Written By: Alana Karran
Inflammation has been linked to nearly every chronic health condition, from Arthritis to heart disease, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Alzheimer’s and cancer. Keeping inflammation under control is crucial to managing these and other illnesses, yet over the counter and prescription medications come with their own health inducing issues. Centuries old natural remedies can help calm inflammation and provide other health benefits, as well.
Curcumin is a naturally occurring compound, known for its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, derived from the turmeric plant. A tubular like root that is part of the ginger family, turmeric is a spice used to flavor food, particularly in Southern Asia, including India. While using turmeric in cooking or taking turmeric capsules may provide some anti-inflammatory benefits, it has very little curcumin, only 2 – 5%, and can also be hard to digest for some people, even causing stomach irritation and pain.
Taking curcumin extract provides greater health benefits and aids absorption. Other ingredients, like phospholipids, a molecular structure containing fatty acids, and piperine, an alkaloid found in black pepper, have been shown to boost absorption when added to curcumin. This means you can take less curcumin supplementation to receive the same benefits. For example, if you are taking pure curcumin, the recommended dosage is 3,000 to 12,000 mg daily, versus taking curcumin bound to a phytosome, lowering the recommended dosage to 500 to 2,000 mg daily, and easing absorption in the process.
Curcumin is incredibly safe and in clinical trials shows no toxicity in high doses. That said, if you are taking other medications, seek medical advice before adding curcumin to your regimen. It may lower blood sugar if taken in combination with an anti-diabetes drug, or increase the risk of bleeding if used with blood-thinning medications like aspirin, ibuprofen, warfarin and others. It may interact with other medications, including chemotherapy drugs.
Several companies produce curcumin supplements that boast higher absorption, like Thorne Research, Theracurmin and Longvida. Look for a product that contains curcumin extract, not turmeric. Also, some form of phospholipids, likely either soy, sunflower or coconut based, will help aid absorption. Some supplements may also contain demethoxycurcuminoid and bis-demethoxycurcuminoid, the other two compounds found in turmeric besides curcumin. New products are also promoting a sustained release formula that releases the supplement over time, providing for a longer acting anti-inflammatory response.
Most importantly, remember taking a curcumin supplement is not a substitute for maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Reducing inflammation in the body begins with avoiding inflaming foods like refined carbohydrates, soda and other sweetened beverages, red meat and processed foods. Foods like olive oil, green leafy vegetables, fatty fish, nuts and fruits like berries, help combat inflammation and contribute to better health overall. And, a warming pot of curry will certainly give you a little benefit from the curcumin in the turmeric used to spice it.