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Benefits of Turmeric

SANO Editorial

Turmeric is a powerful anti-inflammatory spice that has been used for centuries. This native Southeast Asia medicinal root is a cousin to ginger and is known for its distinctive orange color and full flavor profile.  Turmeric’s active compound, curcumin, has proven to provide disease combative potential and preventative health benefits.  Here are some key health reasons you should include curcumin in your healthy diet.    

What is Inflammation? Inflammation is the immune system’s reaction to foreign stimuli.  The immune system expands blood vessels around the effected areas to allow more blood flow to reach the injured tissue sending defense cells to speed the recovery and healing process. The physical signs on this response include internal body heat, swelling and redness. Once the foreign stimulus disappears, the immune system returns to normal and the inflammation symptoms disappear.

When you get a cold, the mucous membranes in the nose react to the foreign stimulus with an inflammation reaction by swelling leading to a stuffy nose that is eventually accompanied by a cold.  This common discomfort similar to the body’s reaction to a cut or ear infection mean the body recognizes this foreign harm-causing bacteria and is reacting to rid itself of the current ailment.

Sometimes the body’s response does not work in unison providing painful debilitating conditions that can last long periods of time. Inflammation is present in all parts of the body, so it’s important to understand how it could impact your life and while turmeric is not meant to treat or cure any of these conditions, it can be used as a supplement to benefit some ailments.

Joint Inflammation. There are several ailments that could be the cause of joint inflammation leading to pain, swelling, tenderness, a warming feeling of the joint, and stiffness. Rheumatoid arthritis is one inflammatory condition that causes similar symptoms like pain, stiffness and swelling in the joints.

Studies have been conducted that indicate curcumin could be beneficial to those suffering from joint inflammation because of its ability to support the body’s inflammation response.  Other studies have found that curcumin may also work as a natural painkiller providing reduction of joint pain as well as pain from other causes, like nerve damage.   

Digestive Health.  Inflammation could also be linked to the digestive system with the most common conditions being bloating, gas, diarrhea, constipation, heartburn and acid reflux. Digestive diseases such as irritable bowel syndrome, irritable bowel disease and Crohn’s are all caused when chronic inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract is present creating serious cause for concerns that need to be addressed.  Unfortunately, such diseases can not be treated with conventional medications without major side effects.

Studies have indicated that individuals with digestive diseases who supplemented curcumin along with and after stopping the standard anti-inflammatory drugs (steroids) were able to reduce or maintain their normal inflammation markers. Further, curcumin has also been linked to reduce inflammatory compounds in the intestines by strengthening the intestinal wall to prevent harmful bacteria from passing through the intestines and reaching other critical organs, such as the kidneys and liver.

Cognitive Health. Inflammation has also been linked to brain health having effects on memory and mood. Studies have linked Alzheimer’s disease—the most common form of neurodegenerative dementia—to severe cases of inflammation. When inflammatory molecules are not properly regulated, neuroinflammation can kickstart Alzheimer’s disease and rapidly progress. While not a treatment for Alzheimer’s, curcumin continues to be studied as a potential treatment that is yielding promising results.  Senior citizens in India—where curcumin is a popular staple—have a lower prevalence of Alzheimer’s disease and better cognitive performance.

Turmeric is full of flavor, color and health benefits making curcumin a noteworthy staple that should be added to any healthy diet. In selecting a turmeric supplement make sure that it contains piperine, which is a natural compound found in black pepper that helps to enhance curcumin absorption by the body.  The use of turmeric in combination with a nutrient-dense whole food plant-based diet and active lifestyle will maximize the potential benefits on your health.  

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