Written by Divinity Nutra, Updated on April 17, 2022
Turmeric and its powerful constituent, curcumin, are no strangers to scientific research. Long used in Ayurvedic medicine for centuries, the Curcuma longa plant always had an aura surrounding it regarding its therapeutic benefits.
With thousands of clinical and peer-reviewed studies in the books, we now have a vast swath of evidence suggesting that it’s more than just hype. But, is turmeric good for ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease?
Turmeric for Ulcerative Colitis & Crohn’s Disease
Turmeric has shown potential as an alternative treatment in several conditions characterized by inflammation. These include arthritis, fibromyalgia, and eczema and psoriasis. Curcumin can even help detox and cleanse the liver.
Numerous studies have emerged, suggesting that curcumin can also target a few of the primary causes of IBD (Inflammatory Bowel Disease). Thus, it may help reduce some of the uncomfortable symptoms, including diarrhea, abdominal pain, weight loss, fatigue, and rectal bleeding. (1)
To understand how curcumin helps, we first need to look at the causes of IBD.
What is IBD (Inflammatory Bowel Disease)?
IBD is a term that describes two conditions: ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease. With IBD, the patient suffers from chronic inflammation in the GI tract (gastrointestinal tract). Unfortunately, this prolonged gut inflammation may cause extensive damage to the GI tract leading to significant pain and discomfort.
If left untreated, chronic intestinal inflammation can even lead to colorectal cancer. There are a few key differences between Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis to consider:
- Crohn’s can impact most of the GI tract ranging from the mouth to the anus. Though, it usually affects the part of the small intestine preceding the large intestine.
- Damaged areas are patchy (damaged tissue appears next to healthy tissue).
- The inflammation can reach through multiple layers of the GI tract walls.
- Ulcerative colitis frequently occurs in the rectum and the large intestine (colon).
- Damaged areas are continuous, not patchy, and they start at the rectum extending further into the colon.
- Inflammation is usually only present in the innermost layer of the colon lining. (2)
There is one other important note to consider: IBD (Inflammatory Bowel Disease) is NOT the same as IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome). Bear in mind that these are two completely different issues that require different treatment. Although symptoms may overlap between the two, they should not be confused.
Why Turmeric Curcumin?
We know that curcumin possesses many vital healing properties. Perhaps its most substantial assets are its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant activity. By targeting gut and intestinal inflammation directly, it’s thought that curcumin can benefit IBD symptoms and improve quality of life. (3)
In today’s article, we will explore the research behind curcumin’s ability to help IBD treatment, including both ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease.
Turmeric for Gut & Intestinal Inflammation
Does turmeric help intestinal inflammation? One randomized, double-blind study containing 89 participants with quiescent ulcerative colitis (UC) tested curcumin’s ability to serve as maintenance therapy. There were two groups of patients: 45 individuals consumed 2g of curcumin per day in a split dosage, and a placebo group.
The results showed that curcumin was not only a safe natural medication, but it greatly reduced the frequency of relapse in people with ulcerative colitis. Turmeric also suppressed morbidity linked to UC, improving the patient’s overall health. (4, 5)
Mesalamine is a popular drug used to treat ulcerative colitis. While it can be useful on its own, one team of researchers sought to test the efficacy of treatment by pairing it with turmeric.
This study was also placebo-controlled and double-blind. It contained a total of 50 patients with mild-to-moderate UC who were currently treated with mesalamine. The results using both mesalamine and curcumin were quite convincing. Here is the summary.
- Using the intention-to-treat analysis, 53.8% of the curcumin group achieved clinical remission at week 4 of the study. In the placebo group, none of the participants achieved remission.
- The curcumin group also saw a 65.3% clinical response rate vs. just 12.5% in the placebo group. Clinical response refers to the measure of various indicators of therapeutic efficacy.
- Lastly, the curcumin group saw a massive 38% of patients reach complete endoscopic remission, while none of the placebo group achieved the same. Endoscopic remission means there are no visual signs of IBD in the intestines.
Treatment went well, and there were no apparent adverse side effects during this study. (6)
Further research reviewed curcumin as it pertained explicitly to anti-inflammation in IBD. While IBD is not fully understood, it’s thought to be primarily driven by the upregulation of inflammatory cytokines.
In recent years, research has found that curcumin induces positive changes in the body’s cytokine profiles. This benefit makes it a strong candidate for the natural treatment of IBD symptomology. (7)
Another open-label study was conducted and administered curcumin to five patients with Crohn’s disease and five with ulcerative proctitis. All of the patients with ulcerative proctitis demonstrated significant improvements. Additionally, four out of the five test subjects with Crohn’s disease improved their condition.
Although human trials are the most reliable for our purposes, sometimes animal studies yield exciting results. One such study used curcumin on rats with acetic acid-induced colitis.
The results of the research were promising. The rats showed improvements in healthy weight gain and a reduction in IBD-related symptoms. The researchers concluded that turmeric might help lower oxidative stress associated with inflammatory bowel disease. (9)
Typically, inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) gets treated with antibiotics, steroids, and immunomodulators. The reason why curcumin and other herbal medicines have become a focal point of research is due to the long-term adverse side effects of traditional treatment methods.
It’s not just turmeric’s anti-inflammatory properties that help control IBD. Curcumin can reduce free radicals, increase antioxidant capacity, and influence several signaling pathways. (12)
How to Take Turmeric for Colitis
When treating gut and intestinal inflammation, you’ll need to get enough curcumin in your diet to provide the needed benefits. Adding turmeric powder to your meals won’t be enough since turmeric’s curcuminoid content is only 3.14% on average. An encapsulated turmeric supplement is required for best results.
Curcumin also has poor absorption in the body, unless you’re taking turmeric curcumin with black pepper together. This is because black pepper extract (piperine) enhances absorption by nearly 20 times, according to studies. This is important to ensure you get a product that works. If it doesn’t have piperine in the form of BioPerine, it likely won’t be effective.
Top-rated turmeric brands also contain AstraGin, an ingredient that boosts the absorption of turmeric by 92%. As an added perk, especially for those with IBD, AstraGin has been shown to support gut health, as well.
How much turmeric should I take for IBD? For controlling inflammation in the intestines and dealing with IBD, take between 150-250 mg of curcumin per day. If this turmeric daily dose doesn’t provide full-day relief, you can take a second dose 8 hours apart from the first. This is a safe and effective amount of curcumin for intestinal inflammation.
Potential Side Effects
What are the side effects of curcumin? Side effects and adverse reactions are rarely reported, and often mild. However, some negative situations may arise if you’re not cautious, so you must consider the following:
- Too much turmeric, above and beyond the safe dosing range, can increase the frequency of headaches, nausea, and stomach discomfort.
- Curcumin has natural anticoagulant properties and may thin the blood too much when used with other blood thinners simultaneously.
- Turmeric can also lower blood sugar. Diabetics, and anyone closely monitoring glucose levels, should use extra caution.
Who should not take turmeric? If you’re pregnant or nursing, avoid taking curcumin in capsule form. You can likely use small amounts of turmeric in food, safely. If you’re about to have surgery, avoid turmeric to make sure there are no complications with postop recovery or blood clotting.
Final Thoughts on Turmeric Curcumin for IBD
Does turmeric help ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease? The answer appears to be, yes, in some individuals. Remember, inflammatory bowel disease will cause chronic and relapsing inflammation in the gastrointestinal system.
The best turmeric supplement will not only demonstrate potent antioxidant properties but will also attack the very foundation of gut inflammation by inhibiting several inflammatory processes. (13)
As always, if you want to try turmeric for IBD, take precautions and consult with your doctor or primary care physician to see if a curcumin supplement fits within your current regimen.
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