Headlines everywhere tout the benefits of the natural botanical herb Turmeric.
It is a functional food, or superfood. These are foods that go beyond their nutrient or caloric content. And are used for a specific health purpose. Turmeric is one of the many superfoods used for centuries in Ayurvedic and Traditional Chinese Medicine to help combat many diseases and health challenges. Right now, there are over 15,000 peer-reviewed articles showing the many benefits of turmeric. It receives attention for one of its main compounds, curcumin. This ingredient is responsible for its many healing properties. And it gives the spice that beautiful golden color! Turmeric has become one of the most popular supplements to combat inflammation. And, as always, quality is imperative to results.
What Is Turmeric?
Turmeric is an herb native to southeast Asia. Research shows its remarkable healing and anti-inflammatory properties.
Curcumin is derived from turmeric. It has several active components, all which contribute to its anti-inflammatory and chemopreventive power. Curcumin is more absorbed by the body than turmeric itself. Curcumin is also more concentrated than Turmeric. So you want to opt for the more concentrated curcumin as opposed to turmeric. This long studied herb also belongs to the ginger family.
At a Glance
Benefits of turmeric:
- Improves brain health,
- Improves digestion,
- Supports healthy inflammation levels,
- Supports liver health,
- Improves insulin sensitivity,
- Reduces oxidative stress,
- Immune booster,
- Improves metabolism,
- Supports healing processes,
- And supports healthy cholesterol levels.
Turmeric and Inflammation
Chronic inflammation is a modern day pandemic. All in thanks to convenience foods, sedentary lifestyles and poor choices many people make. Inflammation may be at the crux of all chronic disease. Especially age related heart diseases and neurodegeneration like Alzheimer’s. And cellular inflammation is the driving force for conditions like metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes, stroke, atherosclerosis, dementia, obesity and more. Blood sugar imbalances and insulin resistance leads to oxidative stress. And this low-grade chronic inflammation perpetuates the disease cycle.
Curcumin is one potent mechanism that can down regulate many inflammatory mediators such as IL-6, CRP and TNF-a. But, remember. Inflammation does not always equate to pain within the body. An inflamed artery feels no pain. An inflamed brain also has no pain.
Effect on Blood Pressure
Blood pressure is the measurement of systolic pressure (maximum pressure during one heartbeat) over diastolic pressure (minimum pressure between heartbeats). Estimates show that blood pressure issues account for over 40 million doctor visits each year! Over 500,000 US deaths each year are linked to high blood pressure as a primary or contributing cause. Because high blood pressure affects so many Americans and is a key risk factor for heart disease and stroke, it is one of our nation’s costliest health conditions at approximately $79 million dollars (1)!
Oxidative stress and inflammation play a role in maintaining high arterial blood pressure. And they also contribute to many of the vascular changes that could lead to hypertension. Curcumin has cardiovascular protective, anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. It has been shown to reduce oxidative stress and improve vascular function (2). One specific study showed rats who developed metabolic syndrome, induced by high-fat and high carbohydrate diets, were given turmeric at 5mg/kg/day had normalized blood pressure over an eight week period (3).
The bottom line is that curcumin has been shown in many studies to reduce the risk of hypertension and cardiovascular diseases. There are so many lifestyle changes we can make to give our body’s a fighting chance. They were designed with amazing healing mechanisms!
Effect on IBS/IBD
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a common disorder that affects millions of people. It is a cluster of symptoms referred to as a functional disorder of the colon or large intestines (4). So many doctors give drugs like Entyvio or Humira to block inflammation. Yet, these powerful drugs can result in unwanted side effects. And while doctors supply them, rarely do they ever desire to look deeper into the cause of IBS.
There are many factors which contribute to the development of IBS including food sensitivities, gut infections, dysbiosis and leaky gut. Stress of any kind is a major contributing factor to IBS. IBS is different from IBD (inflammatory bowel disease). IBD refers to chronic conditions that cause inflammation in a part of the intestines. People with IBD have inflammation, ulcers, and other damage visible inside the digestive tract. The most common form of IBD is Crohn’s or Ulcerative Colitis (UC).
A pilot study was conducted in patients with both Crohn’s and Ulcerative Colitis using curcumin as a therapeutic agent to combat inflammation. The findings were astounding! Out of the two groups of 5, 4 of the Crohn’s patients and 4 of the UC patients had improved scores and a reduction of medications after taking curcumin. Curcumin has profound anti-inflammatory effects in those that suffer with gastrointestinal disorders (5). Curcumin can reduce oxidative stress and inhibit the migration of neutrophils, a type of immune cell first deployed to the site of injury in the case of inflammation. It may also improve micro and macroscopic lesions (6). Both Ulcerative Colitis and Crohn’s are becoming more commonplace in young people and adults. And, we need an effective remedy available. Curcumin is an efficient and inexpensive agent to use for lessening inflammation and pain without unwanted side effects.
Turmeric and Depression
About 1 in 4 adults in the U.S., more than 26% of the population, suffers from a diagnosable mental disorder. There are probably more young people affected by some form of behavioral or mood disorder. Look at the stats for ADD/ADHD and autism. The numbers are overwhelming.
Depression is now the leading cause of disability worldwide. Again, inflammation is at the root of this insidious condition and depression is the result of a “brain on fire.” Major depression is very common. And it increases the risk of death and reduces one’s quality of life. Many studies show curcumin to have antidepressant properties. And, the use of curcumin has reduced depressive symptoms in middle-aged patients (6). Part of me wonders if the uptick in numbers of depression are due in part by our second brain (the gut) being out of balance. Both of our brains are connected. When our gut is off kilter, it affects our brain (7). Curcumin addresses both issues in healthy ways.
Turmeric and Cancer
Cancer is #2 in the cause of deaths in the US. And breast cancer is considered the most common cancer for women worldwide. It is now the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths among females in the world. Breast cancer is resistant to chemotherapy. And many people with this disease are turning to a more natural and alternative approach for therapy.
Curcumin is the most abundant flavonoid. And it is one of the most well-studied cancer fighting foods. It has the potential to starve unhealthy cells to death! This powerful antioxidant helps regulate abnormal immune function, reduces inflammation and defends against infection and cancer. Curcumin alters cellular signaling to enhance healthy control over cellular replication, that is metastasis. It acts as a natural agent in treatment of poor health by its antiproliferative and antioxidant effects on cancerous cells. Curcumin has much research to exhibit potent anti-metastatic activity and protection against malignant gliomas, breast cancers, melanomas, liver, bone and prostate cells (8)(9)(10)(11)!
Turmeric, or curcumin, has amazing properties to lower inflammation, support many organ systems of the body and help combat disease. It should almost be a mainstay in people’s supplement protocol. After the Core 4, multivitamin, omega 3s, green drink, and magnesium, it would be on that first page of supplements. And if you want to age gracefully, curcumin is a very good piece in the arsenal.
I always add curcumin to my supplement regimen and take it twice daily. In fact, in India, where they eat more turmeric than any country of the world, they actually have one of the lowest rates of Alzheimer’s in the whole world, the 3rd leading cause of death in the US! Also, the word is that when they do autopsies of Indian citizens, their brain actually has a tint of the color of turmeric! But the key to receiving the greatest benefits from curcumin is to combine it with fat. It is a fat-soluble nutrient. This means to take it with fat or a process that increases absorption to achieve the desired results. When looking for a turmeric or curcumin supplement, you want to pay attention to its bioavailability, quality ingredients and transparency of the company.
If ordering from the internet don’t order in warm or hot months due to the heat lessening the quality of the product. Nutritionw.com is the only mail order that offers cold packs as an option when shipping.
- Nitric Oxide 2015 Nov. 15.
- Nutrients 2019 July.
- Clinical Epidemiology 2014 Feb.
- Digestive Diseases And Sciences 2005 Nov.
- Critical Reviews In Food Science And Nutr. 2019.
- Phytotherapy Research 2016 Feb.
- BioMed Research Int. 2015.
- Oncology 2003.
- BMC Cancer 2010 Sept.
- Carcinogenesis 2008 Apr.