Turmeric is an unsung hero in the food world, “the bright orange-yellow equivalent,” as Bon Appetit put it, “of putting your insides through a car wash.”
A cousin to ginger, turmeric is a key ingredient in curries. You’ll find it in countless dishes – both savory and sweet – in counties like India, Pakistan and Indonesia.
Turmeric is also good for you, a spice that brings with it a wealth of health benefits. Read on to learn how turmeric benefits gut health and offers relief for digestive disorders.
How turmeric benefits gut health
Turmeric is especially useful for people suffering from constipation, cramping or irritable bowel syndrome. This is due to one of turmeric’s active ingredients, curcumin, which has power anti-inflammatory abilities.
Curcumin eliminates irritation in your gut and reduces your chances for developing ulcers and bleeding in the bowels. Because of this, turmeric is recommended to patients with inflammatory bowel disease or Crohn’s disease.
In addition, a study at the University of Maryland Medical Center found that patients in remission for ulcerative colitis had substantially fewer relapses if they ingested turmeric.
And finally, turmeric also offers a significant enough level of dietary fiber to smooth digestion.
We’ve already shown how turmeric benefits gut health. But it also has a host of other health benefits:
- Anti-inflammatory – Thanks to curcumin, turmeric contains powerful anti-inflammatory properties, and can be used to reduce pain from arthritis, gout, or muscle pain following exercise or an injury.
- Detox – Turmeric can improve liver function and lower the level of toxicity in the body by energizing the lymphatic system.
- Menstrual issues – If you suffer from acute menstrual discomfort – cramps, bloating, excessive bleeding or mood swings – turmeric’s anti-inflammatory properties and soothing nature can relieve most of your symptoms.
- High cholesterol – Research indicates that ingesting turmeric twice a day for three months reduces cholesterol levels, low-density lipoprotein – otherwise known as the “bad” cholesterol – and triglycerides in people who are overweight and have high cholesterol.
- Osteoarthritis – Some research suggests turmeric extracts – either by itself or with other herbal ingredients – can lower pain and improve movement in people with osteoarthritis. Some studies have shown turmeric working as well as ibuprofen.
- Alzheimer’s -- “India has a low incidence and prevalence of Alzheimer's, which may be related to genetics or a particular intake of specific foods,” writes Mary S. Easton of the UCLA Alzheimer Translation Center. “Some people attribute the low incidence of Alzheimer's to a high intake of turmeric in Asia.”
- Heart disease – Once again, curcumin comes to the rescue by improving the function of the endothelium, which lines our blood vessels. Endothelial dysfunction is a key contributor to heart disease, because it inhibits blood pressure regulation and blood clotting.
How to get more turmeric
It’s easy to get more turmeric into your diet. You may be able to buy fresh turmeric at your grocery store. If not, you’ll find the powdered spice in the baking aisle at your supermarket. Once you have it at home, you can:
- Brew some turmeric tea – This one is simple. Just boil some water, and add ¼ teaspoon of ground turmeric – or fresh grated turmeric. Let it steep for 10 minutes and strain before drinking. Add honey or fresh lemon for more flavor.
- Put it in a smoothie – The next time you cut up some fruit to make a smoothie, add in some turmeric. Chances are you won’t taste it, although turmeric has such a strong pigment that it will give your smoothie an interesting color.
- Homemade mustard – Mix together ½ cup of ground mustard, two tablespoons of white wine vinegar, a tablespoon of water and one teaspoon each of salt and turmeric. The result: homemade mustard. Store it in your fridge.
If you’re looking for other ways to improve your gut health, Proper Nutrition can help.