Should You Take Turmeric If You Have Gallstones?

Gallstones are hard deposits formed in gallbladder. Gallbladder is a small organ located below the liver which secretes digestive enzymes. Gallstones differ in size; they can be very minute or large as the size of an apricot.

Gallstones contain cholesterol, bile salts or bilirubin. 80% of the gallstones contain cholesterol while 20% are made of calcium salts and bilirubin. Cholesterol gallstones develop when there is excess cholesterol in the bile secreted by the liver.

Bilirubin is a compound produced by the liver to destroy old red blood cells.

Gallstones from bilirubin develop when the gallbladder can’t break down excess bilirubin. Concentrated bile can also lead to formation of gallstones.

Risk factors for developing gallstones include obesity, diabetes mellitus, consuming a diet high in fat or cholesterol, liver cirrhosis etc. Most people do not experience any symptoms.

When gallstones block the duct which send the bile to the digestive system, people start experiencing symptoms such as upper abdominal colicky pain, nausea and vomiting, fever, yellowing of skin etc.

Extreme gallstone pin is known as ‘gallbladder attack’ which lasts for 1-2 hours. This occurs when the gallstone blocks the duct that transports bile.

Medications are prescribed to dissolve the gallstones but these take quite some time to show effect and gallstones may return. Surgery to remove gallstones or gall bladder is recommended when symptoms are significant.

What is the role of turmeric in gallstones?

Turmeric’s anti-inflammatory property and ability to prevent gallstone formation makes it a therapeutic agent in treatment of gallstones.

However studies show that curcumin can cause gall bladder contraction which brings about confusion as to whether turmeric should be taken in gallstones or not.

Curcumin can cause gall bladder contraction

Rashid et. al conducted a study where they examined the effect of curcumin as a cholecystokinetic agent. A cholecystokinetic agent is one that causes gall bladder contraction and rapid emptying of gall bladder.

12 healthy individuals were given a single oral dose of 20mg curcumin and its effect on contraction on gall bladder was studied.

Within 2 hours there was a significant increase in contraction of gall bladder was observed and 29% contraction was observed.

Another study was conducted where the dose of curcumin required to bring about 50% contraction of gall bladder was ascertained. It was found that a dose of 40mg curcumin after 2 hours brings about 50% contraction of the gall bladder.

However these findings are proven in healthy individuals. If these are held true for individuals suffering from gallstones, then contraction of gall bladder to this extent will cause severe pain and discomfort.

Hence it is advised to avoid curcumin supplements when suffering from gallstones or bile duct obstructions.

Dietary turmeric is unlikely to pose this problem since curcumin accounts only for 3-5% of the dry root content.

What does this mean?

Curcumin at doses of 20-40mg can cause gall bladder contraction and emptying in healthy individuals. It is not proven if curcumin would cause the same effect in individuals suffering from gallstones or bile duct obstruction, but as a precautionary measure it is advised to avoid curcumin supplements in such cases.

Dietary turmeric is not likely to pose such problems if suffering from gallstones or bile duct obstruction.

Curcumin  in turmeric can prevent gallstones and ameliorate damage due to gallstones

Turmeric is identified as a herb that prevents gallstone formation. Hussain et. al have shown that curcumin can reduce the incidence of developing gallstones due to high cholesterol diet by 26%.

An animal study was conducted where mice were fed a gallstone forming diet (high cholesterol diet) and treated with curcumin and/or piperine (the active constituent of black pepper).

Results demonstrated that combination was successful in preventing formation of gallstones and reduced the cholesterol and bile levels. Piperine potentiated the effect of curcumin.

Combination of curcumin and capsaicin (compound that offers pungency to chillies) also prevents formation of gallstones by improving the function of liver and raising the level of antioxidant enzymes in the liver.

Cholestasis is a condition in which the bile from the liver does not reach the intestine. Various reasons could be responsible for this, including obstruction of bile duct by gallstone.

Animal study shows that curcumin treatment protects liver from damage and reduces oxidative stress and inflammation in cholestasis or bile duct obstruction like conditions.

Bilary dyskinesia is a disorder in which the bile cannot physically move to through the duct.

Turmeric in combination with herb chelidonium is found to reduce colicky abdominal pain and other symptoms in individuals suffering from bilary dyskinesia.

Cholecystotectomy is surgical removal of the gall bladder. A study was conducted where curcumin or painkillers were prescribed to individuals who had undergone laparoscopic cholecystotectomy to help deal with postoperative pain and fatigue.

Within the first two weeks pain was significantly lower in the group treated with curcumin. At week 3 the study group experienced significant reduction in pain and use of painkillers was also reduced.

The findings of this study show that curcumin can be taken by individuals who have their gall bladder surgically removed.

What does this mean?
Research suggests that curcumin can aid in prevention of gallstone formation by regulating bile and cholesterol levels. Curcumin by virtue of its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties shows therapeutic effect in gallbladder related problems but studies on humans need to be conducted.

It can be safely concluded that dietary turmeric would not cause any adverse effect on the gallbladder and can serve to be therapeutic in gallbladder disorders.

Dosage of Turmeric For Gallstone Prevention and Gallbladder disorders

Based on the data available till date, curcumin supplements should be avoided by those suffering from gallstones or bile duct obstructions.

Dietary turmeric can still be safely consumed.However stick to small quantities or if cautious avoid turmeric till the gallbladder obstruction or gallstone is removed or dissolved.

If intending to take turmeric for PREVENTION of gallstone or any other disorder we recommend The Golden Paste. It combines turmeric, black pepper and fats which ensure good absorption of turmeric.

Golden paste can be made from fresh roots as well.

Start with 1/4 tsp a day and increase gradually over weeks. 1-2 teaspoons once or twice a day can help (precisely 1 tsp 3 times a day). Here are some easy ways to use The Golden Paste.

Avoid taking Golden Paste on an empty stomach and close to the time of taking medicines (Read  Does turmeric cause acid reflux? Does black pepper in golden paste interact with medicines?)

Turmeric Milk is also a delicious option.

If you need help ascertaining a good brand of turmeric please visit check our recommendations on good turmeric brands.

Precautions

Turmeric in diet is safe but excess can cause gastric discomfort. Turmeric supplements should be avoided in case of (Read Side effects of Turmeric):

  • Pregnancy and lactation
  • Prior to surgery
  • If suffering from gall bladder issues
  • If taking diabetes medications, medicines to reduce blood sugar, medicines to reduce stomach acid and certain antidepressants

If suffering from bleeding risks please consult a health practitioner before taking turmeric and curcumin supplements should be avoided.

Avoid taking turmeric on an empty stomach to avoid acid reflux symptoms. (Does turmeric cause acid reflux?)

Limit intake of turmeric as a spice in case of gout and kidney stones. (Read Is turmeric safe in gout? Does turmeric cause kidney stones?)

A general precaution is outlined that turmeric may have drug interactions with stomach acid reducing medication, antidepressants, blood sugar reducing drugs etc. Curcumin found in turmeric is known to interfere in drug metabolism.

Hence it is advised not to take curcumin supplements concomitantly with any other medicine. Consult a health practitioner before taking turmeric supplements.

Conclusion

Curcumin is proven to cause gall bladder contraction in healthy individuals. Hence it is advised that people suffering from gall stones or bile duct obstructions should avoid curcumin supplements.

However studies in humans are required to prove this data. Turmeric can be beneficial in preventing gallstones and treating other gallstone disorders. Dietary turmeric can benefit in treatment of these disorders.

Till further research is conducted, it is safe to say that curcumin supplements should be avoided in case of gall bladder obstruction disorders or active gallstones but dietary turmeric can still be consumed.

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14 Comments

  1. What is the advantage of heating the turmeric when making Golden Paste? I have been mixing raw turmeric with coconut oil and black pepper and having it in a warm drink. Do I need to be boiling or simmering it first for maximum benefits?

    1. Hi. The way you take turmeric will still deliver benefits. Boiling turmeric powder helps to increase its solubility in water and increase its absorption. Though not applicable to fresh turmeric roots, boiling them would help you get a turmeric tea like drink that is also said to benefit health based on readers’ experiences.

  2. Hi. My mum has suffered from osteoarthritis and that was when I advised her to start with turmeric in milk. She went for an evaluation and has been told that she has protein in her urine and thus needs to check it out. Could you recommend a turmeric recipe she can use with the dried powder to treat this. Thank you

    1. Curcumin in Turmeric actually helps in proteinuria – protein excreted in urea. We generally recommend Golden Paste as one of the best ways to take turmeric powder for therapeutic purposes.
      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
      However we would recommend consulting a health practitioner about this so as to find out what is the cause for proteinuria. Since it is related to kidney health, it is important to note that turmeric has potassium and as a spice it contains oxalates. In case of kidney disorders these cmponents must be avoided in diet. So she may not be allowed to consume turmeric as a spice in therapeutic amounts and may need to opt for supplements.
      Please consult a health practitioner about this.

      1. Thanks a lot. I really appreciate what you are doing. I think she will have to discontinue the use of d spice option for now and I would like to know the name of the supplements as well as how I can find them as I feel it might be the safer option pending more details from the doctors. Yvonne from Nigeria

  3. I grow turmeric and ginger and juice it through a wheatgrass juicer only. I take the juice…equal parts of each and add a good amount of good HONEY, not grocery store, to the juice and blend together. The honey is a preservative, so no need to refrigerate the elixir after blending. Place a tablespoon amt. in a glass of silk coconut milk and drink. Tastes like egg Knog. You can add PEPPERINE To the mix if you like, but using the pure fresh liquid….Mother Nature supplied the turmeric oil in it. Much better to use than dried powder. Buy your ORGANIC turmeric and ginger in bulk…Amazon has it. Unbelievable results…great energy and healing for cancer.

    1. Thank you for sharing this, Bernadette. Glad to hear that turmeric benefits you. Turmeric and ginger are an excellent combination and great as anti-inflammatory and natural pain-killers. They improve digestion and have anti-microbial effect as well.

  4. I was diagnosed with gallstones 2 yrs ago, 2 episodes of abdominal pain for few minutes. Surgery was recommended but i did the chinese remedy for gallstones–taking apple juice, olive oil and lemon for 1 wk. I did this twice. No pain since i was diagnosed. Can i take the tumeric tablet or dietary supplement?

    1. Hi. It is best to consult a health practitioner about taking turmeric supplement in your case as curcumin does cause gall bladder contraction which may be problematic in case of active gallstones.

  5. I heard about Curcumin a couple of years ago and heard it was to be taken with Piperine – I have tried various ways of taking it and was wondering for quite sometime about taking it with milk as it has been known for quite a few years that milk puts a coating on your stomach so I thought it would help hold the curcumn to the lining of the stomach. I have taken it various ways I prefer the milk. I see your article on Gallstones – it is interesting as far as I know I have gallstones but have not had any problems so far. I have suffered with Chronic Fatigue for many years and I have my ups and downs but I don’t have as many aches and pains since I have been taking Tumeric. Do you think it will be harmful to me because of the gallstones you would think if it was going to play up with me it would have happened by now. JM
    By the way thank you so much for caring. The work you do would be very rewarding -you are wonderful.

    1. Hi. Turmeric actually can prevent gallstones, as curcumin help the gallbladder contract and improves its function. Based on the study it is possible that a contraction of this kind may cause pain in active gallstones. However if you have taken turmeric previously in diet and not faced any issue, then there shouldn’t be any reason for it to pose a risk now.
      Dietary amount of turmeric should cause no harm. Also turmeric in milk is great for aches as the milk helps in absorption of turmeric.
      Thank you for your feedback! Glad to hear that our posts make a difference to your health!

    1. Dietary turmeric is consumed daily in Asian countries and is not discontinued even prior to surgery. However you could stop consuming 2 weeks prior to be on a safer side and can start again 2-3 days after your doctor advises regular meals (if in case they were discontinued previously) or after you can resume regular diet.