this link to place your order.

*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

About Autumn:

Autumn is the co-founder of Paleovalley and Wild Pastures, holds a Masters in Holistic Nutrition, a Certified Eating Psychology Coach, and a Certified FDN Practitioner. Her passion for health began with her own struggles with IBS and anxiety: despite a career as a professional dancer and celebrity fitness trainer, Autumn’s own health was in shambles. Desperate for a cure, she and her husband Chas stumbled upon the paleo diet in 2011 and within a month of beginning it, her health was completely transformed.

 Autumn then made it her mission to share the information she had learned with as many people as possible: she is the co-founder of Paleovalley, an organic whole-food supplement and paleo snack food company that prioritizes nutrient density and food quality. 

She lives in Boulder, CO with her husband and their son, Maverick.

About Paleovalley:

At Paleovalley, they believe nature knows best. That’s why each product is sourced from whole foods to provide the nutrients, minerals, vitamins and antioxidants you need for thriving health… and that’s it.
Nothing weird. Just food. 
Paleovalley creates products with integrity that are free from the problematic ingredients other companies use to cut costs. Every product is created using potent, natural ingredients that are gently processed to preserve all the nutrients and minerals without the use of harsh chemicals.
Their mission is to make nutrient-dense snacks, supplements, and drinks widely accessible so that everyone has the chance at vibrant health, Unfortunately, most people are out of touch with the power of whole foods and don’t even know how good they can feel! Paleovalley is ready to change that.
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