The positive health effects of turmeric have long been touted by age-old healers as well as modern science. Turmeric’s active ingredient, curcumin, has powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties that help prevent free radical damage and calm the inflammatory process at the root of many chronic diseases.
However, the use of turmeric in treating chronic illness on a grander scale has been limited due to its relative low bioavailability, or “the proportion of a drug or other substance that enters the circulation when introduced into the body and so is able to have an active effect.”
Because of this limitation, research has primarily focused on ways to enhance absorption. Past studies have shown that combining turmeric with other compounds, one such example being piperine (found in black pepper), can increase bioavailability, and there are supplements* now available formulated to allow maximum absorption. Adding to this research, a new study authored by Dr. Ajay Goel, director of gastrointestinal research and translation genomics and oncology at Baylor Scott & White Research Institute, and published in Nature: Scientific Reports, confirmed that combining curcumin with essential turmeric oils (ETO-curcumin) significantly enhanced anti-inflammatory efficacy in DSS-induced colitis animal models (dextran sulfate sodium (DSS) is frequently used to induce colitis in experimental animals).
Possible clinical applications of curcumin currently include neurodegenerative diseases, osteoarthritis, and rheumatoid arthritis. There is also evidence that curcumin can kill certain types of cancer cells, as well as reduce the development of several forms of cancer in lab animals. Dr. Goel’s research highlights the anti-inflammatory potential of turmeric and suggests it may also have a place in the treatment of large intestinal diseases like ulcerative colitis.
Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis are autoimmune, inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD) that can cause a lifetime of painful symptoms. It is estimated that nearly 3 million people in the United States are living with IBD. Conventional treatment typically involves medications such as antibiotics, immunomodulators, or corticosteroids, amongst other types. However, a growing population of patients are exploring natural healing options instead of – or in conjunction with – medications. Our experience with IBD has shown that with the right lifestyle changes and dietary modifications, including supplementation and nutritional support, many people will see an improvement of symptoms.
“The takeaway for patients who want to experience the health benefits of curcumin through a commercially available supplement is to look for products that include additional compounds of turmeric – specifically, essential turmeric oils,” says Dr. Goel.
Remember, supplements are not regulated by the FDA, so before purchasing or taking any commercial supplements, speak to your physician who can recommend trusted sources – and more importantly rule out any possible interactions with other medications.
*Patients of the Kaplan Center can purchase Theracurmin® HP from the Kaplan Medical Center Store.
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