Along with ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease is also clubbed as an inflammatory bowel disease that causes inflammation of the intestines.
Unlike ulcerative colitis that is found mostly in the colon and rectum, Crohn’s occurs in any part of the intestine.
It could form in patches with healthy tissue surrounding it and then spread deeper inside the tissues. People can suffer from fistulas, ulcers, anal fissure and malnutrition because of Crohn’s disease.
Symptoms include watery or bloody diarrhoea, fever, abdominal pain, loss of appetite and weight loss since the intestine does not absorb all the required nutrients.
There is no specific cause of Crohn’s disease although a faulty immune system usually triggers it.
Genetics, consuming diets high in saturated fat and sugar and low in vegetables and fruits, cigarette smoking and people of European or Jewish descent are more vulnerable to contracting Crohn’s.
There is no cure for Crohn’s, but it can be controlled and can go into remission with medication, surgery, better diet, alternative remedies etc.
Table of Contents
- What is Turmeric?
- 6 Benefits of Turmeric for Crohn’s Disease
- Dosage of Turmeric for Crohn’s Disease
- Precautions to be taken with Turmeric
What is Turmeric?
Turmeric or Curcuma longa belongs to the same family as ginger. It has thick and fleshy rhizomes which are processed to make turmeric powder, an essential spice in South Asian cuisines.
Turmeric has been used since time immemorial for treating various diseases and ailments.
The health benefits of turmeric are believed to be as a result of an active ingredient, curcumin.
This compound has been proved to possess anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, antimalarial, antiparasitic, antioxidant, anticancer, wound healing and neuroprotective properties in recent studies.
If you want to know more, read Introduction and History of Turmeric>
Let us now discover what advantages turmeric has for Crohn’s patients.
6 Benefits of Turmeric for Crohn’s Disease
Turmeric can help in Crohn’s Disease in several ways. Turmeric is one of the best natural anti-inflammatory and analgesic agent, thus helping with reducing inflammation and pain associated with Crohn’s Disease. Turmeric’s anti-oxidant nature helps intestine cells from damage and its anti-microbial nature prevents infections in the gastrointestinal tract. Turmeric is also known to heal ulcers and also help prevent cancer in the gastrointestinal tract.
We discuss these benefits in detail below –
1. Turmeric assists in reducing inflammation in Crohn’s
Inflammatory Bowel diseases, as the name suggests occur as a result of inflammation in the digestive tract. In severe cases, the inflammation may spread to skin, eyes, joints and other organs.
The inflammatory process involves many components like immune cells, proteins, transcription factors, enzymes, and other compounds.
Nuclear factor kappa-B (NF-κB) is responsible for initiating the inflammatory process by activating the cytokines (immune cells and compounds) that are released by the immune system in the intestines.
Curcumin present in turmeric inhibits the factor NF-κB and subsequent inflammation. Thus, it can be used for treatment for IBD.
It also inhibits other inflammatory mediators like Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha (TNF-α), interleukins and prostaglandins, which cause intestinal inflammation.
Additionally, it suppresses the production and functioning of nitric oxide and enzymes like cyclooxygenase, phospholipase, collagenase, elastase, hyaluronidase and lipoxygenase which play a vital role in bringing about inflammation.
Moreover, curcumin has stronger anti-inflammatory properties than other Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen and aspirin.
These drugs not only have side effects but are sometimes the very reason for the development and worsening of Crohn’s disease.
It protects the intestinal mucus from injury and reduces the risk of diarrhea if given before the occurrence of IBDs. Thus, it can also be used to prevent IBDs from happening.
A study published in the Journal of Gastrointestinal and liver diseases reports that curcumin and fennel essential oils, due to their anti-inflammatory properties, help in treating bowel disorders like IBD and improve digestion. They improve well being in patients by relieving their symptoms and abdominal pain.
Curcumin has anti-cancer and anti-inflammatory properties and its effects were studied in those with IBD. Mucosal biopsies of those with Crohn’s were cultured and treated with curcumin.
There were signs that curcumin suppressed inflammatory mediators in both adults and children, therefore offering hope for those with IBD like Crohn’s disease.
Turmeric has a volatile oil fraction that has anti-inflammatory benefits. This is even stronger in curcumin that is the main pharmacological agent of turmeric.
Studies have found that curcumin’s anti-inflammatory benefits are on par with corticosteroids and phenylbutazone and other anti-inflammatory drugs.
What does this mean?
Turmeric is useful in reducing inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract in Crohn’s patients. It inhibits inflammatory mediators and is better than NSAIDs.
2. Turmeric benefits in relieving pain in Crohn’s patients
Abdominal pain and cramps are common symptoms of Crohn’s disease. The erosion of the mucous lining of intestines and inflammation leads to pain, discomfort, and disruption of normal activities of the patient.
Curcumin, an active constituent in Turmeric has analgesic properties. Its analgesic properties have been studied in different types of medical conditions.
In animal models, it has been shown to inhibit pain that arises as a result of inflammation, such as in Crohn’s cases.
For Crohn’s disease, pain-relieving drugs may be given to patients, but they have side effects and are not safe for health.
Instead, natural analgesics can be used. Curcumin is as effective as diclofenac (a commonly used painkiller) in relieving pain.
In studies, it was also found that curcumin in turmeric also helps in reducing toxicity caused by paracetamol which is an analgesic. Thus, it helps in protecting the body cells from toxicity resulting from other pain attenuating drugs.
In a study of 207 suitable volunteers with symptoms of IBD, 1 or 2 standardized turmeric extract tablets were given daily for a total of 8 weeks.
After this period, it was found that there was a significant improvement in symptoms in both 1 and 2 tablet groups.
There was a reduction of 22% (1 tablet) and 25% (2 tablets) in pain and discomfort also. There was an improvement in bowel pattern and 2/3rds of all subjects treated said their symptoms were better after treatment. This shows that turmeric could reduce symptoms of IBD like Crohn’s and more placebo-controlled studies are required.
In a study of 4-5 patients with Crohn’s, it was found that when given curcumin of 360mg, 3 times daily for a month and then 360mg, 4 times daily for 2 months, there was an improvement in their condition.
Patients are advised to refer to the instructions on the label when taking turmeric supplements for Crohn’s.
What does this mean?
Turmeric can help in dealing with abdominal pain, is as good as pain relieving drugs and helps in combating toxicity caused by these drugs in the body.
3. Turmeric has potent antioxidants
Antioxidants are required by the body to fight toxins and other harmful substances. Our body produces free radicals and reactive oxygen species as byproducts of several biochemical reactions.
These free radicals are unstable and attack body cells and tissues to derive ions from these cells, to stabilize themselves.
A surge in free radicals develops oxidative stress in the body which damages tissues and also causes diseases like cancer.
Intestines contain microbes, food particles, and enzymes. They are sites for the production of free radicals. Free radicals are also produced as a result of the body’s inflammatory and repair processes.
When the inflammation of intestines occurs in Crohn’s disease, reactive species are generated which could further damage the intestinal cells and the mucosal linings.
IBD is characterized by oxidative stress, the presence of pro-inflammatory cytokines etc.
In a study on mice, they were given 50mg / kg body weight of curcumin for 10 days and they suffered less from colon disruption and diarrhea. Higher doses of 100 or 300mg / kg had similar effects.
There was a decrease in lipid peroxidation and reduced serine protease activity also. These findings suggest curcumin could be an excellent treatment option for IBD like Crohn’s.
In two studies involving 99 patients, a combination of mainstream therapy of mesalamine, corticosteroids or sulfasalazine were given with curcumin.
There was a significant improvement in symptoms. Some patients could reduce their corticosteroid dosage and others stopped taking it altogether. This shows that turmeric may be a safe and less expensive alternative therapy for IBD like UC and Crohn’s.
What does this mean?
Antioxidants in turmeric protect the intestinal cells from damage and injury and ease the symptoms of Crohn’s.
4. Turmeric has anti-microbial nature
Human gut normally contains many bacteria which help in the process of digestion. The imbalance in the level of gut microbes can cause infections and trigger an immune response.
This can further lead to the occurrence of Crohn’s disease.
Moreover, in Crohn’s patients, when the disease progresses, it causes the development of abscesses and fissures which are sites of possible infections.
Thus, curcumin can be beneficial in preventing immune reaction and infections in the intestines and maintaining healthy gut flora.
What does this mean?
Turmeric can tackle the bacteria in intestines which trigger an immune response and prevent infections in the gastrointestinal tract.
5. Turmeric helps in treating ulcers
Sometimes, the inflammation in intestines is so severe that it results in the development of ulcers in the stomach and intestines. This occurs when the mucosal lining of the gut is reduced due to microbial infection or the effect of NSAIDs.
Through inhibiting inflammation, microbial infection and gastric acid secretion, curcumin demonstrates an anti-ulcer effect and prevents cell damage and the progression of Crohn’s disease.
In a study, patients with gastric ulcers were given 600mg turmeric filled in capsules five times daily. Turmeric was successful in treating ulcers in patients.
While some patients showed positive results after four weeks, others reported the absence of ulcers after 8 or 12 weeks.
What does this mean?
Turmeric is beneficial in treating ulcers which occur as a result of Crohn’s disease.
6. Turmeric reduces chances of cancer in Crohn’s disease
Inflammation is closely linked with the occurrence of cancer.
The inflammatory process causes the release of reactive oxygen species that damage DNA in the cells and cause tissue injury.
If Crohn’s is not treated or if the disease progresses in an individual without any improvements, chances of developing complications like ulcers, abscesses, fissures and cancer increase. It can lead to the occurrence of colon cancer.
The safety and efficacy of curcumin present in turmeric in treating cancer, inhibiting tumour growth and progression, suppressing the proliferation and killing of cancer cells have been established by many trials and studies.
Also, due to its anti-inflammatory nature and antioxidant activity, it can prevent the occurrence of cancer.
What does this mean?
Turmeric aids in preventing cancers in the gastrointestinal tract which occur due to inflammation in Crohn’s disease.
Dosage of Turmeric for Crohn’s Disease
There is no particular dosage of turmeric for Crohn’s patients. However, turmeric can be included in the diet to ease the symptoms and prevent the disease.
Before including turmeric in the diet for therapeutic uses or taking curcumin supplements, always consult with your medical practitioner.
Start with small amounts of ¼ to ½ tsp a day and gradually increase by ¼ to ½ per week, if no adverse effects are seen.
One teaspoon thrice is the daily recommended dose of turmeric.
Turmeric milk and turmeric tea are excellent ways to facilitate turmeric intake. Turmeric powder can be added to various dishes as a spice.
Use of Golden paste is recommended to benefit more from turmeric’s properties. The Golden paste is prepared by adding black pepper and healthy fats to turmeric, to increase its absorption by the body.
Turmeric and curcumin are not easily absorbed by the body due to their reduced bioavailability. (Read How to Improve Turmeric’s Bioavailability?)
The dosage may differ from one person to another based on their tolerance levels.
Precautions to be taken with Turmeric
Turmeric is safe for consumption and seldom causes side effects. However, precautions are required for certain individuals or when taking turmeric or curcumin supplements. (Read Side Effects of Turmeric)
During pregnancy and lactation, turmeric should be avoided.
Persons suffering from gallbladder obstruction and bleeding disorders should also avoid turmeric, or consult with the doctor before taking it.
Avoid taking turmeric on an empty stomach as it can cause acid reflux. (Read Does Turmeric cause acid reflux?)
Maintain a gap of 3-4 hours between turmeric intake and other medications, as turmeric can interfere with their working mechanisms.
Turmeric has several health benefits for Crohn’s patients. It helps in reducing gastrointestinal inflammation, relieves abdominal pain, protects body cells from damage and injury and helps in dealing with stress.
It prevents the chances of having infections, ulcers and cancer and also assists in treating these conditions. It can be used safely in cases of Crohn’s disease without any adverse effects on health.
It is very versatile and can be easily incorporated into the diet. If taken with certain precautions, turmeric can help in treating Crohn’s.