Turmeric is a flavorful and aromatic spice that is widely used in Indian and Southeast Asian cuisine. However, turmeric is more than just a flavor-enhancing ingredient and colorful addition to your cooking. It also offers countless health benefits…
Uncovering 9 Health Benefits of Turmeric
For generations, individuals have been cooking with turmeric due to its multitude of health benefits. It has also been used for centuries in traditional and ayurvedic medicine. The health benefits of Turmeric have become clear as it becomes increasingly popular in Western medicine.
Health Benefit #1: Turmeric is a Powerful Anti-inflammatory Agent
One of the best-documented benefits of turmeric is that it has been shown to be a powerful anti-inflammatory. This is due to the antioxidant capacity of the curcuminoids in turmeric which help bring down inflammation in the body. Taking turmeric in either food or supplement form may dramatically reduce a person’s pain, especially as it pertains to joint issues like osteoarthritis or tendonitis. In addition, it has become a great substitute for prescription drugs and non-prescription anti-inflammatories and painkillers.
Medications Can Have Undesirable Side Effects
Many medications can have undesirable side effects. Depending on the medication, this can range from the risk of addiction to muscle cramping and digestive distress. Whereas there are minimal side effects that have been reported with the use of turmeric.
The anti-inflammatory benefits of turmeric come from curcumin, which is found in the plant. Curcumin has been shown to be effective in preventing osteoarthritis pain in various areas of the body, including the knees, which can be a troubling arthritis hotspot for many.
Before you make any adjustments to your medications or begin supplementing with turmeric, check in with your doctor. Individuals on blood-thinning medications should be careful with turmeric supplementation since it also has blood-thinning effects on the body.
Health Benefit #2: Turmeric is a Potential Mood Booster
Turmeric is known for its mood-boosting effects. This can largely be attributed to the curcumin component. Many turmeric users report dramatic upticks in their mood following its introduction. A study in mice showed that this is likely due to the fact that curcumin administration increased levels of serotonin and dopamine in the brain. This was shown to be true when combined with antidepressants, as well. So next time you’re feeling blue, sprinkle some turmeric on your dish.
Health Benefit #3: Turmeric is a Tool For Managing and Preventing Type 2 Diabetes
The Center for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that roughly 34 million Americans (that’s ~10% of our population!) have Type 2 Diabetes. This number is on the rise driven by poor diet and lifestyle choices, as well as a myriad of other factors, including genetic predisposition. Additionally, the rise of Type 2 Diabetes not only negatively impacts one’s quality of life but also costs our healthcare system billions of dollars each year.
Reversing Prediabetes and Improving Insulin Sensitivity
Turmeric has been shown to help reduce insulin resistance in those with or at risk for Type 2 Diabetes. Much of insulin resistance can be tied to overall inflammation in the body. Turmeric works indirectly by reducing inflammation and thus improving our cells’ response to insulin. Additionally, there are increasing amounts of research depicting how this spice can help reduce postprandial glycemic response and the body’s demand for insulin. The research on this is continuing to grow. Newer studies have indicated that turmeric use over time can help halt the development of pre-diabetes by improving the function of our beta cells (or the cells that allow the pancreas to release insulin).
Lastly, for those who have more advanced Diabetes, turmeric has been used to help address some of the symptoms most commonly associated with this disease, such as diabetic neuropathy.
Health Benefit #4: Turmeric Helps You Fight off Colds and More
Another benefit of turmeric is its ability to help us fight off the common cold, the flu, and even the various viruses. The benefits here come from curcumin, which decreases inflammation and improves immune function. However, one thing to note, whether one is taking turmeric or curcumin directly is that it can be challenging for the body to absorb. Thus, it’s recommended that it be taken in conjunction with black pepper which has been shown to increase absorption capacity. This means adding black pepper to your food or ensuring that any supplement purchased also contains black pepper.
For now, anecdotal evidence seems to suggest that there is an illness-fighting benefit associated with turmeric. More research, however, needs to be done, particularly in the real world. Sometimes test-tube or animal experiments do not fully translate to the real human world.
Health Benefit #5: Turmeric is a Tool for Women with PMS
Calling all the females out there… you’re going to love this benefit. After all, no one likes dealing with Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS) symptoms! PMS symptoms can vary dramatically amongst women. However, some of the more common symptoms include: bloating, joint pain, and breast tenderness.
PMS has also been associated with cognitive and emotional symptoms, including mood swings, anxiety, irritability, and depression. The anti-inflammatory properties of turmeric may undoubtedly relieve some of these nagging symptoms. In fact, studies have looked further into this proving that curcumin can actually alleviate PMS symptoms by approximately 58%.
Health Benefit #6: Turmeric Supports a Healthy Heart
Turmeric has been shown to reduce the amount of bad cholesterol or LDL in the blood, without any adverse side effects… LDL stands for low-density lipoproteins, and they can cause cholesterol to build up in your arteries. Ultimately, this could cause our arteries to narrow, contributing to heart attacks and strokes. Therefore, turmeric helps reduce this LDL by bringing down inflammation, which is beneficial to our entire cardiovascular system.
Health Benefit #7: Turmeric is a Cancer-fighting Sidekick
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) have reported positive study results where turmeric has been used with patients who have a high risk of developing colon, liver, and oral cancers.
In addition, the NIH reports that when turmeric is used in conjunction with chemotherapy and radiation, many patients note a decline in troubling treatment-associated symptoms, as well as a general improvement in quality of life.
While the research here is promising, it’s important that any patient undergoing cancer treatment discuss this with their provider since turmeric can interfere with certain medications.
Health Benefit #8: Turmeric is an ally in the Fight Against Alzheimer’s Disease
Given the devastating impact of Alzheimer’s Disease, scientists are eager to find any treatment options that offer hope. Studies have shown that curcumin has been shown to decrease beta-amyloid plaque, decrease microglia formation and improve the memory of patients with Alzheimer’s Disease. Thus, giving hope as a potential anti-inflammatory agent to be further explored in on-going Alzheimer’s research.
Health Benefit #9: Turmeric Helps to Support the Gut
The reasons behind this go back to the powerful anti-inflammatory properties of turmeric and curcumin. Scientific research shows that some of the most common gut health issues, like irritable bowel syndrome and Crohn’s Disease and ulcerative colitis, are linked to inflammation. If we can effectively reduce inflammation, then troubling symptoms have been shown to improve.
Turmeric is Worth Looking Into
In recent years, turmeric has become more popular, especially in the United States. Many people have jumped on the turmeric bandwagon and have been using it as a spice in their cooking or taking it or the active ingredient, curcumin, in supplement form.
Turmeric is a powerful tool in fighting inflammation, and, thus, it can be helpful in managing diseases driven by inflammation, such as osteoarthritis, irritable bowel syndrome, and inflammatory bowel disease. So next time you’re cooking up your favorite dish, sprinkle on some turmeric for some anti-inflammatory goodness! And if you decide to add it to your supplement regimen, always be sure to run it by your healthcare provider.
If you want to learn more about incorporating Turmeric into your overall health routine, reach out to Physio Logic’s Integrative Nutrition team. They offer in-person AND virtual appointments. They’ll be able to address your health concerns and give you a customized program designed for YOU. Just give us a call or start by filling out the form below.