It was my original intent when I started these weekly posts to mix in a larger volume of these “Quick Tips.” While every post contains tips, due to my enthusiasm and the complexity of the topics involved, the “quick” aspect has seemed to fall by the wayside. I start with good intentions, but the next thing you know I’m blazing past the 1500 word mark (and with the inclusion of this introduction, appear to be on track to doing it again here.)
We tried this before with Vitamin D, but again, it’s a complex subject if you want to know why to do something and not just take my word for it. (Although I do appreciate the vote of confidence.) Well here goes attempt number two at a truly “quick tip” that you can research, share with others and hopefully implement into your own life.
Today we are talking about the powdered, yellow, curry spice known as turmeric. More specifically we are focusing on curcumin, which is the major constituent of the spice turmeric and the part that allegedly possesses anti-aging, anti-oxidant, anti-inflammatory, even anti-tumor properties. Tumeric, a spice native to southeast Asia and derived from a root similar to ginger, has long been utilized in ancient and alternative medicine. As the combination of research and positive personal experiences grows, turmeric gains more and more clout as a legitimate natural remedy for a plethora of issues.
Much of the resistance to turmeric’s acceptance is due to the fact that a large portion of research that has been done with the spice has been done on animals. While the studies do demonstrate some amazing outcomes, there is understandable uncertainty about its potential on us humans. The other obvious angle of resistance comes from those who have the market cornered with their chemically synthesized pills and therefore face an astronomical threat to their bottom line if natural remedies like this continue to gain momentum.
But alas, we’re not here to talk conspiracies, at least not in a “quick” post that is quickly coasting toward 500 words. So let’s look at a couple of proposed mechanisms of how turmeric can benefit you.
In our bodies there exists a protein called glutathione. Glutathione is the major intracellular anti-oxidant in our body. This means it protects all of the tissues in our body from the potential hazards that come about as a bi-product of our cells functioning throughout the day. Without it tissue damage occurs, function changes or declines, an inflammatory state begins to flourish, and as we know, inflammation is the culprit behind countless pathologies. The point is glutathione is very important. Curcumin (extracted from turmeric) has been shown to lessen the depletion of Glutathione due to the inevitable oxidative stress.
This becomes even more important when we are exposed to environmental toxins, as we all are (some more than others) on a daily basis. So now, in addition to the by-products of normal function that glutathione must breakdown, it now must deal with toxins from the outside world. This leads to a ramped up depletion of our glutathione levels and tissue destruction. Wouldn’t it be beneficial to attenuate this depletion as much as possible? We’re talking about protection to any and all cells of your body, including your brain, liver and heart cells.
When speaking of the brain specifically, mounting research suggests that the curcumin contained in turmeric can lessen cognitive decline, which is the main feature of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Research reported as far back as 2008 found that curcumin significantly reduced the presence of the beta-amyloid plaques that are a hallmark of Alzheimer’s disease. It is because of this that turmeric is being touted as neuroprotective.
Another key mechanism by which turmeric can prove advantageous is in helping regulate our immune systems. Without getting into too much detail, turmeric can help to dampen the response of NF-kB and TH-17 cells, both of which, when activated and left unregulated can contribute to auto-immunity. Now we are talking about your Hashimoto’s (hypothyroidism), rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, etc.
In addition to auto-immunity and inflammation, promising laboratory research has demonstrated curcumin’s ability to reduce a protein in cells known as MDM2, which is associated with the formation of malignant tumors. Researchers are optimistic as to curcumin’s potential when it comes to pancreatic, breast, colon, and prostate cancer.
An interesting correlation to note here is that the incidence of prostate cancer in India is amongst the lowest in the world (ten times less than that of the United States). Interestingly, consistent intake of turmeric by Indian men in the form of curry, is amongst the highest in the world.
With all the upside and the body of active research growing and growing, a simple addition of this spice to your cabinet appears to be a solid step in the right direction. If someone has specific issues like heightened inflammation or auto-immunity, higher doses can be obtained through supplementation under specific direction of your healthcare professional. However, a proactive step would be to swipe out the salt for some turmeric. Conveniently you can keep the black pepper as it assists in your body’s absorption of the turmeric. I have personally incorporated turmeric as my standard seasoning for chicken, turkey and the occasional grass fed beef. The key here is to do your best to remain proactive. It’s a whole lot easier to constantly check and tighten the wheels, rather than frantically and desperately react to them when they fall off.
On a somber note, thoughts and prayers to the athletes, their families, and all others affected by the recent act of terrorism in Boston. And to everyone else, keep your eyes open and be safe out there, but keep livin’. Carpe Diem, because you truly never know.
Bioorganic and Medicinal Chemistry Letters. 2010 April 1; 18 (7): 2631-2638.