One of the things we advise patients at Clancy Medical Group is to follow a holistic, whole-body approach to health and wellness. In practice, this looks like a balanced diet and active lifestyle that includes regular aerobic exercise.
An important component of a balanced diet is the enormous variety of vitamins, minerals, and other compounds that occur naturally in foods and spices that offer tremendous health benefits and proven medicinal properties. One of these is curcumin, a compound found in the spice turmeric.
For centuries, the people of India have recognized these benefits, but Western medicine has spent the past few decades catching up. Since 1986, researchers have completed over 780 studies on the medicinal benefits of curcumin.
Adding Curcumin to Your Diet
You can add turmeric to a wide variety of foods. It’s most commonly found in Asian dishes, regularly used to flavor curries, rice, vegetables, and soups, and lends a beautiful, golden color to every dish.
Like many of the vitamins and minerals we need, getting enough curcumin through diet alone is difficult. In fact, curcumin is especially problematic, as the amount found in turmeric is extremely low, with the compound only making up about 3 percent of the spice. Studies demonstrate that people need at least 1 gram per day to enjoy the full benefits of curcumin, and preferably more. You’d have to eat an awful lot of curry every day to get more than a gram of curcumin through diet alone.
Luckily, supplements help you reach your goal easily, especially if you understand the best ways to help your body absorb it. Two items assist absorption are black pepper (a type of bioperine) and fat. The simplest way to improve absorption of the supplement is to swallow one or two whole peppercorns along with your curcumin, especially since we recommend following a diet low in fat.
How Does Curcumin Support a Healthy Body?
One of the greatest benefits of curcumin is its ability to fight inflammation. Even though inflammation is important to health, as it’s one of your body’s defenses against bacteria and disease, chronic inflammation is the culprit behind a wide variety of diseases and medical conditions, including cancer, Alzheimer’s, and heart disease.
Numerous studies demonstrate curcumin’s ability to fight inflammation at the molecular level, inhibiting inflammation and helping protect patients from numerous chronic diseases.
Curcumin and Arthritis
Curcumin and Brain Health
Researchers know that cognitive function declines with age, mostly due to inhibitive factors in neuron function, commonly associated with the hormonal changes that occur with age. One of these hormones is called Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF), and decreased levels of BDNF lead to a variety of neurological disorders, including Alzheimer’s disease and depression.
Scientists discovered that BDNF levels increase in rats given regular doses of curcumin. It also assisted memory, making researchers hopeful that human trials will reveal curcumin to be effective at guarding against Alzheimer’s, depression, dementia, and other chronic diseases related to neurological function.
In fact, studies have already proven curcumin’s effectiveness at clearing plaques called Amyloids, one of the defects commonly found in Alzheimer’s patients (the exact cause of Alzheimer’s is still unknown).
Researchers also conducted studies treating depression patients with curcumin, separating subjects into groups receiving treatment with Prozac, curcumin, or a combination of both. The first two groups had similar responses, proving that curcumin is as effective as antidepressants at treating depression. The third group showed the greatest improvement, showing that a combination of traditional and modern medicine may offer the best approach.
Curcumin and Cancer
Curcumin is proving to be very promising in the fight against cancer, as studies show it as a possible means of preventing, treating, and even curing the disease. Most testing to date has occurred on animals, but some tests of curcumin’s efficacy at preventing cancer in humans have occurred.
These studies demonstrate that the supplement helps inhibit and reduce cancer cell growth, and may even help destroy these cells. Much more testing is needed, of course, and cancer researchers are already hard at work looking for that link.
Curcumin and Heart Disease
One of the reasons heart disease is the world’s biggest killer is the fact that it has so many causes. Obesity, smoking, diabetes, and more all lead to heart disease. Chronic inflammation may also lead to heart disease, and we already know curcumin’s beneficial effects on inflammation.
One item, though, is a major component in this diagnosis: endothelial dysfunction. In English, this is when the lining of your blood vessels fail to do their job. What’s that job? In this instance, our main concern is the regulation of blood clotting and blood pressure. Curcumin, of course, improves endothelial function, and studies comparing it to exercise and the prescription medication Atorvastatin show that curcumin works as well as or better than both.
Another study of bypass surgery patients showed those given 4 grams of curcumin in the days immediately before and after surgery decreased their risk of heart attack by 65 percent.
If you’re ready to take a whole body approach to your health, talk to the team at Clancy Medical Group. Our goal is working with you to implement sustainable, healthy lifestyle changes to improve your overall health and quality of life.