Before I ever started to appreciate the benefits of Turmeric, I encountered it for the first time, during my college days, when my Indian friend, Ranjit, opened up his packed lunch, to unleash the spicy aroma, which emanated from his food, and directly to my nostrils.
He had just microwaved his food, and uncovered it to reveal some white rice and chicken covered in orange sauce, mixed in with the distinct tangy smell of the turmeric spice, on a white enamel plate. That momen would elicit a visual and mouth-watering sensory overload that became permanently etched in my brain.
I didn’t utter a word though, because back then, my myopic view of the world was reinforced by my upbringing as a Generation X kid, for whom trying new things was not a popular phenomenon. So at the time, it seemed like my torment from Ranjit’s stupendous lunches would continue indefinitely.
My lunches generally consisted of homemade sandwiches or a convenient meal of “burger and fries” from the school canteen, which was in direct contrast to Ranjit’s meals, which could have passed for a king’s dinner; so as a self-defence mechanism, I would feign disinterest and pretend that my sandwiches were just as delicious as his Turmeric infused lunches.
They were not!
And if my Indian friend noticed any of my constant hungry glances at his plate, he never reacted to it, as we settled into an unspoken acceptance of discussing everything under the sun, except food, even though our lunches together were the rare moments we could converse freely without interruption.
We were young and naïve and ignorance was bliss.
It wasn’t till after graduation, that I encountered the spicy condiment called Turmeric again. By that time, it had become popular in the West and was being touted as a big deal. This had coincided with my decision to become more health conscious and focus on the quality of my meals instead of mere satiation.
Turmeric had become a staple of health around the world by then, stocked in every health and grocery store, with its bright orange colour, highlighted through transparent glass bottles and catching the eye of the public and health enthusiasts, and hawked at premium prices.
I imagine Indians would have looked on in amusement at the sudden craze and stampede for a spice, which they and their ancestors had cultivated from the land and used for health and medicinal purposes for centuries.
Nowadays, I use Turmeric regularly with my meals, as a coffee creamer for my morning caffeine fix, and as a supplement in capsule form for additional convenience, ensuring I do not miss the numerous health benefits that can be derived from regular use of this super spice.
So What is Turmeric?
It is a tall plant that is grown mostly in India and other Asian countries, but the resilience of the plant means the growth has spread across different parts of the world today, and it can even be grown indoors. The spice that we eat is actually extracted from the roots of the plant and ground into powder form, in which one of the key components is Curcumin.
Turmeric Vs Curcumin?
With Curcumin being the potent ingredient of Turmeric, you will find that they have similar benefits, and are available as supplements under each respective name. Rest assured, the margins between both depend on purity or combination of ingredients the manufacturer implements in the product, which determines the delivery system used for absorption into the body.
So it shouldn’t become too confusing about which supplement will benefit you the most. For starters, just use natural Turmeric from your grocery store in the food you eat, and there are even creamers for your beverages too.
However, If you are in search of a recommendation, then our choice would be this Curcumin in capsule form, that has been clinically studied and has 29 times greater absorption rate than others in the market.
Turmeric and inflammation
Turmeric is used to tackle a variety of issues and symptoms, but generally regarded as one of the supplements to reduce inflammation in the body
So what is Inflammation?
Inflammation is a natural defence mechanism activated of the body, which is designed to;
- Activate the immune system by channelling the white blood cells or leukocytes, to fight off injuries or infection and protect the internal organs from viruses and bacteria. Without inflammation, injuries would fester and deteriorate, so the body activates this mechanism to protect itself.
- However, Inflammation cannot go on indefinitely and will become detrimental to tissues and joints if unchecked or prolonged, leading to chronic diseases like Arthritis. Antioxidants are substances that reduce or halt inflammation to prevent this and are either produced by the body’s own cells or boosted from healthy foods.
What causes inflammation?
Inflammation occurs as a defensive reaction to an undesirable event in the body and most times, and can be;
Acute Inflammation – This is the instant reaction to a sprain or cut or traumatic injury
Chronic Inflammation – This could be a longer-term reaction from prolonged exposure to triggers like stress or pollution. Usually, removing these triggers within an adequate length of time halts or reverses the symptoms.
A non-exhaustive list of the causes of Inflammation may include;
- Unwanted foreign bodies in the form like infections from viruses or bacteria
- Mild or traumatic injuries
- Mild or Chronic stress
- Continuous exposure allergies from environmental factors like polluted air and water, processed or inflammatory foods and drinks, products like plastic, leather
- An increased production of Free radicals in the body from oxidation, which can also be aggravated by all of the above
Naturally, the human body is powered by metabolic processes generated from oxidative cellular activity, which produces energy required for normal body functionality and in the process .produces a by-product known as Free radicals.
The oxidative process can be observed in metal rust, where the oxidative process of the cells, strip away the outer layer, exposing unsightly brown patches, so yes! Nasty stuff.
Free radicals are bad for the body as they are made up of unstable atoms that can disrupt other normal functioning cells of the body turning them into rogue cells. Apart from the body’s own production of Free radicals, inflammation from any of the external factors mentioned earlier, simply aggravates the problem and becomes dangerous.
A build –up of Free radicals in the body can cause damage to like premature grey hair, hair loss, skin and eyesight disease, and can extend to debilitating diseases like cancer and diabetes.
Thankfully, our body produces Antioxidants which counteract the effects of Free radicals, but aging causes us to lose the ability to produce these Antioxidants, which is where foods or supplements that are high in antioxidants are recommended, of which Turmeric is a part of.
how to fight inflammation
Bearing in mind that Inflammation is a defensive reaction by the immune system to protect the body, it becomes detrimental when the immune system either loses its DNA instruction either from malfunctioning or an external attack.
In order to help the immune system fight free radicals, build up antioxidants, and function properly, the following are recommended;
- Diet is key! And you can’t go wrong with food, especially foods that high in anti-oxidants, and boost the cell’s ability to fight Free radicals. Popular foods that fall into this category and are include;
- Leafy Vegetables like Kale, Spinach, Artichoke, Broccoli, Red Cabbage, Onions
- Low Glycaemic fruits like Strawberry, Raspberries, Goji Berries Raisins, Apples and Plum
- Legumes like Regular and Kidney Beans,
- Nuts like Pecan Nuts
- Hydration from water is also key!
- Calm and meditative exercises like yoga, can relax our minds and put us in a tranquil state, which encourages the production of Serotonin, a powerful antioxidant chemical that can reduce the oxidative stress in the brain leading to inflammation.
Serotonin sends out signals of calmness throughout the body, and in its absence, Free radicals will thrive, putting us in a state of stress, tension, anxiety, and possibly depression. Exposure to this stressed state over a prolonged period further exposes us to the risk of disease.
Meditation goes hand in hand with oxygenation, which creates transportation channels that allow blood circulation, infused with oxygen, to flow from the lungs, to the brain, and the rest of the body. This is why breathing techniques are popular with meditative exercises to ensure that the brain gets adequate oxygen to encourage calmness and facilitate the production of serotonin.
- Sleep may be the most important aspect of addressing inflammation because of its restorative abilities during the restful period, translated to optimal performance when we are awake.
The body is a 24-hour machine that never rests, and continues to work when we sleep, cycling through different sleep stages, with each stage performing some restorative work for the tissues and organs of the body especially the brain.
This restorative process promotes cell rejuvenation by encouraging healthy purposeful cells and banishing tired and old ones. Healthy cells are able to then produce antioxidants to fight Free radicals A lack of sleep can be devastating and perhaps one of the most dangerous health habits to omit.
- Exercise! Exercise needs to be approached with care to ensure that the benefits outweigh the negatives, and this is simply because Exercise can increase Free radicals if implemented ineffectively.
It is deliberate stress, exerted on the body, which initially can increase the occurrence of Free radicals, but encouraged because it can elicit an even greater adaptive response from the body’s production of antioxidants, which with consistency, trains the body, as well as the mind, to become more efficient at managing stress.
For exercise to be effective, overexertion is to be avoided, as this can produce the opposite effect of weakening the body, whereas too little exertion will derive little or no benefits. That’s why we recommend DOSE, which excels in determining the level of performance and rest, suited to the individual’s unique needs.
For best results, exercise should be performed with a goal in mind, within a specific period of time and combined with diet, meditation and sleep in order to create an environment where it thrives in fighting inflammation rather than aggravating it.
To summarize ;
- Inflammation is a defense mechanism that the body initiates to fight off disease and injury
- Free radicals are produced by the body’s oxidative process as well as external sources, like stress, anxiety, processed food, polluted air, water, among other things
- Prolonged exposure to free radicals can lead to malfunction of the body’s inflammatory process.
- Continued inflammation is bad and can lead to Chronic diseases like Arthritis, Depression and Alzheimer’s
- The body naturally produces antioxidants that neutralize free radicals and maintain homeostasis, by dispersing the inflammatory process after it has completed its function.
- As we age, we lose the ability to produce these antioxidants, leaving us in a toxic environment where damaged or compromised cells from free radicals start to regenerate, which is how diseases like cancer begin.
- Diet, Oxygenation, Sleep, and Exercise are natural and fundamental sources of increasing antioxidant levels to help protect and maintain the body
- Turmeric is an important spice supplement, which can be added to our diet to help maintain or boost antioxidant production in order to fight disease, and aging.
the benefits of turmeric
There are many benefits of Turmeric, summarized into the following categories;
- Treatment and Prevention of Gut and Bowel Diseases like IBS
- Boosting Brain Function and Reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s or Dementia
- Preventing Degenerative Heart Disease
- Prevent and Treat Cancer Cells
- Treatment of Swollen Tissues and Joints and disease like Arthritis
- Act as an Antiseptic and Antibacterial for Skin Care
- Treatment and Prevention of Gut and Bowel Diseases like IBS
The gut is the distribution centre of the digestive system, from where organs like the large and small intestines disperse food to the rest of the body, so the consequences can be quite severe if compromised, preventing vital nutrients from being absorbed.
Debilitating diseases like Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), which can cause painful and embarrassing bloating, gas and diarrhoea is an example of gut disease caused by inflammation, and which prevent s absorption of food.
By introducing Turmeric, it targets the inflammation in the area, allowing for permeability of the small finger like villi in the intestines, and correcting the absorption malfunction.
As a preventative measure, Turmeric is taken to maintain gut flora and keep the health bacteria safe from the effects of harmful free radicals and inflammation.
- Turmeric can Boost Brain Function and Minimize the Risk of Disease
Inflammation in the body, naturally extends to the brain, and because of this, supplementing with Turmeric is believed to improve mood and brain cognition, especially in older people who have memory related illnesses or complaints.
By targeting the cells in the brain, it can;
- Improve mood and cognition
- Fight Depression
- Tackle the cobwebs from the build-up of inflammatory protein plaques in the brain that cause Alzheimer’s, and can lead to Dementia.
Because memory decline is usually associated with old age, most of the studies into Turmeric have been focused on mature patients, for whom treatment has shown significant success.
This has been reinforced by the discovery of lower levels of memory-related illnesses in countries like India, where the spice is a major part of the general diet, hence, it’s endorsement as a preventative and active recourse to brain and memory functionality.
- Preventing Heart Disease
The gut and the heart combine to form a distribution system that is critical to the body, and work with each other to deliver nutrients to the all parts of the body. The gut provides the nutrients, and the blood acts as a transportation system after absorption.
Poor lifestyle choices like eating bad food and a lack of exercise will deliver poor nutrition, and make the heart work harder as it struggles to sustain its vast transportation network throughout the body, putting it under duress, which can compromise its functionality in the long run.
Remember the overexertion mentioned in exercise, and imagine that the heart is now in a constant state of exertion; the result is inflammation, which can lead to plaque build-up that calcify around the heart limiting its function and leading to heart disease.
The heart is like a muscle, and can regain normal function if strengthened from better lifestyle practises like exercise, but to nurse it back from a diseased state to normal health requires assistance from antioxidants like Turmeric which tackles free radicals and inflammation, allowing the progression to more vigorous remedies like exercise.
Again, as a preventative measure, supplementing with Turmeric can reduce the risk of heart disease.
- Prevent and Treat Cancer Cells
Our cells are constantly being created and dying in an endless cycle of growth and maintenance of the body. When the distressed cells mix with healthy cells, they transfer their compromised properties, creating a pool of unhinged cells, which start sending the wrong code to new cells.
Cancerous cells are really rogue cells that are reproducing compromised cells in place of healthy ones, which end up progressing to diseases we are familiar with, like Cancer, heart disease and dementia.
In order to tackle the free radicals and irritation of these cells, including Turmeric as part of a diet, will suppress rogue cells, while boosting body’s ability to fight for itself, before, during and after a disease has taken effect. For instance, in cancer patients, supplementing with Turmeric helps alleviate the effects of radiation.
It is that powerful!
- Treatment for Swollen Tissues and Joints
The structural design of the joints, which combines bones, tissue, and cartilage, is a remarkable assembly that combines strength and flexibility. Other parts of the body tend to adopt one of both characteristics, but rarely both.
The disadvantage is that these intricate moving parts are the first to succumb to wear and tear over time, and become susceptible to injury and disease. This is why athletes tend to experience serious or long-term injuries in this area first, and as we age, it is usually the first area of complaint in structural integrity of the body, with the knees and hip joints affected the most.
Obviously, this makes it an easy target for inflammation, which can lead to complications from diseases like Rheumatoid Arthritis, necessitating the need for antioxidants like Turmeric which can neutralize emerging and existing threats of oxidative stress.
- Antiseptic and Antibacterial for Skin Care
Turmeric is great for skin care, and is used aesthetically for better skin appearance, as well to the more serious afflictions like skin cancer.
The yellow spice has antiseptic and antibacterial qualities that fight skin blemishes, spots, skin discolouration and of course inflammation.
The many uses of Turmeric for skincare include;
- Stops the growth of skin cancer cells, which is good for chemotherapy patients
- Prevention and Remedy for Sunburn by blocking out the harmful UV rays.
- Treat scabies by destroying mite eggs
- For soothing the burning effect of Psoriasis of the skin
- Helps heal wounds and cuts to the skin faster
- Fade Acne scarring
- Facial masks for skin lightening
- Stretch marks on the skin especially under the arms and thighs
- Alleviates dry skin
- Reduces the forming of wrinkles and age spots
As awareness grows, and popularity soars, the benefits of Turmeric are being appreciated more, a be a natural remedy are being appreciated by more,
It should be noted that the success of most scientific studies have been attributed to Curcumin, which is the orange extract from the Turmeric plant roots, with a more effective delivery system in the body. Both names are used interchangeably
side effects of turmeric
While Tumeric is generally safe for use, overindulging can cause undesirable but mild symptoms. If taking supplements, the general advice is to keep to below 3 grams, but more importantly it is worth noting that none of the reported side effects are serious enough to cause a threat to life.
Some reported cases of side effects include issues like;
- Stomach upset and diarrhoea
- Decrease absorption of Iron
- If you’re medicating with blood thinners, Turmeric may not be for you as it thins the blood further
It is important to familiarize yourself with these side effects, and stop immediately if you experience any adverse symptoms, especially if using Turmeric as a food ingredient rather than a supplement capsule, which is easier to measure.
It is highly recommended that you include Turmeric in your supplemental regimen or just use it in food along with other antioxidants that can combat the oxidative stress, which is invisible to us but surely plugs away at us as we age.
Always check with your physician before starting any health and fitness program;