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Turmeric Benefits for Crohn’s Disease, IBS, or Ulcerative Colitis

turmeric crohns IBS UC

We’ve all had indigestion at some point, but have you ever suffered from chronic digestive issues? I have Crohn’s disease and sometimes eating can be quite an odyssey, as I’m not sure what foods will make me feel better or end up in a flare. No one wants to feel bloated, or full, all the time, but we do all experience it here and there.

The truth is our gut is like our brain, that’s why you’ve probably heard of “you are what you eat”. This phenomenon is called the brain and gut connection, which refers to the enteric nervous system (ENS) in our gastrointestinal tract. This “brain” allows for digestion and absorption, but may also play a bigger role in everything from anxiety, depression, irritable bowel syndrome, and day-to-day activities.1

Don’t worry though, there are definitely ways to help balance your GI tract, and turmeric extract may be the right choice for you.

What is the digestive system and what does it do?

The digestive system is composed of the mouth, esophagus, stomach, pancreas, intestines, and anus. On top of these organs, our GI tract also has a microbiome composed of active microorganisms that help in digestion and fermentation of nutrients and waste products.2 Each component is responsible for breaking down food and absorbing nutrients.

Many enzymes in each of these organs are responsible for transporting nutrients and allowing our bodies to absorb the final products, such as glucose, amino acids, and fatty acids.

If something in the digestive tract isn’t working well, then our bodies have a way of announcing these digestive issues. If you ever felt fatigued, or have cramps, or you are bloated, then most likely something isn’t functioning like it should.

These may signs of things like irritable bowel syndrome, or a more serious condition like Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis. However, there are some natural ways that you can treat your digestive problems, and turmeric extract is a promising option.

Crohn’s Disease

Crohn’s disease is one of the autoimmune diseases that comprise the term inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). This disease affects the whole gastrointestinal tract, causing the immune system to attack healthy gastrointestinal tissue. The inflammation can cause fistulas, which can lead to blockages, and may lead to intestinal obstructions that will require surgery. In severe cases, this disease can cause malabsorption and malnutrition, requiring the individual to rely on medical nutrition therapy through a feeding tube or central line catheter.

turmeric for crohns disease

A 2014 meta-analysis review on the potential use of curcumin as therapy for IBD, showed the benefits of using curcumin to reduce inflammation through its inhibition of the NF-κB pathway and p38 MAPK in the intestinal mucosa. This in turn allows intestinal mucosa to regain structure, prevent degradation, and allow for better signal transduction.1 Curcumin can then be an effective way to help patients suffering from Crohn’s disease in reducing inflammation and promoting motility in a more tolerable way.

A 2019 randomized, double-blind study, evaluated the efficacy of 360 mgs a day of curcumin in patients with Crohn’s disease. Thirty-one patients were evaluated for 12 weeks, and the group that received this dose of curcumin showed significant improved results after a clinical and endoscopic evaluation as compared to the placebo control group. Particularly, curcumin seemed to improve scarring of the longitudinal ulcers and allowed healing of the mucosa.2 Along with other medical therapy, curcumin can be added to improve prognosis of lesions and inflammation in patients with Crohn’s disease.

Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) and Curcumin

A 2019 review study showed the effects of curcumin in intestinal inflammatory disease, including Crohn’s and ulcerative colitis. The study focused on the inflammatory effects of these diseases on the intestinal barrier, which in the longer term leads to bacterial translocation, generalized chronic inflammation, and even sepsis in some cases. Because curcumin has demonstrated anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, many studies have focused on its effect in IBD.

Curcumin can reduce mechanisms of inflammation, which include cytokines and reactive oxygen species (ROS), by inhibiting their actions and preventing the activation of pro-inflammatory pathways.

These are mechanisms that we acquire through environmental exposure, but also through an unhealthy diet high in saturated fats or processed foods. If these pathways aren’t blocked, the result is discomfort, swelling, and even diarrhea or constipation.

Since it is an affordable and tolerable treatment, curcumin could be added to IBD treatment and help in reducing systemic inflammation. This review concluded:

The culmination of the vast number of effects of curcumin on the intestinal epithelium and immune system is to strengthen the intestinal barrier through a reduction in bacterial translocation and inflammation.” 3

While turmeric is a dietary supplement and not a medication, its properties have been widely studied due to its ability to significantly reduce inflammation pathways, but more recent studies have focused on other properties.

Turmeric Effects on Gut Bacteria

The 2020 study Microbial-Based and Microbial-Targeted Therapies for Inflammatory Bowel Diseases, discussed how curcumin can promote protective bacteria growth, acting as a prebiotic, which could result in better peristalsis and movement in the gut, as well as better absorption.4

Healthy bacteria is usually lacking in patients with IBS or IBD, so consuming foods that promote their growth can help battle symptoms like constipation, bloating, and excessive gas production. Healthy microbiota has been thought to be a key factor as a protective effect in people that don’t have gastrointestinal issue.

Friendly and unfriendly gastrointestinal bacteria, 3D illustration. Good, Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium, and bad, Helicobacter pylori and Shigella dysenteriae, gut bacteria. Human microbiome

A 2018 randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study evaluated the effect of curcumin on microorganism growth in the human microbiota. Subjects were assigned to 3 different groups, turmeric tablets with extract of piperine (BioPerine® ) (n = 6), curcumin with BioPerine®  tablets (n = 5), or placebo tablets (n = 3).

The placebo group showed a 15% reduction in all microbiota species, while the turmeric experienced a 69% increase in evaluated microorganisms, which included
Clostridium spp., Bacteroides spp., Citrobacter spp., Cronobacter spp., Enterobacter spp., Enterococcus spp., Klebsiella spp., Parabacteroides spp., and Pseudomonas spp.

The high potency curcumin displayed better results, as opposed to the placebo group that showed a decrease in microbiota.1 This study shows how turmeric, particularly high dose turmeric extract can positively increase certain microorganisms in the gut, all of which help promote digestion, nutrient absorption, and decrease transit time.

Ulcerative Colitis (UC)

Ulcerative colitis is another inflammatory bowel disease caused by a dysregulation of the immune system, resulting in chronic inflammation of the large intestine (colon) and rectum. This disease causes chronic ulcers that result in bloody diarrhea, pain, rectal bleeding, and malabsorption. Ulcerative colitis requires treatment with steroidal medications, biological agents, or immunosuppressive drugs.

Types of Ulcerative Colitis. The diagram shows the types of UC, from the proctitis, (involving just the rectum), to the pancolitis, (involving the entire colon).

A 2011 case study evaluated the effect of curcumin on a 60 year woman that had recurring ulcerations and had failed to get better through multiple mesalamine preparations (oral and rectal), sulfasalazine, and steroid enemas, and had required multiple courses of steroids.

After a year on 500 mgs of curcumin along with 40 mgs of prednisone a day, the same woman was in remission with regular bowel movements and no significant signs of ulceration. Curcumin is believed to have a significant inhibitory effect on inducible nitric oxide synthase (iNOS) and the nuclear factor kappa B (NF-κB), resembling sulfasalazine in terms of mechanism of action.1 This is a good case for the use of curcumin along with traditional medical treatments to reduce inflammation and ulceration.

A 2018 meta-analysis review on the use of curcumin as an adjuvant therapy for ulcerative colitis evaluated 380 patients (Curcumin n=188; Placebo n=192) and found a statistically significant improvement on ulceration and on endoscopic response in the curcumin + mesalamine group. The same group showed a decrease in stool frequency and nausea.2 This study is significant in proving that curcumin could aid other therapeutic treatments and lower side effects, such as diarrhea, nausea, or bloating.

Turmeric Supplements and Dosage

Instead of consuming laxatives that can be harsh on your small and large intestine, you could try adding a bit of turmeric for digestion and see results without putting your body through strain.

For controlling inflammation, most people rely on NSAIDs like ibuprofen, but some recent evidence has found that these medications can end in gastric ulcers5, ultimately worsening your symptoms. In contrast, turmeric extract is considered safer and has fewer side effects than over-the-counter or prescription anti-inflammatories.

Take into account though that for turmeric to work, it should be turmeric extract, not turmeric powder. For inflammation, many studies used 500-2000 mgs of turmeric extract per day for approximately 1-month for maximum relief and therapeutic benefits.

Active Atoms Turmeric Extract contains 750 mgs of turmeric extract and 5 mgs of BioPerine® in ONE capsule making it 15x stronger than many turmeric supplements and truly one of highest potency turmeric products available.

You can learn more about the optimal daily dose of turmeric by reading this article:

What is the Optimal Turmeric Dosage for Inflammation?

What is the difference between turmeric extract and turmeric powder?

You may have cooked with turmeric powder, but it is important to know that turmeric extract contains a higher percentage of active compounds called curcuminoids. Curcumin, one of the most popular and researched-backed curcuminoids, contains powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. The most potent formulation of turmeric extract is composed of 95% curcuminoids giving it a major advantage over turmeric powder which contains only 4-6% curcuminoids.

Unfortunately, turmeric powder is unlikely to provide you with the therapeutic benefits shown in the studies because these studies mostly used turmeric extract. In order to get enough curcumin daily, you would have to consume an unrealistic amount of turmeric powder. On top of impotency problems, turmeric powder is shown to have poor absorption and metabolism without the addition of black pepper extract to enhance bioavailability.

Picking a Turmeric Supplement

For digestive health, the benefits of turmeric extract seem too good to ignore especially if you have tried everything else to feel better. It’s worth a try, but you should know several factors about picking a potent, bioavailable, and safe turmeric supplement.

Get enough Turmeric Extract per capsule

The dosage of many turmeric supplements are too low since they only provide 50-150 mgs of turmeric extract per capsule. The rest of their capsules are filled with turmeric powder because it’s cheaper to source allowing companies to increase their profit margins. We understand if they choose to sell a low dose turmeric, but it becomes a problem when these companies advertise that they have the “highest potency turmeric available” when, in fact, they do not.

Supplement companies are really good at marketing and labeling their products to give you the perception they have a high potency product. Be vigilant when reading their supplement facts labels including the serving size to verify how much turmeric extract is provided in each capsule.

We have written a revealing article comparing 5 top-selling turmeric brands on Amazon and how they use clever marketing tactics to make their product look better than it really is. There are screenshots provided with an in-depth analysis of their labels.

You can read the article here:

Misleading claims about Turmeric – 5 examples and how to read labels

Check for Absorption

In addition to the amount of turmeric extract per capsule, there are other considerations to look for when choosing the best turmeric supplement.

As mentioned before, turmeric extract has poor absorption without black pepper extract. BioPerine® is a patented form a black pepper extract which is shown to increase the absorption of turmeric by 2000% making it an essential addition to your turmeric supplement.

Although “you are what you eat” is true, its more accurate to say “you are what you absorb.” Eating turmeric powder without black pepper would like doing laundry without detergent which is why Active Atoms Turmeric Extract contains 5 mgs of BioPerine® per capsule.

Check for Lead Testing

Lastly, be sure to pick a turmeric supplement that is tested for lead. It’s hard to believe, but lead contamination is a major concern with turmeric products.

This ugly truth was brought into light by a 2019 Stanford study that discovered people in Bangladesh were getting lead poisoning from their local turmeric powder. You would think most companies would disclose their lab results for lead testing, but to our knowledge, we are the only company who provides full transparency by disclosing our lab results on our website. We are likely the only ones because most turmeric companies don’t send their turmeric to an independent lab to test for lead.

We have regularly sent our turmeric to an independent lab to test for lead ever since we began our company and we will continue to invest in the health and safety of our customers by testing for lead.

If you want more information about picking a top-tier turmeric then read this article:

3 tips to choose the best turmeric supplement

The Takeaway

As always, before you consume a turmeric supplement, it is best to consult with a doctor. The Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation recommends using turmeric with care6, as some individuals may experience side effects like bloating. It is especially important to be careful with high concentrations of turmeric if you are on blood thinners, as it may increase the risk of bleeding.

Remember that for the best turmeric supplement to work you must also do your part and take care of your body with enough sleep, exercise, a balanced diet, and managing stress. This is considered the whole-person approach to reducing inflammation and it will certainly help your digestion.

Now that you know what turmeric can do for you, consider protecting your digestive system and whole body with it before other diseases develop and affect your quality of life. Don’t waste more time feeling tired and down, consult about Active Atoms Turmeric Extract to change your digestion and health today!

About Dr. Marc Robinson, PT, DPT, Cert. MDT