Now many of you have probably heard of Tumeric before, used it in your cooking or have that one friend who has tried to get you to start drinking tumeric shots every morning swearing that it will cure you of a wide host of illnesses. But what is Tumeric and why the sudden obsession ?
Tumeric is a spice that unsurpisingly comes from the Tumeric plant (sometimes called indian saffron), the powder that we see comes from the ground up roots of the plant. Tumeric is a member of the ginger family. For years it has predominantly been used to add color and flavor to your favorite curry dishes.
Tumeric has been used in Asian cultures for thousands of years for its health benefits yet it is only recently that western culture has caught up. Contained within Tumeric is a compound Curcumin which is the active ingredient which has caused the health and fitness industry to become tumeric obsessed. So what are the alleged health benefits of Tumeric and therfore of Curcumin.
Tumeric Health Benefits
- The main health benefit and one that can help with a number of conditions is its anti-inflammatory properties. Curcumin is thought to have strong anti-inflammatory properties. Inflammation within the body when it becomes long lasting can lead to severe health problems such as arthritis and inflammatory bowel disease. Many other common health conditions also involve hidden inflammation including such things like, heart disease, eczema, obesity and even Alzheimers. Reducing inflammation in the body can be key to managing these conditions.
- The second main health benefit of tumeric is Digestive Support- Tumeric helps stimulate the production of bile in the liver and encourages the gallbladder to release bile into the digestive tract. This is important because bile helps to breakdown and digest the fats in our food. Better fat digestion has a host of benefits on our bodies as healthy fats are used by the body for eye and brain health, along with hormone production and skin health. Good fat digestion also helps in the digestion of fat soluble vitamins such as vitamin A. Bile also helps to protect the liver and helps our bodies to filter out and excrete toxins from our bodies.
- Tumeric also increases the Antioxidant capacity of our bodies. Oxidative damage in our bodies caused by free radical cells is thought to be that main reason behind aging and many diseases. Antioxidants help protect your body from these free radicals. Curcumin is a powerful antioxidant.
- Tumeric can increase levels of Brain-Derived Neurotrophic factor (BDNF) a type of growth hormone in the body that functions in your brain. Many common brain disorders like Alzheimers and depression are linked with decreased levels of this hormone. Supplementing with Tumeric can help in delaying or even reversing to some extent some brain related diseases and age related decreases in brain function.
- Some other benefits worth mentioning are, mood enhancement through increasing natural serotonin levels, pain reduction in arthritis patients from inflammation reduction in their joints, reduce the risk of cancer from reducing number of free radicals within the body and improving heart health.
But are there any side effects?
There are a few side effects to note however these are usually fairly minimal and tend to only affect a small number of people who take Tumeric.
- Tumeric can cause stomach upset. Tumeric stimulates the stomach to produce more gastric acid. While this helps some peoples digestion, it can really upset others.
- It has had a few cases where it can cause the blood to thin, anyone taking blood thinning medication like Warfarin should avoid taking large dosages of Tumeric.
- Tumeric can make gallbladder problems worse. Do not take if you are suffering from gallstones or a bile duct obstruction
- Avoid taking during pregnancy as high dosages of Tumeric can promote menstrual periods or stimulate the uterus putting the pregnancy at risk.
- Diabetes- curcumin can lower blood sugar levels in people with diabetes so use with caution.
- Tumeric can prevent iron absorption when taken in high amounts, so should be used with caution with people suffering from iron deficiency.
IMPORTANT Point –
Whilst the important ingredient within Tumeric is Curcumin it is worth mentioning that Tumeric only contains 3% by weight. So levels of Curcumin are not high at all. Therefore most of the benefits found from studies with Tumeric are from taking Tumeric extract so as to get levels high enough to produce postivie benefits, eating curries alone will not get you the health benefits from Tumeric.
Supplementation of Tumeric is therefore the best way to get the benefits, trying to reach upwards of 1g a day, unfortunatley curcumin is poorly digested in the bloodstream so look for supplements that contain piperine (black pepper) a natural substance that enhances the absorption of curcumin.
Whilst that annoying friend of yours is probably just blurting out poor science that he heard from a friend it is based on truths. The benefits of well supplemented Tumeric are in my opinion worth adding to your life. It is not a miracle cure though and is worth adding to a healthy lifestyle not just trying to help offset an unhealthy one.
It is also important as it is when adding anything new to your diet to do so with caution starting at a low dose and increasing slowly. Also talk to your doctor or any healthcare professional if your are thinking of using tumeric to treat any medical condition you currently have, you may need to make sure it wont have any negative drug interaction with any medication you may currently be taking.