Turmeric: How it Fights Inflammation

Turmeric, aka the wonder spice, is all the rage!  You’ll find this exotic root in juices, tonics, topical skin creams, supplements, and of course good ‘ole fashioned spice infused meals.

Research on the benefits and uses of turmeric is mounting as well.  One of turmeric’s naturally occurring phytonutrients, curcumin, has long been touted for its cancer preventive and immune supportive properties. New research into curcumin’s anti-inflammatory nature is showing that it may also alleviate conditions like colitis.

Colitis is one condition within Inflammatory Bowel Diseases.  IBD is a broad term that includes conditions with chronic or recurring inflammation and immune response of the gastrointestinal tract.  With colitis, the inflammation affects the large intestine, or colon.  An estimated 1.6 million Americans suffer from IBD (Ulcerative Colitis and Crohn’s disease) and as many as 70,000 new cases are diagnosed each year.  Prevalence of IBD appears to be increasing.

Specific foods are not known to trigger colitis in everyone, but for some individuals, certain foods can aggravate symptoms.  Since inflammation is a hallmark of this condition, a pattern of healthy, plant-based, anti-inflammatory eating could certainly be helpful.

Curcumin has potent anti-inflammatory actions.  We are seeing how turmeric, used not only in cooking or juicing, but as a medical therapy with a specific dose in pill form, in combination with prescription medications, may synergistically work together to provide an even greater benefit than taking the standard medications alone.  This is the case with colitis.

Researchers found that the patients who received active curcumin vs. placebo in addition to their prescribed medication, 5-aminosalycilate (5ASA), had a significantly higher rate of clinical remission.   In fact, over 50% of patients taking turmeric achieved remission while NONE of the patients who were in the placebo group did. Patients took 3 grams of turmeric as a daily supplement pill in addition to their 5ASA.   

Adding black pepper to turmeric may increase the bioavailability, or your body’s ability to absorb the curcumin, but as much as 1000 times.  Some supplement pills contain black pepper. When using turmeric in foods or beverages, adding a pinch of black pepper is an easy way to help your body reap more of this spice’s healing potential.

There is a lot of discrepancy between turmeric supplement brands as well.  Some are contaminated with lead, some have less curcumin than stated on the label, and our supplement industry is lacking in regulation. So do your homework before purchasing a supplement.  Resources like Consumer Labs can be helpful.

Looking for some delicious, anti-inflammatory turmeric recipes…we’ve got them!

Try these for fun ideas! 

You can also wear turmeric!