Turmeric Benefits for Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) causes abnormal contractions, of the large intestine, resulting in cramps, bloated feeling, and bouts of constipation or diarrhea.

Although this is a painful disease, it does not damage the intestines permanently.

Other symptoms of IBS could include mucus in the stool, urge to empty the bowels frequently and pain relief after doing so.

The usual cause of IBS is stress, depression, and anxiety or low levels of serotonin – the brain chemical.

Some foods like dairy products, caffeine, chocolates, carbonated beverages, alcohol, chemical additives in food, fatty foods, and artificial sweeteners could trigger bouts of IBS.

Drug therapy, herbal remedies, nutritional supplements, acupuncture, homeopathy, change in diet such as adding more fiber to diet are some ways to treat IBS.

Avoid foods that cause gas, eat a healthy diet comprising plenty of fruits and vegetables. Several home remedies like hot baths, exercise, deep breathing, etc. may also help ease symptoms of IBS.

Please feel free to use the Table of Contents below to jump to the relevant section in the article.

Turmeric and Turmeric and Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)

New studies have found that turmeric could ease intestinal ailments and has been widely used in Chinese and Indian medicine to treat indigestion, skin problems, arthritis, etc.

The antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties of turmeric could even ease symptoms of IBS and keep it in remission.

1. It reduces intestinal motility dysfunction

The dysfunction of intestinal motility (movements of the digestive system, i.e. excretion) is considered to be the main cause and symptom of the irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).

The abnormalities in the contraction reflexes of the intestines result in either increased bowel movement (diarrhoea) or constipation. These also result in abdominal cramps and pain.

In a study, powerful contraction in the colon was observed to be a reason for the occurrence of diarrhea and abdominal pain in the IBS patients.

Curcumin is known to have beneficial effects against intestinal disorders like diarrhea and constipation.

Studies have shown that the administration of curcumin can improve the condition of diarrhea by decreasing the intestinal motility.

This has a great significance in the treatment of intestinal motility dysfunction and associated abdominal pain in patients with IBS.

What does it mean?
It means use of curcumin can treat the motility related intestinal dysfunction in the IBS patients. Curcumin can treat the symptoms like diarrhoea or constipation in them.

2. It acts on the gut-brain axis to relieve IBS symptoms

The role of the enteric nervous system (ENS) or intrinsic nervous system is critical in the development of irritable bowel syndrome.

The ENS is involved in the function of the gastrointestinal tract through serotonin (a neurotransmitter) that controls intestinal motility, secretion and blood flow.

The ENS, gastrointestinal wall along with central nervous system (CNS) and endocrine glands (hypothalamus, adrenal, and pituitary) consist of the gut-brain axis.

The abnormalities in serotonin signaling affect the functioning of the gastrointestinal tract giving rise to the irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).

BDNF (a protein involved in the growth and survival of neurons) also contributes to the abdominal pain in the IBS. Its increased level in the mucosa of the colon is found to be correlated with the pain.

Curcumin has the potential to combat this issue as well.

In a study on an IBS model, curcumin was found to act on the gut-brain axis by regulating the levels of serotonin and BDNF.

This activity exerted beneficial effects by improving the signaling of these molecules in the brain as well as intestine, which led to improvement in the IBS symptoms.

What does it mean?
Curcumin administration can improve the altered signalling in the gut-brain axis. This has beneficial effects on the symptoms of IBS.

3. Relieves stomach spasms

Spasmodic abdominal pain is caused due to spasms (spontaneous contractions) in the smooth muscle of colon. This normally occurs in the lower abdomen and is associated with altered intestinal motility, i.e. diarrhea or constipation.

Spasmodic pain is one of the major discomforts faced by IBS patients.

Antispasmodic drugs are often employed for the treatment of IBS to reduce abdominal pain. These work by targeting the contraction of smooth muscle cells through various ion channels.

Curcumin is known to possess an antispasmodic activity too.

It has the ability to relax smooth muscle cells. It reduces the frequency of muscle contractions significantly.

This has a great implication in relieving the abdominal pain caused by the spasms/ contractions of the smooth muscle cells of the colon.

What does it mean?
It means curcumin can be used to relieve the spasmodic abdominal pain in the IBS patients. It has anti-spasmodic activity which helps to relax the contractions of the smooth muscle cells of colon.

4. Alleviates depression and mood-related symptoms in IBS patients

Depression or anxiety disorders are found to be prevalent among IBS patients. These are both a cause and an effect of IBS.

Depression and anxiety can trigger the onset of this disease as well as may be a consequence of the disease.

Stress and depression stimulate the generation of chemicals like corticotrophin release factor (CRF), ACTH and cortisol (the stress hormone).

These chemicals impair the gut functioning, directly or indirectly to produce symptoms, like pain.

Curcumin is a potent inhibitor of cortisol secretion. It inhibits the factor ACTH which stimulates the release of cortisol. This can have positive implications on gut impairment.

Curcumin attenuates stress-induced depressive symptoms by reducing the stress hormone levels. It also modulates the endocrine glands dysfunction and BDNF expressions to reduce the stress induced symptoms.

Moreover, the ability of curcumin to increase the serotonin levels enables it with antidepressant-like activity.

This can be helpful in managing depression in IBS patients.

In an IBS model, curcumin’s action on gut-brain axis (regulation of the expressions of serotonin and BDNF) has been found to be effective in reducing the depressive and anxiety associated symptoms.

What does it mean?
It means curcumin supplementation can be an effective way of alleviating depression and mood related symptoms in the IBS patients. This can not only be useful in treating the disease but also in preventing its onset.

5. Protects from stomach infections and inflammation

Gastric infections have a high probability of inducing the development of the IBS. A large number of patients have been observed to develop IBS after a gastric infection.

The organisms associated with this type of IBS are the common foodborne pathogens such as bacteria, for example, E. coli, Salmonella, Shigella etc. H. pylori, a common infection-causing bacteria in the stomach is also thought to increase the visceral hypersensitivity (pain in stomach) in the IBS patients.

In the post-infectious IBS, the role of low-grade inflammation (in response to the infection and other factors) is there in the onset of the disease.

Curcumin, being an anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial compound can be a solution to this problem.

Its anti-inflammatory action is proven against a number of inflammatory disorders. In case of gastrointestinal diseases as well, curcumin has shown efficacy in attenuating the inflammation and thus, exerting a protective effect.

Curcumin’s antimicrobial activity has been found to be effective against a number of pathogens, including the ones that cause gastric infections.

For example, it kills bacteria such as E. coli by damaging their membrane.

It also arrests the growth of the bacteria H. pylori and thus protects the stomach from the damages caused due to infection.

Curcumin has gastroprotective action not only against infections but also against inflammation and gastric damage induced by other factors such as due to the use of certain drugs (eg.NSAIDs).

What does it mean?
It means curcumin consumption can protect the stomach from the damages caused by bacterial infections. This can prevent the occurrence of post-infectious IBS.

6. Benefits in food allergy

Food allergy is one of the major aspects of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). It is often observed that the onset of IBS is triggered in response to the allergic reactions caused by certain food products.

The immune response as a result of certain food intolerance (such as carbohydrates) leads to hypersensitivity in the gastrointestinal tract and thus causes intestinal motility disorders.

The elimination of food products that aggravate allergic responses has been found to be an effective way of improving the symptoms of IBS.

The food products that are often eliminated are fat, insoluble fibers (found in fruits and vegetables), onion, cabbage, beans, caffeine, dairy products, carbohydrates, high-protein food, etc.

A drawback of food elimination can be a decreased nutrient intake in the body as a large number of regularly eaten and highly nutritious food products fall into this category.

Therefore, a more feasible way to combat food allergy has to be there.

Curcumin can do just that. It has the ability to modulate the immune response to inhibit allergic reactions.

In case of food allergy, curcumin administration has been found to be effective in reducing the allergy symptoms. It regulates the immune response to inhibit the allergic reactions triggered by food products.

In a model with intestinal anaphylaxis (severe allergic response in intestine resulting in nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain or diarrhoea), curcumin could suppress the food allergy symptoms significantly by regulating the immune activation.

What does it mean?
Curcumin intake can regulate the immune responses triggered by certain food products. This can be a more feasible way of combating food allergy in IBS patients as opposed to the food elimination. This can also ensure a better nutrition in the IBS patients.

Dosage

There is no particular prescribed dose of turmeric defined for IBS. Based on the studies and reader’s reports we have summarized various ways of taking turmeric which could benefit in this disorder.

The dosage depends on the formulation of the turmeric supplement and severity of the health condition. Here is the recommended dose:

Fresh Turmeric roots

Turmeric roots are a great addition to the diet. However, it is difficult to obtain a therapeutic effect in the limited quantities we consume.

Recommended intake: 1-3g or ½ inch long piece of root sliced or chopped. You can also juice it and include it in other fresh juices with a pinch of black pepper and consume it daily for better digestion.

You can also prepare Golden Paste from fresh roots. For more details about the dosage please refer to Golden Paste section.

Further, Read – Is fresh turmeric better then powder?

Turmeric powder

If you are including turmeric powder in cooking then 1 tsp daily is sufficient. Always opt for good quality organic turmeric powder (How to identify organic turmeric, Recommended Organic Turmeric brands)

Maximum dose: 1 tsp of turmeric powder with ¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper thrice a day

Turmeric is said to offer carminative benefits and can be used to treat symptoms of heartburn, low stomach acidity, and indigestion.

The specifications for the dosage of curcumin for IBS are not known.

However, the studies conducted with respect to the IBS mostly utilize 200mg to 1000 mg of curcumin. These amounts have shown desirable results against the IBS symptoms.

A majority of curcumin supplements are standardized 95% curcumin with Bioperine.

The fusion of curcumin with piperine and natural fats increases its absorption/ bioavailability in the body. (Read How to improve bioavailability of curcumin?)

There are ongoing researches on improving the bioavailability of curcumin through various formulations such as liposomes, phospholipid complexes, nanoparticles, etc.

There are several other varieties of curcumin supplements that have better bioavailability. (Read 8 Popular curcumin supplement types)

Ideally, low doses of curcumin should be taken in the beginning. The dose should be raised gradually over weeks. Curcumin intake is better after meals. Maintain a gap of 3-4 hours between taking curcumin and any medication.

Precautions

Anyone with IBS symptoms must consult a doctor before including turmeric supplements in their diet.

Taken in excess, these can exacerbate symptoms of indigestion and cause diarrhea, nausea, and dizziness.

Those who have gallbladder problems, diabetes and pregnant and breastfeeding women are advised to avoid turmeric supplements for it could cause adverse reactions.

Anyone scheduled for surgery must avoid turmeric supplements 2 weeks before the date. Using turmeric spice in food does not cause any side effects.

Research Studies

Conclusion

Turmeric can prove to be a great natural asset for those suffering from irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).

The advantages of turmeric are immensely valuable in this disease as this compound has a holistic approach. This compound benefits in IBS by acting on a wide range of stimuli.

It alleviates the symptoms of IBS through its action on gut-brain axis, smooth muscle of colon, intestinal contractions and inflammation caused by a gastric infection. Its gastroprotective action aids in this.

Moreover, it tackles stress and depression, as well as food allergy that poses as a major trigger for IBS.

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About the Author

Aakanksha (BSc. Plant Biology)

Turmeric for Health's writer team consists of passionate writers from the fields of biotechnology, pharmacy, nutrition, Ayurveda & microbiology.Our writers are highly qualified with many having Ph.D., M.Tech & MSc degrees while others having B.Tech, BSc, B.Pharm. Our differentiation lies in researching and presenting ONLY FACTUAL SCIENTIFIC information. We spend 10s of hours to write a single article. Info of our articles is sourced from reliable scientific sources which are also provided as a link alongside for readers to refer if they want. You can read more about our team in the " About us" section.

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20 Comments

  1. Turmeric completely transformed the health of my gut. After suffering with IBS-C for years, almost all symptoms have disappeared.

  2. Hi, I was wondering if you could provide me with the references to the studies quoted in the article. I am interested in reading the articles in more detail 🙂 Many thanks, Sarah

  3. I’d like to see a study on how turmeric might suppress acid reflux. I’m very skeptical of herbal remedies, yet out of desperation have tried dozens (most to no effect). I went completely off my antacids starting the day after starting to take turmeric.
    I also noticed one morning that I had slept fantastically the night before, as I only do a few times a year with my deep sleep problems. I went back through food diary from the day before the last time I slept so well and figured out that on both of those two nights I had cooked with turmeric. I had not suspected it, and it took some thinking, but I was able to repeat these results by buying curcumin supplements. More double blind and well done studies are needed!!!

  4. I dont know.. turmeric supplement screwed up my already damaged gut. Brain fog increased a lot, I feel like crap and found blood in my stool.

    1. Sorry to hear that. Please discontinue the use of turmeric supplement. Ensure you opt for good quality supplements with standardized extracts. Avoid sudden high doses of turmeric supplements. Please consult a health practitioner.

  5. I have been suffering from ibs.
    I am taking turmeric powder with water about 1 teaspoon twice a day for 2 months.
    WILL any side effect occur…when I take turmeric powder more than several months

    1. Hi. Turmeric is not soluble in water. It requires fats and/or black pepper for absorption. We recommend taking Golden Paste.
      Start with small doses such as 1/4-1/2 tsp and if you see no side effects then increase the dose gradually to 1 tsp 2-3 times a day over a few weeks.
      Best taken with food to avoid acid reflux. Avoid taking it at the same time when you take meds.
      http://www.turmericforhealth.com/turmeric-recipes/how-to-make-turmeric-paste-or-golden-paste
      http://www.turmericforhealth.com/turmeric-recipes/how-to-make-golden-paste-from-raw-fresh-turmeric
      Turmeric is a spice, it is safe when taken in dietary amounts and can be taken for life.

    1. Hi. Yes turmeric can benefit in IBS. You can take Golden Paste. Start with small doses such as 1/4-1/2 tsp and if you see no side effects then increase the dose gradually to 1 tsp 2-3 times a day over a few weeks. Best taken with food to avoid acid reflux. Avoid taking it at the same time when you take meds. https://www.turmericforhealth.com/turmeric-recipes/how-to-make-turmeric-paste-or-golden-paste
      https://www.turmericforhealth.com/turmeric-recipes/how-to-make-golden-paste-from-raw-fresh-turmeric

    1. You should consider including turmeric in diet, especially as Golden Paste. Start with small doses such as 1/4 -1/2 tsp a day for a week and then increase the frequency every week. The ideal dose is close to 1 tsp 2-3 times a day. This can help improve digestion. Increase gradually to avoid gastric discomfort.

    1. Adam,
      How so?
      IBS is not IBD (thankfully). It does tend to be aggravated by anxiety, stress, and trigger foods. Many IBS sufferers, like myself, find relief with SSRIs that moderate serotonin and norepinephrine levels.