Here Are Some Of The Health Benefits of Turmeric

health Benefits of TurmericTurmeric is a spice that comes from the underground stems of the plant Curcuma longa, which is a part of the ginger family [1]http://lpi.oregonstate.edu/mic/dietary-factors/phytochemicals/curcumin.

I love Indian food and if you love Indian food too, you probably know this spice is a key component of Indian cuisine.

Turmeric is also a key part of eastern Ayurvedic medicine, but it is becoming popular in the west for its many health benefits. As a westerner, I already knew one of its main health benefits; cancer prevention.

As you know from some of my previous posts, I have a strong family history of colon cancer so anything that can prevent cancer is very important to me.

I know I need to add more veggies, particularly superfoods to my diet to beat my odds of getting cancer, so I dug deep into the topic to see if I should add more tasty Indian food…ahem…turmeric to my diet.

Here are some of the benefits!

Benefits of Turmeric

Turmeric may reduce your risk of colon cancer or help treat it

Did you know that colon cancer is the fourth leading cause of cancer worldwide and that is one of the major causes of cancer-related deaths in the west? [2]https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5036591/.  In my family, death by colon cancer has struck twice; both my parents died of colon cancer. Colon cancer and other cancers are rare in Southeast Asia [3]https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2758121/#CR2.

Wonder why?

Researchers believe that turmeric is one of the reasons.

What is it about turmeric that helps prevent cancer?

Turmeric contains a polyphenol (health promoting substance) called curcumin that has powerful anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and anti-carcinogenic (anti-cancer) properties [4]https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22531131, [5]https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4393385/

One of the main risk factors for colon cancer is familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP). If you have this  condition, you develop polyps (non-cancerous growths), which can lead to colon cancer. Curcumin has been shown to help people with FAP. In as study was performed on patients with FAP, patients were given 480 mg of curcumin and 20 mg of ovrectin three times a day for about six months. The number of polyps decreased by a whopping 60.4% and the size of the polyps decreased by an impressive 50.9% [6]https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3837545/#R13.

Now, due to my family history of colon cancer, I had my first colonoscopy five years ago at the ripe old age of 37, and am due for another one this year, but if they do find polyps on my test, you can bet I am going to ask for curcumin to be added to my treatment regimen!

Curcumin has also been shown to treat colon cancer. In a study performed on patients with advanced colon cancer untreatable by chemotherapy, 36 to 180 mg of curcumin was given daily for up to four months. One third of the patients had no progression of their cancer for three months or longer.[7]http://clincancerres.aacrjournals.org/content/7/7/1894.long

Turmeric may reduce your irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) symptoms

Chances are that if you have not heard about IBS, you probably do not have it. Prior to becoming a dietitian, it was an unfamiliar term for me too. While working as an ophthalmic assistant (eyecare assistant) eleven years ago, I learnt that a co-worker of mine had IBS. IBS is inflammation of the colon and includes uncomfortable symptoms such as pain in your abdomen, bloating, diarrhea and constipation [8]https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5053451/.

A study published in 2004 found that participants who took turmeric tablets for eight weeks decreased their IBS symptoms by as much as 60% [9]https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15673996. What caused these improvements? Curcumin has anti-inflammatory and anti-spasm activities that help improve symptoms of IBS [10]https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15850601.

Turmeric may reduce your inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) symptoms

You may have noticed a pattern here, but turmeric seems to be very good for your bowels. Turmeric also helps  inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). If you do not have IBD, thank your lucky stars! Inflammatory bowel disease is inflammation of the bowels that results in pain in your abdomen, diarrhea, bleeding of your rectum (the end of your large intestines), nausea, fever and weight loss [11]http://www.altmedrev.com/publications/16/2/152.pdf.

IBD can be quite disabling. While I was doing my dietetic internship, I had the privilege of treating a pleasant young father with IBD. It was so severe that he had more than 30 bowel movements a day, leading him to be unable to work.

5-aminosalicylic acid (5-ASA) (an anti-inflammatory), sulfa drugs and corticosteroids are the main treatment for IBD. However, sulfa drugs and corticosteroids have significant side effects [12]https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19519446.

Is there a way to treat IBD with less side effects?

Yes.

A small study examining the effects of curcumin on IBD found that after three months of taking various doses of curcumin, all the participants had significant improvements in their IBD symptoms. They had less bowel movements, diarrhea, abdominal pain and cramping. Two out of five of the participants stopped taking their ASA drugs, another two out of five reduced their dosage of ASA, and one participant stopped taking his/her corticosteroids completely [13]http://www.altmedrev.com/publications/16/2/152.pdf.

How does curcumin help IBD? Curcumin inhibits the action of a key protein (NF-kappaB) that has been shown to cause inflammation in IBD [14]https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19519446.

Turmeric may help you lose weight

Yes, I know that Christmas is fast approaching, and with that come lots of festivities and yummy food, so now may not be the best time to talk about losing weight. However, come New Year’s Eve, one of your resolutions may be to lose weight. Mine sure is; the past three years have been times of turbulence for me and my family, and my emotional eating has caused me to gain weight.

Laboratory studies have shown that curcumin prevents your preadipocytes (precursors to fat cells) from becoming adipocytes (fat cells) and causes your fat cells to die [15]http://www.europeanreview.org/article/9782. Studies have also shown that curcumin reduces weight and fat gain in mice fed a high-fat diet [16]https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19297423.

Now that is definitely well and good, but does curcumin actually work for real live humans like yourself you ask?

The good news is yes!

People who had trouble losing weight with diet and exercise were given curcumin complexes for thirty days. Those on the curcumin complex lost about 3% body weight and 8% body fat. They also reduced their hip circumference by 2% and their waistline by 2%. Those on the placebo (fake pill) did not [17]http://www.europeanreview.org/article/9782. Music to my ears. Come New Year’s Eve, curcumin supplements will definitely be on my shopping list.

Turmeric may reduce your symptoms of osteoarthritis

If you work with the elderly, you probably know someone with osteoarthritis. Osteoarthritis is an inflammatory disease of the joints that causes loss of cartilage (the shock absorber for your joints). If you have osteoarthritis you may be taking nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory agents, corticosteroids or opioids, all of which come with a number of side effects including high blood sugar, stomach ulcers, risk of drug dependence, and even risk of heart attacks [18]https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5036591/.

Extensive research has shown that osteoarthritic patients have less pain, are better able to function and have a better quality of life when using curcumin. They also reduce their use of pain-killing medications and report fewer side effects on curcumin [19]https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5036591/.

How does curcumin help treat osteoarthritis? Curcumin prevents your chondrocytes (cells that make cartilage from dying and prevent the release of cytokines, which are substances that cause inflammation [20]http://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/medicine-and-dentistry/chondrocyte, [21]https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5036591/

Turmeric may help you prevent or treat diabetes

Do you have high blood sugar? My blood sugar is normal, thankfully, so I have one less thing to worry about. However, my husband needs to be on the lookout for high blood sugar because both his parents have histories of diabetes aka very high blood sugar, and having a family history of diabetes is one of the risk factors for diabetes.

Curcumin has been shown to help prevent diabetes. In a study of patients with prediabetes (the precursor to diabetes), participants either took curcumin or a placebo for nine months. None of the patients who took curcumin went on to develop diabetes. However, 16.4% of those on the placebo went on to develop diabetes [22]https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3476912/. Curcumin helps lower blood sugar by a number of ways including decreasing the liver’s production of glucose and improving the function of your pancreas, an important organ involved in lowering your blood glucose levels [23]https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4338652/.

Do you already have diabetes? Well, the good news is that turmeric may help treat your diabetes. A study of diabetic patients on metformin (a diabetic drug) and metformin in combination with 2 grams of turmeric supplements found that the addition of turmeric helped decrease fasting blood glucose an additional 9% compared with metformin alone [24]https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4393385/ b b.

Turmeric may help your wounds heal faster

Ever had a deep wound? I have, and it was not accidental. I had an emergency C-section almost three years ago now (my daughter turns three this January☺). I remember the deep wound, and the precautions I had to take after the C-section … groan. Just climbing into bed hurt wound.

What if you could heal your wounds faster? A study published in 2015 looked at the effect of turmeric cream on the healing of Caesarean wounds. The study found that the turmeric cream resulted in faster healing of Caesarean wounds compared to the placebo cream [25]https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4909076/.

Why was the turmeric cream effective? Turmeric has antioxidant, free-radical scavenging, antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties which are important for healing wounds [26]https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27640646.

Turmeric may help treat your depression

Depression is a common health concern and has been predicted to be the second most common human disease by the year 2020 [27]https://www.hindawi.com/journals/tswj/2009/624894/abs/. Chances are that you or someone you know may have been impacted by it. If you do have depression, chances are that you have tried various medications but have not achieved complete relief of your symptoms; statistics show that about 30% of patients with depression do not respond to medications and the remaining 70% do not achieve complete relief from their symptoms [28]https://www.hindawi.com/journals/tswj/2009/624894/abs/. What a sobering statistic!

What if I told you that curcumin was as effective as a conventional anti-depressant in relieving symptoms of depression? A study proved just that! The study published in 2014 in Phytotherapy Research examined the effectiveness of curcumin in treating depression. One third of the patients received 20 mg of fluoxetine (an antidepressant), another third received 100 mg of curcumin, and the remaining third received a combination of 20 mg of fluoxetine and 100 mg of fluoxetine. The combination of curcumin and fluoxetine was more effective at decreasing symptoms of depression than either curcumin or fluoxetine. But the kicker was that curcumin alone was found to be as effective as fluoxetine alone in treating depression [29]https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23832433.

How does curcumin help relieve symptoms of depression? Curcumin helps balance neurotransmitters, which are chemicals in your body that control your mood [30]https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23832433

Turmeric may help treat your PMS

PMS or premenstrual syndrome is a condition many women face one to two weeks before their period. If you have PMS, you may feel bloated, have headaches, have cramps or feel moody [31]https://www.womenshealth.gov/menstrual-cycle/premenstrual-syndrome. If you do not tend to get PMS, chances are you know someone who does. An acquaintance of mine would suffer major cramps that confined her to her bed or couch during her PMS.

What causes PMS? It is not known for sure. However, women with PMS tend to have more changes in their levels of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) during their menstrual cycle than women who don’t get PMS. What is BDNF? BDNF is a protein that is important for brain function [32]http://www.nature.com/nrn/posters/bdnf/index.html.

A study published in Complementary Therapies in Medicine examined the effects of taking curcumin pills versus placebo pills on women suffering PMS. Those taking the curcumin pills had a 58% decrease in the severity of their PMS, compared to a 14% decrease in severity of symptoms for those who took the placebo [33]https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26051565.

Turmeric may reduce your risk of prostate cancer or help treat it

Prostate cancer is the leading cause of cancer in men. If you go in for prostate cancer screening, you will be asked to take a PSA test, which is a measure of the amount of prostate-specific antigen. The higher your score, the greater your risk of getting prostate cancer. [34]https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3535097/. What causes high PSA values? Researchers believe inflammation plays a role [35]https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20503397.

How can you reduce your prostate cancer risk? By reducing your inflammation, which in turn reduces the levels of PSA. And, you guessed it, curcumin can reduce your PSA levels! A study examining the effects of soy isoflavones and curcumin, which are both anti-inflammatories found that the combination decreased PSA levels [36]https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3535097/.

If you do have prostate cancer, curcumin may help treat it. A study published last year in Oncology found that a combination of docetaxel/prednisone chemotherapy and 6 grams a day of curcumin reduced PSA levels in most patients and actually brought PSA levels to normal in 36% of them [37]http://lpi.oregonstate.edu/mic/dietary-factors/phytochemicals/curcumin.

Turmeric may help treat your uveitis

Chances are that you have not heard about uveitis. Back in the day when I was training as an ophthalmic/eye care technologist (yes I have had a few careers in my life), I learnt about uveitis and the pain it can cause.

Uveitis is inflammation of the uvea, which is the middle part of the eye. Uveitis affects your vision and is responsible for an appreciable amount of blindness [38]https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3535097/.

If you have uveitis, your doctor will likely prescribe corticosteroids to treat it. However, these medications can make you gain weight, get high blood pressure, and get swollen legs. If you are on them long-term, you may get osteoporosis, have slower wound healing, and have an increased risk of getting diabetes [39]https://www.mayoclinic.org/steroids/art-20045692?pg=2.

Curcumin may be helpful in treating your uveitis since it has anti-inflammatory properties and you suffer less side effects to boot! A study published in Clinical Ophthalmology examined the effect of a curcumin complex on chronic anterior (front) uveitis. Patients took the curcumin complex twice a day for one year. After a few weeks on the curcumin complex, more than 80% of the patients had less eye discomfort. They also reported no side effects [40]https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2964958/. In another study where patients were given 375mg of curcumin three times a day for three months, all the patients had improvements in their symptoms and they reported no side effects [41]https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10404539.

Turmeric may treat your peptic ulcers

Ever had a peptic ulcer? I haven’t thankfully; peptic ulcers are open sores that occur on the inner lining of your stomach and the upper part of your small intestine. If you have a peptic ulcer, you will likely have stomach pain [42]https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/peptic-ulcer/symptoms-causes/syc-20354223.

Do you suffer from peptic ulcers and are looking for relief? Turmeric may help.

A study published in the Southeast Asian Journal of Tropical Medicine and Public Health examined the effect of turmeric on the healing of peptic ulcers. Patients took 600 mg of turmeric capsules five times a day. After twelve weeks of treatment, ulcers disappeared in 76% of patients [43]https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11485087/.

Turmeric may help treat your Alzheimer’s disease or that of your loved one

Do you have Alzheimer’s disease or have a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease? Turmeric may help.

Alzheimer’s disease is a devastating disease for all involved. Back when I was the young age of seventeen, one of my first jobs was working as a nursing aid assistant at a hospital. I remember the staff telling me that one of the patients, a pleasant lady whom I enjoyed speaking to, would have trouble remembering me each day. I wondered how on earth this could happen … the reason was Alzheimer’s disease.

Alzheimer’s disease is a disease that causes damage to your nerve cells and usually occurs in people older than 65. With Alzheimer’s disease, amyloid plaques (balls of protein) form in your brain, causing damage to your nerve cells [44]https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3535097/. Symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease include being irritable, anxious, apathetic and wandering needlessly [45]https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3665200/.

How can the body get rid of the plaques that lead to this devastating disease? Through macrophages. Macrophages are white blood cells that get rid of foreign proteins [46]https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2781139/. A study at UCLA found that human macrophages treated with curcumin cleared amyloid plaques better than macrophages that were not. This is very intriguing news but does curcumin actually improve the symptoms of real-life Alzheimer’s disease? It appears to.

A small study examined the effect of giving turmeric powder pills to three patients with Alzheimer’s disease. After 12 weeks of treatment, psychological symptoms improved in all of them, and after 1 year of treatment, two of the patients were able to recognize their family members.[47]https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3665200/

Turmeric may help treat your vitiligo

What is vitiligo?

Vitiligo is a disorder in which your pigment (color) producing cells are damaged. This leads to white patches appearing on various parts of your skin.

If you remember, the late pop star, Michael Jackson had this disorder. What causes this disease? Researchers believe that free radicals cause this disease. If you have vitiligo, your doctor will treat you with UVB light to add colour back to your skin.

What can turmeric do for your vitiligo? Curcumin, the medicinal ingredient in turmeric is a potent antioxidant that can reduce the free radical damage that causes vitiligo. A study published in Photomedicine and Laser Surgery examining the effects of UVB light therapy versus UVB light therapy and curcumin cream found that those on the combination treatment had slightly more skin color after treatment than those on the UVB light therapy alone [48]https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20961233.

Simple Way To Use Turmeric

Curcumin, the active ingredient in turmeric is poorly absorbed in the body. However, studies have shown that adding black pepper to it can increase its absorption by 2000%! [49]https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9619120. As a result, when adding turmeric to your diet, or in the more potent supplement form, you want to take it with black pepper.

A very simple way to add turmeric to your diet is to add it to your eggs. Below is a recipe for turmeric scrambled eggs from BBC Good Food:

Ingredients:

  • 1 teaspoon coconut oil
  • ½ clove garlic, finely chopped
  • 100g spinach leaves
  • 4 large eggs
  • 50ml coconut milk
  • 2 teaspoons grated turmeric
  • 2 slices sourdough bread, toasted
  • Salt and pepper to taste.

Method:

  1. Place the coconut oil in a non-stick frying pan on medium heat.
  2. Lightly fry the garlic, and then add the spinach leaves. Wilt the spinach leaves for a few minutes and add a bit of water if the leaves start to stick.
  3. Whisk the eggs with the coconut milk and turmeric. Season with salt and pepper.
  4. Place eggs in pan containing the spinach and stir continuously until scrambled eggs are at the consistency you desire.
  5. Serve on slices of toasted sourdough.

Side Effects of Tumeric

Turmeric can irritate or upset your stomach, cause nausea, diarrhea, and allergic skin reactions and interfere with your blood clotting [50]https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3633300/.

Parting Comments

Did you enjoy the list?

I hope you did.

Due to my strong family history of colon cancer, I am on the lookout for super foods that can decrease my odds of developing cancer.

Tell me what you think in the comments, and please feel free to share the article with all your friends if you liked it.

References   [ + ]

About the author

Heather Carson

Heather Carson

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