Ulcerative colitis is one of the two major forms of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) along with Crohn’s disease. It is a serious disease and if left untreated, an individual runs the risk of contracting colon cancer.
Symptoms of the disease include abdominal pain, rectal bleeding, diarrhea with blood, weight loss, fatigue, anemia and fever. The disease may be caused due to an inappropriate immune responses, genetic relatedness, changes in the normal gut bacterial flora and environmental factors.
In this medical condition, people have periods of remission wherein the symptoms disappear for weeks or years. The aim of treatment is to keep the period of remission for a longer term. Dietary changes, medication or in severe cases surgery may be helpful in treating the disease.
If you already know about Turmeric, please jump to the relevant section using the Table of Contents below, else please read on.
Table of Contents
- What is turmeric?
- 6 Proven Benefits of Turmeric in Ulcerative Colitis
- Dosage of Turmeric for Ulcerative Colitis
What is turmeric?
Turmeric is a herbaceous plant of the ginger family that is native to southern Asia. It has been used since many years as a key ingredient in Asian dishes and has powerful medicinal properties. In Indian traditional medicine the use of turmeric is commonly recommended.
The active ingredient in turmeric is curcumin which has powerful medicinal benefits. Consumption of turmeric has been found to fight a variety of infections, cancers, skin diseases and digestive problems. Research Studies show that turmeric may help people with ulcerative colitis.
6 Proven Benefits of Turmeric in Ulcerative Colitis
Turmeric’s anti-inflammatory properties benefit in ulcerative colitis.
1. It has anti-inflammatory properties
Turmeric has been found to possess anti-inflammatory property that can be beneficial in reducing inflammation of the intestinal lining.
An experimental study by Bastaki et al. in 2016, showed that turmeric reduced the ulcers in the colon in inflammatory bowel disease.
Another animal study published in the journal of medicinal food in 2013 evaluated the benefits of turmeric on rat models induced with colitis.
Results of the study suggested that oral administration of curcumin decreases colon injury and is associated with decreased inflammatory reaction. It also has the ability to modulate the immune system pathways.
An experimental study published in the journal of BioFactors in 2012 evaluated the anti-inflammatory effects of turmeric in inflammatory diseases. The study suggested that turmeric’s active ingredient curcumin is capable of inhibiting inflammatory cell proliferation, migration to inflammatory sites.
It also reduces production of inflammatory cytokines and other major proteins involved in inflammatory process. The study concluded that turmeric can be used as an alternative in prevention and treatment of chronic inflammatory diseases.
What does this mean?
Turmeric has effective anti-inflammatory activity which on oral administration can prove to be beneficial in reducing inflammation and ulcers in the intestinal lining in ulcerative colitis patients.
2. It has anti-oxidant defenses
Turmeric has anti-oxidant defenses that can prevent lipid peroxidation and oxidative stress providing relief to patients with ulcerative colitis. Several studies have shown the anti-oxidant property of turmeric.
Research studies have found that DNA damage caused by oxidative stress contributes to colorectal cancer development in ulcerative colitis patients.
A study published in International Immunopharmacology in 2007 evaluated the beneficial effects of anti-oxidiant activity of curcumin in preventing chronic inflammatory disorders like ulcerative colitis.
Results of the study showed that curcumin had the ability to reduce synthesis of nitric oxide synthase and cyclo-oxygenase.
These agents cause inflammation and disturb the balance between prooxidant and antioxidant defenses.
The study concluded that this property of curcumin in turmeric could help in preventing the development of ulcerative colitis.
Studies report the anti-oxidant and radical scavenging properties of curcumin.
Curcumin has the ability to scavenge free oxygen radicals, hydrogen peroxide and superoxide anions. This may further prevent lipid peroxidation and oxidative stress.
An observational study conducted by Menon et al. in 2007 evaluated the anti-oxidant as well as anti-inflammatory properties of curcumin.
The study reported that curcumin has the ability to prevent oxidative damage of DNA and proteins as well as cells. This property of Curcumin can help prevent a variety of chronic pathological disease conditions.
What does this mean?
Animal studies show that turmeric can reduce oxidative stress, lipid peroxidation and reverse altered antioxidant enzyme activity. Turmeric can be used as a medicinal agent to cure oxidative stress associated with ulcerative colitis.
3. It protects stomach health
Turmeric has been evaluated by various research studies for its gastroprotective property.
In an experimental study carried out by Liju et al. in 2015 the gastroprotective activity of turmeric was evaluated in gastric ulcer. Results showed that essential oils present in turmeric had the ability to reduce gastric ulcers.
The oils were also found to reduce the oxidative stress significantly hence reducing lesions.
An observational study conducted on the same lines by Yadav et al. and his colleagues in 2013 suggested the gastroprotective active of curcumin found in turmeric.
The results of the study showed that curcumin prevents gastrointestinal-induced ulcer and the study concluded that it can be used as a novel drug for treatment of ulcers and other associated inflammatory diseases.
What does this mean?
Essential oils and curcumin found in turmeric have found to possess gastroprotective property which can be used for the treatment of gastrointestinal ulcers. Research studies suggest the use of turmeric in place of anti-ulcer drugs to avoid side effects. This property of turmeric can be used in therapy of ulcerative colitis.
4. It shows anti-cancer activity
Pre-clinical studies have suggested the consumption of turmeric for prevention of cancer development in the breast, cervical, colon, gastric, hepatic, leukemia, ovarian, pancreatic and prostate cell lines.
Clinical studies conducted by Johnson et al. in 2007 showed that curcumin when administered in patients with colorectal cancer showed anti-cancer activity.
8000 mg per day of Curcumin when orally given to human patients showed that curcumin may be useful in chemoprevention of colon cancer.
Another study carried out human clinical trials in patients with colorectal cancer. The results suggested the safety and efficacy of curcumin in preventing development of colon cancer. Curcumin in high doses too has been considered safe for consumption without any toxicity.
The study showed that Curcumin enhances apoptotic cell death, inhibits deregulated proliferation, differentiation and progression of cancerous cells.
What does this mean?
Research studies show that turmeric has anti-cancer activity and has the ability to prevent development of colon cancer. Hence it can be used as a chemo preventive agent in colorectal cancer patients or prevent the development of colon cancer in patients with ulcerative colitis.
5. It regulates immune system activity
Ulcerative colitis is an autoimmune disease. Research studies have found that Turmeric regulated the activity of the immune system which can be useful for patients suffering from ulcerative colitis.
In an experimental study carried out on animals, published in the journal of international pharmacology in 2008, the effect of curcumin on major T cells, natural killer cells and macrophages was evaluated.
The results suggested that curcumin injection do not impair cytotoxic function of the immune system cells. The study concluded that curcumin modulates the immune system and is safe for consumption.
Another study published in the journal of clinical immunology in 2007 suggested that curcumin acts as an immunomodulatory agent by modulating the expression of T cells, B cells, natural killer cells, macrophages and dendritic cells.
Curcumin down regulates the expression of proinflammatory cytokines. The study concluded that curcumin can be used as a potential therapy for immune disorders.
What does this mean?
Turmeric consumption can be helpful in treatment of autoimmune disorders like ulcerative colitis as turmeric has the ability to downregulate the expression of proinflammatory cytokines and modulate other cells of the immune system like macrophages, B cells and T cells.
6. It helps maintain remission in Ulcerative Colitis
Clinical studies suggest the consumption of curcumin for maintaining remission in patients with ulcerative colitis. In a review study conducted by Garg and his colleagues, clinical trials were conducted on patients with ulcerative colitis for a span of six months it was found that curcumin is a safe and effective therapy for maintaining remission in ulcerative colitis for a longer period.
An experimental study conducted by Hanai et al. evaluated the effects of curcumin as a therapy for ulcerative colitis. Eighty nine patients with ulcerative colitis participated in the study.
Forty five patients were administered with 1g of curcumin, once after breakfast and once after the evening meal. Rest of the patients were allotted to the control group.
Results of the study showed that out of 43 patients only 2 relapsed in the 6 month curcumin treatment group whereas 8 out of 39 relapsed in the placebo group. With curcumin treatment disease activity was reduced and also these changes were evidenced by endoscopy tests.
At the end of the therapy, 10 patients in curcumin group relapsed while 14 in placebo group. Researchers concluded that curcumin is a safe and effective therapy to maintain remission.
Another experimental study conducted by Singla et al. in 2014 suggested that curcumin is capable of improving remission in patients with ulcerative colitis. Patients were assigned to receive:
• Curcumin enema plus oral mesalazine
• Placebo enema plus oral mesalazine
The patients subjected to administration of curcumin for a span of 8 months showed 43.4% clinical remission in comparison to patients in the control group who showed just 22.7%.
Results of the study confirmed that curcumin lead to greater improvements in disease activity compared to the control group with mild to moderate distal ulcerative colitis. The study concluded that curcumin has the ability to be used as a novel add-on therapy for treatment of ulcerative colitis.
A recent clinical study carried out by Lang et al. in 2015 reported that curcumin is effective in inducing remission in patients with ulcerative colitis.
The study was carried out on patients with mild to moderate ulcerative colitis who were resistant to mesalamine therapy.
Some were assigned to receive 3g curcumin per day in addition to mesalamine while some received placebo with mesalamine. The study lasted for 1 month.
53.8% of the patients in the curcumin group achieved clinical remission in 1 month while none in the placebo group. 17 patients in curcumin group showed clinical response in comparison to 3 in placebo group.
Endoscopic remission was observed in 38% of the patients in curcumin group while this was not observed in placebo group.
These findings proved that curcumin and mesalamine treatment is much superior, safe and effective than mesalamine treatment alone for ulcerative colitis.
What does this mean?
Consuming turmeric can increase the period of remission or maintain it for a longer duration in patients with ulcerative colitis. Research shows that curcumin is a safe and effective add on therapy in ulcerative colitis.
Dosage of Turmeric for Ulcerative Colitis
No specific dose of turmeric has been prescribed for ulcerative colitis. However, consumption of Dietary turmeric is considered safe and its inclusion in diet can help in relieving ulcerative colitis.
However turmeric and curcumin are poorly absorbed in the body. (Read How to improve turmeric’s bioavailability?)
Golden Paste is a recipe which incorporates turmeric with black pepper and healthy fats for better absorption. Here is the recipe for Golden Paste made from turmeric powder. If making it from fresh roots then find the recipe here.
Consumption of turmeric must start with small doses such as ¼-1/2 tsp a day for a week and if no gastric side effects are seen increase the intake gradually by ¼-1/2 tsp every week. The recommend dose is 1-2 tsp 2-3 times a day (precisely 1 tsp 3 times a day).
Avoid taking turmeric on an empty stomach and if taking large doses avoid taking it the same time of taking medications. Maintain a 3-4 hour gap to avoid interaction of turmeric with the medicines. (Read Does Turmeric cause acid reflux? Black pepper in GP: Does it cause drug interaction?)
The ideal dose of turmeric differs from person to person; some require less while some require more. It depends on what suits you and what dose your stomach can tolerate.
Turmeric Milk and Turmeric tea are delicious ways to take turmeric. To identify good organic brands of turmeric please check our recommendations on best organic turmeric brands.
If opting for supplements, consult a health practitioner prior to avoid allergic reactions or adverse effects.
Although consumption of Dietary turmeric is very safe, a few precautions need to be considered when it comes to using turmeric supplements (Read Precautions with Turmeric Use Side effects of Turmeric):
- Avoid in pregnancy and lactation
- Avoid if suffering from gall bladder obstruction
- Avoid if suffering from a bleeding disorder
- Discontinue prior to surgery
Avoid taking turmeric on an empty stomach to avoid acid reflux symptoms. (Does turmeric cause acid reflux?)
If one is suffering from a bleeding disorder, small doses of turmeric in diet are safe but it is best to consult a doctor before taking turmeric or turmeric supplements in this case. (Read Is turmeric a blood thinner?)
A general precaution needed to be taken before incorporating turmeric in the diet is that turmeric may have drug interactions with stomach acid reducing medication, antidepressants, blood sugar reducing drugs etc.
Curcumin, active ingredient found in turmeric is known to interfere in drug metabolism. Hence it is advised not to take curcumin supplements concomitantly with any other medicine.
If suffering from cancer or on cancer therapy please consult a doctor before taking turmeric supplements.
Since the past several years’ turmeric is used as a tradition medicine mainly by Asians due to the benefits that it provides in curing diseases associated to the liver, digestive tract, skin and wound healing.
There is no doubt that turmeric has various therapeutic benefits that make it a potential agent for therapy related to ulcerative colitis. Most importantly its safety and efficacy has been scientifically proved.
Its pharmacological as well as physiological properties make it an effective alternative to drugs used for curing inflammatory diseases like ulcerative colitis.