Alcoholism in simple terms can be defined as constant craving for alcohol caused by a physical dependence, cultural influence, genetic or psychological factors.
This is a chronic and progressive disease which needs to be recognized and treated at once. Alcoholism causes many social and relationship problems. It can lead to drunk driving, causing accidents, loss of job, breaking up of the family etc.
People who come from broken homes, suffer certain adversities during childhood, smoke, are under stress, suffer from anxiety or depression can be susceptible to alcoholism.
Men suffer from this more than women. Teenagers who give in to peer-pressure or come from broken homes can also take to alcohol. A major side effect is damage to the liver. Around 16,000 people die yearly due to liver problems caused by alcohol in US alone. Alcoholics must first recognize they have a problem and get treated for it. This involves psychological and medical treatment for the symptoms, emotional support from family etc.
Turmeric and Alcoholism
Apart from conventional treatment for like prescribing tranquilizers or antidepressants for withdrawal symptoms of alcohol, doctors also need to treat other side effects.
There are alternative therapies using herbs, homeopathy and nutritional and dietary supplements that can help treat various symptoms of alcoholism.
A major side effect of alcoholism is damage to the liver since this is the major organ responsible for ethanol metabolism.
Chronic alcoholics could suffer from severe liver conditions like cirrhosis or cancer. Curcumin is the active ingredient in turmeric and this has been studied for its benefits in treating various liver conditions.
A study was conducted on the benefits of curcumin on liver of rats damaged by oxidative stress due to chronically consuming heated oil and alcohol. The rats were divided into 9 groups and given various combinations of ethanol 5mg/kg, curcumin 100mg/kg of body weight, 15% heated sunflower oil and 15% dietary sunflower oil.
These combinations were given for 12 weeks after which the liver tissue and serum samples were collected and examined from the groups treated with curcumin, ethanol and the control group not given ethanol.
All the rats given ethanol displayed signs of oxidative stress compared to the control group. However, the group receiving curcumin along with ethanol had less liver damage. This study shows that turmeric could be used to treat liver damage and oxidative stress caused by alcoholism.
Circadian clocks are found within the central nervous system of mammals. They are localized at a discrete site in the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN) in the hypothalamus (anterior part). This circadian clock is responsible for sleep / wake patterns and other important processes.
In alcoholics, the functioning of SCN can get disrupted, leading to nervous system disorders like states of consciousness resembling amnesia, loss of memory, dementia, sleep disorders, insomnia etc. Studies were conducted on the impact of excessive alcohol consumption on the circadian clock.
Curcumin was studied for its potential benefits as an anti-carcinogenic and antioxidant agent on ethanol induced rhythm changes in SCN and other parameters. It was found that treatment with curcumin resulted in partially restoring daily hormonal levels in circadian rhythms in SCN caused by ethanol.
Hence it can be concluded that turmeric could be effective in treating neurological disorders brought on by alcoholism.
Alcoholism can also cause hepatitis B virus (HBV) to infect the liver. HBV infections increase the risk of chronic liver diseases like hepatocellular carcinoma. One way to treat HBV infections is by targeting host factors that cause HBV gene expression.
This is an anti-viral strategy. It was found that using curcumin to treat cells affected by HBV was beneficial. Curcumin was able to restrict the replication and gene expression of HBV.
It has been suggested that curcumin be used as a complementary therapy along with other virus-specific treatments for HBV.
Long term treatment using curcumin and other antioxidants seems to protect DNA from damage and protect the liver from harm due to oxidative stress caused by alcoholism.
The conclusion was drawn that turmeric could be used as a therapeutic treatment for alcoholics suffering from HBV infections.
Another study was conducted on the effect of herbal mixtures in protecting alcohol-related disorders. Chronic alcoholism causes various abnormalities like liver disease, diseases of the pancreas and heart or neuron-behavioral disorders and many immune and inflammatory disorders.
The therapeutic benefits of compounds from turmeric (curcumin), kudzu root (puerarin) and soy (polyenylphosphatidylcholine) were studied. One set of laboratory rats were fed different curcumin doses and then divided into 2 groups. One group received choice of ethanol and water and the other water alone.
After 70 days of giving ethanol, it was withdrawn and withdrawal symptoms were studied. The rats given alcohol suffered from liver inflammation and severe withdrawal symptoms. The rats given curcumin had lower levels of inflammation disorders caused by alcoholism.
Hence the authors concluded that turmeric could be used to treat some disorders caused by alcoholism but could not avert disorders caused by chronic alcoholism.
Turmeric supplements for adults are available as capsules, fluid extracts or tincture. There is no pediatric dosage. The dosage for adults of standardized curcumin powder is 400-600mg thrice daily, for cut root it is 1.5-3g daily and fluid extract is 30-90 drops daily.
Bromelain is often added to turmeric supplements to improve its anti-inflammatory effects and make it more bioavailable.
Used as a spice in food, turmeric does not cause any side effects. Those with congestive heart disease, obstructive jaundice, painful gallstones, toxic liver disorders or acute bilious colic must check with their doctor before using turmeric supplements.
Excess can cause dizziness, indigestion, diarrhea, and nausea. Those with gallbladder problems and diabetes are advised to avoid these supplements.
Turmeric may slow blood clotting and hence anyone scheduled for surgery is advised to avoid them two weeks before the date.
Pregnant women are usually advised to avoid all types of herbal supplements like turmeric since it could cause uterine contractions and menstrual bleeding, putting the fetus at risk.
Since there is no data on how turmeric affects babies, breastfeeding women are also advised to avoid these supplements.