Gastroesophageal reflux disease is a condition in which the contents of the stomach return to the food pipe or esophagus and impairs quality of life.
Acidity or heartburn is the burning sensation that you feel in the chest due to the reflux.
In our article 5 reasons why turmeric is good for heartburn, we have already covered the benefits of turmeric in GERD.
Interestingly quite some people have reported symptoms of acidity being induced upon consuming turmeric.
Though contrary to established research, this finding is important since it can inhibit people from deriving health benefits from this spice.
This article is aimed at understanding the reason behind this paradox.
Turmeric – especially its primary active constituent, Curcumin has been long known to have gastroprotective properties and aid in bettering the functioning of the digestive system.
This is consistent with it being used as a herbal remedy for a variety of conditions concerning the process of digestion from indigestion, flatulence to ulcers.
Please feel free to use the Table of Contents below to jump to the relevant section in the article.
Table of Contents
- Turmeric Benefits In Acidity / GERD
- 1. Turmeric Has Anti-Ulcer Properties
- 2. Turmeric Can Reduce Gastric Inflammation
- 3. Turmeric Can Strengthen Anti-Oxidant Defence Mechanisms
- 4. Turmeric Has Gastroprotective Properties
- 5. Turmeric Promotes Healing Of Ulcers
- 6. Turmeric Protects The Esophagus From Bile Acids
- 7. Curcumin Can Alleviate Damage Caused By Laryngopharyngeal Reflux
- 8. Turmeric Can Help Fight Off H.Pylori Bacteria
- 9. Curcumin Might Protect From Harmful Effects Of Pain Relievers
- Why in some cases turmeric/curcumin cause acidity?
Turmeric Benefits In Acidity / GERD
The anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant, and anti-microbial properties are what drive turmeric’s use in conditions such as Gastro-Esophageal Reflux Disease and Acid Reflux for prevention as well as being beneficial in the treatment. A number of research studies have reported turmeric to have significant benefits in these conditions.
1. Turmeric Has Anti-Ulcer Properties
An ulcer occurs when the acidic digestive juices that are secreted by the cells in the stomach required for digestion destroy the lining of the stomach and the surrounding organs.
It is the result of an imbalance between corrosive acidic digestive juices and the mucosal protection in the gastrointestinal tract.
Dyspepsia is a common finding in patients with ulcers and acid reflux conditions.
A randomized control trial done on patients diagnosed with peptic ulcers showed that the group of patients administered with Curcumin as an adjunctive therapy alongside conventional medications reported better control of dyspepsia and a decline in the severity of associates symptoms as compared to the group of patients only on traditional medications.
Turmeric was also found to be not associated with any harmful effects in this regard, unlike most conventional anti-ulcer medications.
Benefit Confidence: High
What it means: Turmeric has potent anti-ulcer activity and can, therefore, be used as a preventive measure and also as add on therapy for better outcomes alongside regular medications.
2. Turmeric Can Reduce Gastric Inflammation
Turmeric is one of the most potent, naturally occurring anti-inflammatory agents.
It acts in suppressing inflammation by both inhibiting the production and activity of inflammatory mediators in the body as well as upregulating the synthesis and activity of anti-inflammatory molecules naturally present in the body.
Inflammation is a fundamental pathway in the development and progression of conditions such as GERD, ulcers, and acid reflux.
Esophageal epithelial cells play a crucial role in esophageal inflammation upon getting in contact with acidic pH during gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).
This interaction results in an increased secretion of Interleukin-6 and Interleukin-8, which are pro-inflammatory mediators.
It also leads to the activation of NF-kappaB and Tumor Necrotic Factor (TNF), which further drive inflammation in the esophagus.
It thereby halts disease progression and improves prognosis.
Benefit Confidence: High
What it means: Turmeric could significantly reduce inflammation resulting from acid hypersecretion in the stomach and other neighboring areas, ultimately providing symptomatic relief and hampering the condition from progressing further.
3. Turmeric Can Strengthen Anti-Oxidant Defence Mechanisms
Oxidative stress can be caused by several external factors such as alcohol consumption, cigarette smoking, and a diet rich in processed food.
Oxidative stress is fundamental in the development of esophagitis – that is, the inflammation of the esophagus, which is characteristic of GERD.
Oxidative stress causes the formation of a gastric lesion, resulting from the excessive production of free radicals – Reactive Oxygen Species (ROS), especially the superoxide anion.
This leads to the rupture of lysosome cells, which are also called the suicidal bags of the cell. This causes the release of hydrolytic enzymes, which damage the gastric epithelial cells.
This damage results in the constriction of blood vessels in the area, causing congestion, inflammation, and tissue damage.
Matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs) are enzymes required for the degradation of the extracellular matrix. MMPs are upregulated in intestinal inflammatory diseases primarily due to pro-inflammatory mediators.
Curcumin works in counteracting oxidative stress in two ways –
- It acts as a potent anti-oxidant agent by neutralizing the harmful free radicals produced by the immune cells as a result of normal metabolic reactions as well as exposure to noxious external stimuli.
- It also acts by upregulation of the production and activity of a naturally occurring antioxidant in the body called glutathione to fasten the process of eliminating free radicals and reduce the exposure of the esophagus and other tissues to them.
In this manner, Curcumin helps in the management of oxidative stress, thereby preventing further damage to the cells and slowing down disease progression.
Benefit Confidence: High
What it means: Turmeric has strong anti-oxidant properties that protect tissues from injury in GERD and ulcers by counteracting oxidative stress. It can, therefore, play a significant role in preventing recurrence of the disease condition and in alleviating associated symptoms.
4. Turmeric Has Gastroprotective Properties
A compromised gastric cell layer integrity is a common finding in most intestinal inflammatory disease conditions such as Crohn’s disease, GERD, Ulcerative Colitis, and Inflammatory Bowel Disease.
This tissue damage is a result of pro-inflammatory pathways, oxidative stress, and immune responses to harmful stimuli, which may be internal or external.
Curcumin helps in reestablishing the lost cellular integrity by increasing mucus secretion to serve as a physical barrier against irritants.
Mei et al. have demonstrated that the oral administration of a complex of zinc and Curcumin) reduced the severity of ethanol-induced gastric lesions while also suppressing the gastric acid secretory activity comparable with that exhibited by the Proton Pump Inhibitor (PPI), Lansoprazole.
Curcumin has also been evidenced to help treat stress ulcers by increasing the production and activation of endogenous protective prostaglandins and Nitric Oxide to maintain the integrity of the gastric wall.
Curcumin, through its potent anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, protects the integrity of gastric mucosa and epithelial layer from damage inflicted by acid reflux, free radicals, and irritants.
Benefit Confidence: High
What it means: Turmeric is an agent with excellent protective properties for the intestine and stomach. It minimizes the damage to these organs in various disease conditions and also prevents the recurrence of the condition.
5. Turmeric Promotes Healing Of Ulcers
Ulcers of the digestive tract take a long time to heal due to the acidic conditions prevalent in the area.
Such ulcers are associated with several symptoms such as pain, burning sensation in the stomach, and intolerance to certain food groups.
Disruption of blood vessels reduced collagen integrity, and significant injury to mucosal cells is fundamental in the development of an ulcer.
Curcumin has demonstrated to have substantial healing properties in regard to ulcers in several mechanisms.
Studies have shown treatment with Curcumin to accelerate the healing of ulcers, as evidenced by a recognizable difference in overall appearance in wound healing between the curcumin-treated and control groups with time.
Matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs) play a critical role in the degradation of extracellular matrix and remodeling during inflammatory processes and wound healing.
Studies have demonstrated both oral and intraperitoneal administration of Curcumin to inhibit gastric ulceration in a dose-dependent manner.
It accelerates the healing process and protects gastric ulcers by upregulating MMP-9 activity, which helps in the healing of the ulcers and reduction of MMP-2 activity associated with the hampered repair.
Curcumin has been reported to aid in the healing of ulcers by accelerating the process of angiogenesis – the formation of new blood vessels and restoring collagen synthesis and framework by upregulation of Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor (VEGF), and transforming growth factor (TGF)-β
Benefit Confidence: High
What it means: Turmeric can aid in the healing of ulcers by increasing repair rate and putting off further inflammation and free radical damage.
6. Turmeric Protects The Esophagus From Bile Acids
GERD is characterized by highly acidic reflux from the stomach along with bile acids entering the esophagus.
When the esophageal epithelial cells are exposed to such high acidic components, there is an initiation of an inflammatory process in the area called esophagitis.
Esophageal inflammation then paves the way for detrimental tissue injury and vascular dismantling.
This progression of events could lead to a condition called Barrett’s esophagus, which is a serious complication of GERD and eventually esophageal adenocarcinoma.
The inflammatory process is driven by increased production of pro-inflammatory Interleukins and NF-kappaB activation and a simultaneous spike in the levels of oxidative stress.
As evidenced by a study, patients diagnosed with Barrett’s esophagus treated with 500 mg curcumin showed lower levels of inflammatory mediators such as and NF-kappaB compared to the control group of patients.
A significant increase in apoptotic pathways involving the death of damaged cells was also reported.
A study by Li et al. demonstrated in an animal model of esophageal reflux that intraperitoneal injections of a volatile oil extract of Curcuma aromatica, helped prevent the development of esophageal adenocarcinoma.
Benefit Confidence: Medium
What it means: Turmeric can offer protection to the cells in the food pipe from the highly acid reflux from the stomach and bile acids commonly seen in GERD and prevent the condition from progressing to complications such as Barrett’s esophagus and esophageal adenocarcinoma.
7. Curcumin Can Alleviate Damage Caused By Laryngopharyngeal Reflux
Laryngopharyngeal reflux is when the contents of the stomach, including digestive acids and bile acids, move backward into the throat region.
This backward movement of digestive acids manifests clinically as symptoms of hoarseness, shortness of breath, cough, and wheezing.
Pepsin, which is the principal component of the refluxate from the stomach, interacts with cells of the airway to produce considerable inflammation, free radical damage, and tissue injury.
Gastric pepsin also has the potential to induce mitochondrial damage and hyperproliferation of cells in the Laryngopharyngeal region.
Acidic bile can pronouncedly induce NF-kappaB activation and oncogenic mRNA phenotype in the exposed airway epithelial cells and result in premalignant changes in the area.
Studies on cultured human laryngeal and hypopharyngeal epithelial cells pretreated with Curcumin have reported inhibition of pepsin-mediated depression of tumor suppressor gene expression and suggested Curcumin be associated with the reduction of localization of pepsin in the epithelial cells of the airways.
Benefit Confidence: Medium
What it means: Turmeric can reduce the damage caused by acid reflux in GERD and other associated disease conditions by decreasing the cellular uptake of pepsin by airway cells and prevent the development of carcinogenic changes.
8. Turmeric Can Help Fight Off H.Pylori Bacteria
Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) is the most common pathogenic causative agent of ulcers in humans.
The bacteria colonize in the mucosal layer of the stomach and exhibits its detrimental effects therein.
A large fraction of people infected with H. pylori develops intestinal inflammatory conditions such as gastritis and peptic ulcer sue to the production of pro-oxidants and pro-inflammatory cytokines by the bacteria.
This leads to cell death resulting in damage to the gastric mucosa.
Curcumin has shown beneficial results in several research studies in acting against H. pylori owing to its anti-microbial, anti-oxidant, and anti-inflammatory properties.
Preclinical study reports have shown Curcumin to downregulate the production of damaging Matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs) induced by H. pylori, which contribute to the development of gastric ulcers and eventually associated cancer.
Curcumin also helps ameliorate the DNA damaging effects of H. pylori by inducing programmed cell death or apoptosis of damaged cells and by its anti-angiogenic properties, thereby preventing the formation of metastases.
Unlike conventional antibiotic regimens used in the eradication of H. pylori, whose use is limited by several undesirable side effects, Curcumin has shown significant promise in this regard.
Benefit Confidence: More Research Required
What it means: Curcumin could potentially help better the outcomes when used alongside regular antibiotic medications for the treatment of H. pylori ulcers and gastritis due to its anti-microbial properties and inhibition of oxidative stress and inflammation could thereby prevent progression to more severe conditions.
9. Curcumin Might Protect From Harmful Effects Of Pain Relievers
Acid reflux and gastritis are commonly associated with intense pain and, therefore, are managed with pain relievers- especially Non-Steroidal Anti Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs) conventionally.
Long term consumption of these drugs results in the compromise of the gastric mucosal wall as a side effect.
Most NSAIDs act by non-specific inhibition of prostaglandins – both the harmful ones involved in an inflammatory response and also the protective ones which are responsible for the maintenance of the mucosal cell layer.
This ultimately results in gastric cell injury, ulcer formation, bleeding from the ulcers, and impaired healing of formed ulcers.
The most common adverse effects of NSAIDs, as reported by literature, include ulcer induction and the potentiation of oxidative stress.
Therefore, the reduction of oxidative stress might be an effective strategy for preventing and treating NSAIDs-induced complications of bleeding and ulcerations in the gastric mucosa layer.
Benefit Confidence: More Research Required
What it means: Curcumin has been demonstrated to protect the gastric mucosa from the damaging effects of NSAIDs by scavenging free radicals, upregulating the production of glutathione, and inhibiting lipid peroxidation so as to protect the integrity of the mucosal layer.
Why in some cases turmeric/curcumin cause acidity?
If turmeric holds so many benefits in GERD and acidity, then why exactly do some individuals face acidity on taking turmeric.
Spicy diet is generally recommended to be avoided if suffering from acidity or peptic ulcers. This is because spices contain active ingredients that irritate the gastric lining.
However, there is no conclusive evidence available that states that consuming spicy food causes acidity and avoiding it relieves the symptoms.
But definitely in real life, there are some foods that trigger acidity like symptoms such as fish oil, chocolate etc. And people do experience it with turmeric too.
A study published in the Indian Journal of Medical Research, 1980 revealed that curcumin induces the formation of ulcers.
A dose of 50-100mg/kg administered orally for 6 days produced ulcers in the stomach in an animal model.
A reduction in gastric mucus was observed and the interaction of histaminergic receptors is suggested. Histaminergic receptors are proteins present in the lining of the stomach that secretes gastric acid for digestion.
In the case of acidity, secretion of acid from these receptors is high and medications like rantidine are prescribed to block their activity.
This is the only study which shows that curcumin causes a gastric ulcer and no other study till date seems to have produced similar results.
One interesting observation is that daily consumption of curcumin per person is around 60-100mg/kg and no side effects are observed.
Kim et. al have demonstrated that turmeric prevents the formation of gastric ulcers by inhibiting the activity of histaminergic receptors.
Their study pointed out that curcumin did not block histaminergic receptors but the extract of turmeric in alcohol and organic solvent showed this property.
Other researchers have proven that it is turmeric oil that is therapeutic in the histamine-induced gastric ulcer.
Despite findings of various animal and cell culture studies that prove that curcumin inhibits the growth of H.pylori bacteria, there are some studies show that curcumin supplementation in humans may not bring about a similar effect.
A study was conducted wherein individuals suffering from H.pylori infection were treated with OAM (Omeprazole, Amoxicillin, and Metronidazole) treatment or curcumin. The eradication rate of H.pylori was 78.9% in OAM group and only 5.9% in the curcumin group.
A reduction of inflammatory proteins like interleukin-8 was observed in OAM group but such changes were not observed in the curcumin group.
This could be possibly due to the reduced bioavailability of curcumin or requirement of higher doses.
Researchers investigating the role of hot water extract of turmeric in preventing ulcers do state that turmeric may cause mild irritation. Curcuminoids present in turmeric can cause mild gastric irritation if consumed for a long time and on an empty stomach.
These could be the possible reasons why turmeric causes acidity in some individuals. To sum it up here is why you could be facing acidity on taking turmeric:
- You are not using good quality organic turmeric.
- You are taking turmeric on an empty stomach.
- You are taking large doses of turmeric.
- You are taking curcumin supplements at large doses, probably on an empty stomach and for a long term.
- You are probably taking turmeric or any spice for the first time and the therapeutic doses are far too large for your system to adjust to.
Turmeric as a spice, when included in food in moderate amounts, does not cause acid reflux. High doses of turmeric or curcumin supplements taken for a long time on an empty stomach can trigger acidity.
When taking Golden Paste, if you have never tried turmeric before start with a small dose say ¼ teaspoon and increase the dose gradually in a weeks interval. Always take it with food to minimize the aftertaste and chances of reflux. Make sure you are using organic turmeric.
If taking supplements take them immediately after food to avoid chances of reflux and this will also ensure better absorption of curcumin. Consult a doctor for the dose and do not take it for the long term.