Did you know that turmeric, the bright yellow spice often used in Indian cuisine, has a wide variety of health benefits? Experts have found that it supports the liver, regulates blood sugar, and promotes wound healing.
Plus, many people have found turmeric helpful in managing joint pain and improving cognitive function. But more importantly, it has shown to be an effective remedy for numerous digestive conditions—including irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and leaky gut.
Why Does Turmeric Work?
The health benefits of turmeric emerge from its major component, curcumin. As an antioxidant, curcumin targets free radicals produced by your body’s oxidation process. If free radicals overwhelm the body’s ability combat them, then oxidative stress occurs. That stress can change the body’s lipids and proteins, triggering any number of human conditions and diseases. Curcumin neutralizes free radicals, relieving oxidative stress, inflammation, and cell damage.
Research has also found that curcumin has powerful anti-inflammatory properties that help to relieve leaky gut symptoms that present in a spectrum of digestive conditions, including:
- Crohn’s disease
- Ulcerative colitis
- Acid reflux
In one study, patients with ulcerative colitis—an inflammatory condition of the colon and rectum—were given either curcumin, curcumin plus an anti-inflammatory medication, or a placebo plus an anti-inflammatory medication. The patients treated with curcumin had a 4.7% relapse rate compared to a 21% relapse rate in the placebo group.
A second study of 207 people with IBS who took turmeric extract (curcumin) for eight weeks found that curcumin helped decrease IBS and abdominal pain and discomfort. Although this was a small study, I find clinically that turmeric does help some people suffering from IBS especially those with inflammation of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract.
And a recent 2022 meta-analysis of 19 studies confirmed that turmeric can improve IBS symptoms including abdominal pain and quality of life.
How to Get the Health Benefits of Turmeric
One way to get the health benefits of turmeric is to use it in creative dishes. It is one of the main ingredients in Indian curry. We regularly add dried and fresh turmeric to many of our home-cooked meals.
Turmeric can be consumed in many ways, including using the dried spice or the fresh root in cooking—including in soups, rice dishes, and stir-fries.
Turmeric also blends well with fruits and vegetables. We first experienced juiced turmeric while traveling to Bali, Indonesia as the locals use turmeric in many food and drink recipes. We like to add a two-to-three-inch fresh turmeric root to our juicer and combine with carrots, beets, celery, parsley, spinach, kale, and apple. This is a great way to get fresh turmeric into your body, as it is a pungent herb that blends well with other fruits and vegetables.
Since turmeric’s active constituents (curcuminoids) are best absorbed with a little fat and black pepper, a small amount of coconut oil and some black pepper can be added to your foods and juice to optimize absorption. This combination is also important to look for when assessing the quality of a turmeric product.
In addition to cooking with turmeric, we also make sure that it’s always in our medicine cabinet as it’s an incredibly versatile botanical medicine as well.
You want to look for absorbable extracts, like Meriva, to get the most bang for your buck when using turmeric to decrease inflammation. I sometimes have people take Meriva two 500 mg. capsules, twice a day for at least a couple of months.
Side Effects of Turmeric
While turmeric has excellent health benefits, in high doses, it is also a blood thinner. So, if you are on any medications or have a specific health issue, be sure to consult your doctor before starting any supplementation regimen.