Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is an autoimmune disease that causes an inflammatory condition in the gastrointestinal tract that affects over 250,000 residents in the UK. IBD requires both medical and lifestyle interventions and is classified mainly into two types:
- Ulcerative colitis: inflammation occurring in the large intestine
- Crohn’s disease: inflammation occurs anywhere in the gastrointestinal tract (mouth to anus)
Common symptoms affecting the individuals suffering from IBD are:
- Abdominal cramps
- Diarrhoea or blood in stools
- Fever and fatigue
- Irregular bowel habits
- Rectal bleeding
- Weight loss
- Extraintestinal complications: Arthritis, uveitis
The contributing factors behind this disease include ecological conditions as well as genetics. The illness occurs mainly because of inappropriate immune response where the immune system attacks the intestinal microflora (healthy microbes in the gut that aid in digestion) as if it were a foreign body and leads to inflammation.
Treatment includes administration of anti-inflammatory drugs, immune suppressants, antibiotics and other medicines given as per symptoms.
How does Turmeric help in Inflammatory Bowel Disease?
As the rest of the western world is only starting to discover, turmeric is a plant that has a long track record of medicinal use over the years. In fact, the medicinal properties of turmeric date back thousands of years. Because of its brilliant yellow colour, turmeric is also known as “Indian saffron.” Modern science has started to recognize the powerful significance of this spice, often referred to as the “Queen of Spices” and it has now been researched in thousands of publications in the past 25 years. Medical research suggests turmeric has powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.
Since IBD is characterized by inflammation in the intestines, one may assume curcumin provides therapeutic benefit for these conditions. Research shows that the anti-inflammatory mechanism of curcumin works by suppressing the cells involved in the inflammatory pathway of the immune response. While further large-scale clinical trials are needed, the evidence supports Turmeric as a safe and favourable means for treatment of IBD.
Turmeric Curcumin mediates anti-inflammatory property in the following ways:
- Inhibition of COX & LOX enzymes: They regulate biochemical pathways in inflammation. Turmeric Curcumin inhibits its activity better than painkiller, diclofenac sodium.
- Prevents production of prostaglandins: They are hormone-like substances produced by COX enzymes and control dilation and constriction of blood vessels in inflammation.
- Inhibition of pro-inflammatory cytokines: These are cellular proteins released in response to inflammation. Eg: Tumour necrosis factor and interleukin-1.
- Preventing migration of immune cells to the affected site.
- Inhibition of nuclear factor- kappa B: A set of proteins that act as a switch which can control inflammation and the genes involved in it.
1. Turmeric Curcumin can treat as well as prevent IBD
Research proves that Turmeric Curcumin manipulates multiple elements of inflammation in order to reduce the development of experimental colitis (inflammation of the colon). Turmeric Curcumin’s antioxidant nature helps fight oxidative damage in the bowel occurring as a result of inappropriate immune responses.
Turmeric Curcumin reduced the incidence of diarrhoea, preserved colon health and stimulated the production of anti-inflammatory cytokines.
2. Turmeric Curcumin is beneficial in Juvenile Crohn’s
Juvenile Crohn’s disease leads to poor weight gain and inhibits the growth of individuals.
A study was designed to examine the effect of exclusion diet with nutraceutical therapy on IBD and reversing growth failure. Dairy products, certain grains and food containing carrageenan were eliminated from the diet. Nutraceuticals containing curcumin and other components and a multivitamin were given daily. Probiotics were given twice weekly. Within 2 months of treatment, the intensity of Crohn’s disease reduced in all patients and all of them discontinued pharmacological drugs.
3. It serves as a maintenance therapy for IBD
IBD is a chronic relapsing condition. Turmeric Curcumin is famous for suppressing inflammation in multiple ways without causing any side effects. In this study, patients were given curcumin 360mg 3 or 4 times a day for three months. Not only did curcumin reduce the inflammation but it also prevented relapse.
4. Turmeric supports the growth of healthy gut microbiota
The intestine is a host to a variety of bacteria that help in digestion and maintaining immune function.
Lack of proper nutrition for these microbes can lead to inflammation and other dysfunction in the gut which in turn affects the rest of the system. Gut microbes also play an important role in the pathogenesis of IBD.
A study proves that curcumin protects the intestine from microbial attack by utilising its anti-inflammatory property. Results of this study prove that long-term consumption of curcumin containing food can help reduce inflammation in IBD patients without causing side effects.
5. Turmeric can serve as a multiple purpose therapeutic agent in IBD
To understand what this title hints at, first we will go over the medicines that are usually prescribed in IBD:
- 5-aminosalicylic acid derivatives
- TNF inhibitors
- Stomach acid-reducing drugs
Most of these drugs are prescribed with the intention of reducing inflammation and controlling immune responses. They benefit in IBD but they also cause a number of side effects.
Now you would be amazed to know that turmeric alone has the same pharmacological properties as each of these drugs. Turmeric, especially curcumin is an anti-inflammatory agent and it inhibits the activity of Tumour necrosis factor. Extracts of turmeric and curcumin have antimicrobial property and are suggested as alternatives to antibiotics.
6. It ameliorates the complications linked with IBD
Intestinal complications linked with IBD are the development of ulcers, abscesses etc and Turmeric can help in treating these or preventing their development by demonstrating gastroprotective action. Individuals with IBD are susceptible to developing colon cancer and curcumin is proven to be effective against it.
Inflammation can spread to the eyes(uveitis) and joints(arthritis). Turmeric is therapeutic in these conditions too.
The dosage of Turmeric for IBD:
There is no prescribed dosage of Turmeric for treatment of Inflammatory Bowel Disease. Turmeric is poorly absorbed in the body hence it is advised to take turmeric with black pepper.
Due to the powerful anti-inflammatory effects of curcumin, individuals suffering from IBD may benefit from supplementation. It can serve to be an alternative to regular treatment or when taken as an adjunct it can improve treatment response Turmeric also takes care of the complications of IBD.
Certain conditions in which it is advisable to avoid turmeric supplements are:
- Pregnancy and lactation
- Prior to surgery (at least 15 days)
- If taking anti-diabetic or stomach acid reducing medications
- If suffering from gallbladder problems
- If on blood thinning medications