Irritable bowel syndrome or IBS is a digestive condition characterized by bloating, abdominal pain or discomfort, associated with either diarrhea or constipation. It affects between 10 to 15 percent of Americans and the exact cause is not known, although some triggers factors like emotional stress and certain foods have been identified, according to Merck Manual. Turmeric may help improve this condition, however taking this supplement should medically supervised.
Turmeric, medically known as Curcuma longa, is a spice commonly used in Asian food. It is a medicinal plant with a long history of use in Ayurvedic Medicine and Traditional Chinese Medicine. Turmeric is best known as an anti-inflammatory agent, to help improve digestive and liver conditions as well as skin disorders. Turmeric is approved by German E Commission for the management of various digestive problems, however currently it is not approved by U.S. Food and Drug Administration to treat any medical condition. The key active ingredient of turmeric is curcumin.
Turmeric may help relieve symptoms of IBS, according to a study published in December 2004 issue of “Journal of Alternative and Complimentary Medicine.” This pilot study involved over 200 participants who were diagnosed with irritable bowel syndrome and with no other medical conditions. They received a daily dose of one to two tablets of standardized turmeric for eight weeks. The authors found a significant improvement in abdominal discomfort and bowel patterns.
Another study featured in July 2010 issue of “Indian Journal of Physiology and Pharmacology” and conducted on animal subjects further supports the idea that curcumin helps relive symptoms of IBS because it has the ability to reduce the motility of digestive tract.
Turmeric has an excellent safety profile when taken as directed by a health care provider. Individuals with diabetes should use this supplement cautiously as curcumin may lower blood glucose levels. Pregnant women should avoid it, as the safety of this product during pregnancy was not fully assessed. Turmeric may interfere with some conventional drugs, including blood thinners like warfarin and aspirin, anti-diabetes medication and drugs prescribed to reduce stomach acidity like cimetidine, ranitidine and omeprazole.
Consult a qualified health care professional to find out the optimal dosage of turmeric as well as possible side effects and drug interactions. Consult a nutritionist as well, because a healthy diet may further help relieve IBS symptoms. Keep in mind that turmeric does not replace any conventional drugs prescribed for irritable bowel syndrome.
- Merck Manual : Irritable Bowel Syndrome
- Univeristy of Maryland Medical Center: Turmeric
- “Journal of Alternative and Complimentary Medicine.” ; Turmeric Extract May Improve Irritable Bowel Syndrome Symptomology in Otherwise Healthy Adults: a Pilot Study; R. Bundy et al; December, 2004
- “Indian Journal of Physiology and Pharmacology” ; Effects of Curcumin on the Intestinal Motility of Albino Rats; A. Kumar et al; December, 2010