Turmeric for Gastric Cancer? Can it Help?

Gastric or stomach cancer is a disease in which malignant cells develop in the cells of the stomach.

It is made of several types of cells, the majority of which constitute the ones that secrete acid, mucous and digestive enzymes.

Most cancers of the stomach are adenocarcinomas that develop in the mucous and other fluid secreting cells.

The other rare types of cancers that can develop in the stomach include gastrointestinal stromal tumours, carcinoid tumours and lymphomas.

These are several causes for cancer in the stomach but most prominent of those is Helicobacter pylori (a pathogenic bacteria that causes diseases in the stomach) infection.

Stomach cancers are often serious because they are not diagnosed at an early stage due to lack of symptoms [1].

Gastric Cancer can be Treated by Turmeric

Turmeric is an herb that is used as a food colour, flavour enhancer and as medication for several ailments like swelling, rashes, ulcers, indigestion, arthritis, burns, cuts, cold, ringworms and some types of cancers.

Turmeric has been used since centuries in food and medicine, however, its efficacy is being proved by research only since a few years.

A lot of clinical trials and experiments have shown that turmeric is a golden herb and can be used to cure a number of deadly and common diseases.

The active ingredient in turmeric is curcumin, which is responsible for its characteristic colour and therapeutic properties.

Curcumin has been shown to possess powerful healing and anti-oxidant properties which can be used to treat complex diseases, even cancers including gastric cancer [2].

Turmeric for Gastric Cancer

Curcumin Induces Cancer Cell Death

Normal cells in case of irreparable damage, commit suicide to prevent damage to nearby cells, a process known as programmed cell death or apoptosis.

The cancer cells, however, are well characterized by their ability to divide continuously without dying.

In other words, cancer cells find a way to avoid apoptosis. This is done by suppressing the proteins in the cells which promote programmed cell death and up-regulating the ones which promote survival.

It has been found that curcumin from Curcuma longa (turmeric), induces apoptosis in cancer cells. It does so by modulating the apoptosis signaling pathway in the cells known as the PI3K/Akt pathway, which activates the apoptosis-promoting proteins.

What it Means: Curcumin from turmeric helps in inducing programmed cell death in cancer cells of the stomach which otherwise have lost their ability to kill themselves leading to malignancy [3].

Curcumin Inhibits the Growth and Proliferation of Gastric Cancer Cells

Cancer cells are known for their uncontrolled growth and proliferation. They keep on dividing without a stop. This leads to the formation of a cell mass known as tumor which causes problems because it becomes extra tissue which cannot be accommodated in the body.

Research has shown that curcumin inhibits the growth of cancer cells both in vitro (experimentally out of the body) and in vivo (clinically, inside the body) in a dose and time-dependent manner.

Its actions were found to be similar to the synthetic anti-cancer medication used to control cell growth.

What it Means: Curcumin possesses the ability to inhibit and control the unrestrained growth of the cancer cells in the stomach, leading to decreased tumour growth and abnormal cell proliferation [4].

Curcumin Inhibits the Cancer Cell Invasion to Other Tissues of the body.

When the cancer cells grow uncontrollably, they start to leave their site of origin and migrate via blood to other tissues. In the new site, they again settle down and form new tumours, leading to increased complications. This process is known as metastasis.

Metastasis is the advanced stage of any cancer and in case of gastric cancer; it is at this stage that the disease is generally detected because cancer does not show symptoms at earlier stages.

In such a case, it is important to stop the migration of cancer cells to other places if the disease is to be treated.

In advanced research, it was found that curcumin from turmeric has not just the ability to inhibit the abnormal growth of cells but also stop these cells from invading other body tissues.

Curcumin has been found to inhibit the p21 activated kinases (PAK) and ATP machinery of the cancer cells which governs the cytoskeleton of the cells leading to their movement.

The PAK and ATP are highly up-regulated in the cancer cells leading to their motility and tumorigenesis.

What it Means:  Curcumin inhibits the proteins in the gastric cancer cells which are responsible for their motility and their progression to other tissues. This leads to decreased metastasis and control of cancer in the body [5].

Curcumin Reverses the Chemo-Resistance in the Cancer cells

Chemotherapy is one of the important treatment options in treating gastric and other types of cancers. However, the success rate of this therapy is limited because of the development of resistance by the gastric cancer cells.

Resistance is one of the biggest problems in cancer cells. Eventually, after a few doses of treatment, cancer cells in the body stop responding to the cancer medication by developing resistance, which makes this disease incurable.

The reason for this developing resistance is found to be an important signaling molecule I the cells called NF-ƙB which is highly up-regulated and constitutively expressed in the cancer cells.

Curcumin has been found to downregulate this important transcription regulator NF-ƙB in the gastric cancer cells which leads to decreases resistance of these cells to the chemical drugs and increased success rate of chemotherapy.

What it Means: Gastric cancer cells become easily resistant to the chemical drugs given in chemotherapy. Curcumin from turmeric has been found to decrease the resistance of these cells towards anti-cancer drugs and increase the effectiveness of the treatment.

Curcumin Inhibits the Growth of Cancer causing Bacteria in the Stomach

Helicobacter pylori are the notorious bacteria that infects the stomach and causes a wide range of gut ailments including chronic gastritis, ulcers, inflammation and in extreme cases, cancer.

In fact, most of the gastric and colon cancer cases arise due to prolonged H. pylori infection in the patients [6].

Curcumin and other phenolic constituents of turmeric have been shown to exert chemopreventative effects on the gut against cancer.

This has been demonstrated to happen because curcumin inhibits the growth of H. pylori in the gut and prevents the formation of cancer in the first place.

What it Means: Curcumin inhibits the growth and colonization of the cancer causing bacterium H. pylorus in the stomach which ultimately helps in prevention of occurrence of cancer in the gut [7].

Curcumin exerts Protective Effects on the Stomach Against Cancer-Causing Chemicals

The modern diet contains several chemical carcinogens (substances that can alter the DNA and cause cancer) that act on the stomach cells and increase the risk of cancer.

The mechanism of induction of cancers in these cells is hypothesized to be oxidation.

The chemical damage caused to the cells is attempted to reverse by killing the cell.

However, in this process, certain oxidants and damage induced inflammatory enzymes such as cytochrome b5 and P450 are activated, causing alterations in the cell proteins and DNA, through a process called oxidation.

Turmeric has been shown to exert chemoprotective effects on the cells of the stomach by protecting them against the damage and damage induced cytochromes.

It reduces the production of cytochrome b5 and P 450 in the cells and prevents oxidation.

The prevention of oxidation and inhibition of cytochrome synthesis protects the components of the cells from being altered leading to the prevention of the cells from turning cancerous.

The effect of turmeric has been shown to be dose and time-dependent.

What it Means: When taken in daily diet, turmeric has been shown to prevent cancers by inhibiting the damaging effects of the chemical carcinogens being ingested with foods in the modern world.

Turmeric acts in a dose and time dependent manner to protect the stomach from chemical carcinogens if taken in considerably controlled amounts regularly [8].

Dosage and Consumption

Turmeric is one of the oldest and safest herbs, which is being used since centuries for edible and medicinal purposes.

Since not much research has been done on the efficacy of this herb to be taken in medicinal doses by children, all the given doses for consumption are only meant for adults.

Also, it is always advised to take turmeric in a pure form and avoid supplements.

Turmeric can be taken as a dry powder in medicinal doses of 400-6—mg, 3 times a day. The cut root of this herb can be taken in the doses of 1.5 to 3 grams per day.

The root can also be dried and powdered which can be taken 1 to 3 grams per day.

Turmeric can also be taken in liquid forms as extract or tinctures or as oil. Turmeric extracts (1:1), is taken in the dose of 30 to 90 drops per day. Its tincture (1:2) can be taken in quantities of 15 – 20 drops, 4 times a day.

Here is a detailed article on turmeric/curcumin dosage for cancer>

Turmeric has been found to be poorly absorbed in the body. This causes less bioavailability of this herb as compared to the actual amounts taken by mouth.

To increase its absorption in the gut, pepper can be taken with it [9].

Precautions and Side Effects

The efficacy and effectiveness of turmeric is being proven since centuries as it is used to treat day to day ailments in almost every house in southern and central Asia.

However, not much research has been done on taking medicinal doses of turmeric during pregnancy. Hence, it is advised to avoid taking this herb in medicinal doses during such times or while nursing.

It can though, be consumed in edible doses daily.

Turmeric overdose has been found to cause mild ulcers, diarrhoea, kidney stones, and upset stomach. Some people may also be allergic to this herb which should be analysed prior to taking it.

Turmeric slows down blood clotting. It thus interferes with the effect of the drugs that increase clotting or add to the effect of the drugs that slow clotting, which could be dangerous.

The consumption of turmeric should be stopped 2 weeks before any scheduled surgery.

Turmeric also lowers blood sugar and it should not be taken in large doses with diabetes medications as it may lead to excessive lowering of blood sugar or hypoglycemia and other problems [10].

Summary

Turmeric has been researched and proven to be one of the most effective herbal medications in dealing with cancer.

Its active ingredient, curcumin has been hypothesized to show anti-oxidative, chemoprotective effects on the stomach. Curcumin reverses the resistance of the cancer cells against anti-cancer drugs and also induces cell death in these cells.

More research is required in this area of gastric cancer and turmeric but research indicates in a positive direction.

About the Author

Shruti (BE Biotech. & PGD Clinical Research)

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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