Turmeric has been used for centuries in traditional Indian and traditional Chinese medicine. The spice’s healing power is derived from its active ingredient, curcumin. It’s said to help with everything from pain relief to heart disease prevention.
Although turmeric’s healing potential has been established, more research is needed to assess its effects on irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). You shouldn’t add turmeric to your routine until you’ve spoken with your doctor about your individual benefits and risks.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) doesn’t regulate supplements, so it’s important to take turmeric with care.
Keep reading to learn more about this complementary therapy.
The research around turmeric is promising. Participants in one 2004 study took tablets of turmeric extract every day for eight weeks. They reported less abdominal pain and discomfort, as well as a boost in perceived quality of living. However, the researchers stated that placebo-controlled research is needed to further establish these results.
Researchers in a 2010 animal study investigated curcumin’s potential to treat anything under the gastrointestinal disorder umbrella. After one dose of curcumin, the rats used in the study experienced a decrease in the length of their small intestine. This suggests that curcumin can alleviate abnormal intestinal contractions.
Pending new research, curcumin could be used to treat IBS and other ailments, such as diarrhea and abdominal cramps.
Research as recent as 2015 continues to highlight the varied healing potential of turmeric. This animal study looked at the effect of turmeric on IBS, as well as on the mood disorders that often accompany it, such as stress, anxiety, and depression.
Researchers found that curcumin increased the levels of certain proteins and neurotransmitters in the rats’ brains that influence mood. The rats who received curcumin showed improved results in behavioral tests.
Curcumin also had a positive effect on the rats’ intestinal system. It’s thought that the proteins and neurotransmitters that signal the brain may also signal the intestines.
Most people choose to take turmeric in supplement form for the sake of convenience. And if you enjoy the spice’s rich flavor, you can add more turmeric to your diet.
It’s always safest to take any herb or spice in its natural form.
However, curcumin supplements are available at most health food stores and through online retailers. You may also be able to find powdered turmeric in the spice section of regular grocery stores.
If you’re using turmeric to treat a specific health concern such as IBS, it’s important to buy a high-quality product. Although supplements aren’t regulated by the FDA, quality manufacturers will have their own set of standards to which they adhere.
You should always follow the dosage specified on the package. Dosages may vary between manufacturers. To prevent potential side effects, start with a smaller dose and gradually work your way up to the optimal dose.
Turmeric doesn’t need to be taken with food. In fact, fasting is said to increase absorption because it allows the spice to metabolize quickly.
Some people recommend taking turmeric with honey for better absorption. Bromelain, which is found in pineapple, is also said to increase the absorption and anti-inflammatory effects of curcumin.
You can get some turmeric from your diet, but a supplement may ensure you’re getting the correct amount daily.
When adding turmeric to food, remember that a little goes a long way. You should add in small amounts at a time. Fresh and powdered turmeric can stain clothing and skin, so be careful when using it in the kitchen.
Don’t forget to take it with piperine!
Taking turmeric with piperine increases its absorption and makes it more effective. Piperine is an extract of black pepper.
It takes less than a teaspoon of piperine powder for turmeric to have an effect. You can also look for a turmeric supplement that contains piperine or take a black pepper extract supplement.
Side effects and risks
Side effects of turmeric include:
- abdominal discomfort
- increased contractions
- increased risk of bleeding
You can reduce your risk for side effects by starting with a small dose and working your way up over time.
You shouldn’t exceed more than 2,000 milligrams of turmeric per day. Check with your doctor before taking any more than the recommended dosages. You can safely take turmeric for up to eight months at a time.
Talk with your doctor before take turmeric if you have:
- a scheduled surgery
- iron deficiency
- kidney stones
- a bleeding disorder
- gallbladder problems
- gastroesophageal reflux disease
- a hormone-sensitive condition
Turmeric supplements aren’t recommended for women who are pregnant or breastfeeding.
Taking piperine may affect how certain drugs are metabolized. Talk with your doctor before use if you’re taking:
Talk with your doctor before you begin using turmeric. Remember that turmeric should only be used as a complementary therapy. It’s not meant to fully replace your prescribed treatment plan.
Discontinue use if you experience any uncomfortable and persistent symptoms. You know your body better than anyone, and it’s important to be aware of how turmeric affects you and your symptoms. Learn more about turmeric’s potential benefits and possible side effects here.