Turmeric: Will It Help And How Do You Use It?
If you’ve been on the internet or read a magazine in the past 5 years, you have probably heard someone talk about adding more turmeric to your diet and that it helps inflammation. While turmeric has been around as a medicinal herb for centuries in other cultures, it has recently started getting recognition in mainstream media as a powerful anti-inflammatory substance. This is an overly broad claim, and the scientific backing for this claim is sparse. It has become a buzzword used by holistic bloggers and naturopaths without much recognition from Western medicine, but should we be paying more attention? And could it help you put your HS into remission? The answer might surprise you.
Turmeric itself is not actually what has been studied for anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties - its curcumin, the main compound found in turmeric. Many of the studies on this herb are using turmeric extracts that contain mostly curcumin itself, with dosages usually exceeding 1 gram per day to see any effect. That dosage would be nearly impossible to achieve by just adding the spice to your food, so the recommendation has circulated that people should be taking a turmeric curcumin supplement. There are a few problems with this.
Should I take turmeric supplements?
Firstly, taking these supplements can actually chelate iron, a mineral our blood desperately needs to function. The word ‘chelate’ means to create a ring-like complex, or 'to grab and bond to'. This affects your body’s ability to absorb iron and could result in an iron deficiency or even anemia, and anemia is known to worsen HS, never mind cause issues such as dizziness and fainting. So, if you do choose to supplement with turmeric, you will need to have regular blood testing to ensure that you are still getting enough iron into your system. Ask your doctor if taking an iron supplement is right for you.
Secondly, these supplements are not covered by insurance or recognized by many health professionals and can become quite costly. It is often insisted you take organic vegetarian supplements (meaning the brand must be certified organic and the capsules do not contain any gelatin) which drives up the cost, and to be taking the recommended amount of a gram a day you usually have to take at minimum 2 capsules daily, with dosages usually being closer to 4 capsules daily. This can incur quite the cost if you are buying 2 bottles of organic supplements per month!
With all of this in mind, there have been studies that show that curcumin does activate haem oxygenase-1 (HO-1), a redox-sensitive inducible protein that provides protection against various forms of stress. With stress being a key trigger in HS flares for most people, this provides a promising look into a way to help manage stress for those of us who cannot reduce stress in other ways. Also, as stated by the U.S National Library of Health in multiple articles, “Curcumin, a polyphenol, has been shown to target multiple signaling molecules while also demonstrating activity at the cellular level, which has helped to support its multiple health benefits." Studies done by the National Center for Biotechnology Information have shown multiple times that curcumin does in fact have anti-inflammatory properties and can even help reduce the body’s response to pain!1,2
It has also been shown in studies that curcumin is best absorbed when taken alongside food that is seasoned with black pepper, as “piperine is the major active component of black pepper and, when combined in a complex with curcumin, has been shown to increase bioavailability by 2000%.” This means that taking it alongside black pepper will increase the amount that is absorbed by your body.2
So, should you try taking a turmeric supplement?
If you’ve spoken with a doctor and have been given the go-ahead to add a turmeric supplement into your diet, there are many people within the HS community that absolutely swear by it, myself included! I have seen a reduction in new lesions since taking it regularly. It took about 3 months of constant usage to notice the effect, but I strongly feel it was the turmeric as I wasn’t trying any other treatments at the time.
As long as you are keeping an eye on your iron levels and have spoken with a medical professional, giving turmeric a try might be very beneficial for you!
Please remember, I am not a medical professional and this should not replace medical advice - this article is to explain why turmeric is being used in HS communities and to give you information to share with a doctor to find out if it is right for you.
Have you checked out the HS friendly recipes?