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Talking turmeric: Why this culinary spice is fighting more than just inflammation

October 2017 Print
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Putting the word ‘inflammation’ into Google garners around 108 million results (well it did the day we did) – talk about a chronic response! Inflammation—the body’s natural response to injury or infection that often causes redness, swelling, pain or heat[1] —is not only a key driver of many diseases, but “a system of incredible influence” as described by researchers at The University of Queensland[2]

Yes, inflammation can be both a good and bad thing for our bodies

When our white blood cells protect us from foreign invaders such as bacteria and viruses, acute inflammation (like a cut, sprain or sore throat[3]) arises. Typically localised to protect, heal and restore normal tissue function, it is doing good things! But if your immune defence system triggers an inflammatory response despite no foreign enemies to fight, it is damaging your own tissues[4]. This type of prolonged inflammation can also be brought on by infection or allergy[5]. Chronic inflammatory diseases include arthritis, osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, asthma and Crohn’s disease[6]. Excess weight, a bad diet, lack of exercise, stress, smoking, pollution, poor oral health and excessive alcohol can exacerbate inflammation[7].

Studies reveal chronic inflammation causes and advances many common diseases[8]

Inflammation is a primary driver of many of the chronic conditions that we’re routinely taking anti-inflammatory medicines for[9] with lower back pain the leading cause of global disability, affecting around 10 per cent of the population at any one time[10]. It’s so important to get chronic inflammation under control as it can affect your body in a myriad of other ways too, from cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and lung and respiratory issues, to depression, bone loss and decreased nutrient absorption [11].  On a positive note, they believe the relationship between chronic inflammation and so many diseases opens doors for new treatments driven by blocking inflammatory processes [12].

But a yellow powder ground from the root of the turmeric plant is helping the fight right now

Largely grown in India and related to the ginger family, turmeric is more than just a common ingredient in curries and mustard. Traditionally used in Ayurvedic and Chinese medicine to treat digestive and liver problems, skin diseases and wounds; turmeric contains bioactive compounds called curcuminoids – the most important being curcumin. Studies show curcumin is a powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant[14] – with one proving it more effective than an anti-inflammatory drug for rheumatoid arthritis[15]. But be aware that the curcumin content of turmeric is not that high and poorly absorbed; however fat enhances absorption – so go for full fat cream or milk in your turmeric curry or latte! And when choosing a supplement look for one withthat contains a “phospholipid” - which is essentially a fat to help with the absorption of curcumin. 

References available on request

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