“Spices, the friend of physicians and the pride of cooks”
Charlemagne – 8th Century King and Conqueror
Within our foundation series articles on supplementation, we cover all the essential supplements, and in this article, we cover another supplement which is derived from the spice turmeric, and you might be surprised just how much it can support your body’s health.
Curcumin is found in the well-known herb turmeric, characterised by its yellow colour it is popular as a spice across several cuisines and is also found in food products.
Turmeric has been used in Asia as a medicinal herb and over the past 50 years has been studied quite extensively to understand its health benefits, of which there are many. Scientific research has identified it is the curcumin contained in turmeric which is responsible for the health benefits, and this is despite the fact that curcumin only constitutes ~5% of turmeric.
So to get the majority of the health benefits of turmeric, and is an effective quantity, it is best to extract the curcumin and use that. This essentially comes down to return on investment, or ‘bang for buck’, you get more from curcumin than from turmeric as a whole spice.
There is also a trend with some food products and coffee shops to include turmeric in their products, which is used as a healthy selling point, however, there is some misleading information about these products, such as the ‘turmeric latte’ which is branded as healthy but is much more likely just ineffective (read here for more).
Why should I use it?
Curcumin has several important health benefits which can be categorised into anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant, anti-viral and anti-bacterial. So all the “anti’s”!
Curcumin as an Antioxidant:
We have written before about oxidative stress and toxins in our environment, in simple terms toxins are substances which can cause damage to the body on a number of levels, for example damaging the structure of your cells. Which leads us to why antioxidants are a necessity in our nutrition and supplementation. Anti-oxidants can quite literally ‘scavenge’ the substances which do us harm and thereby this keeps our body functioning better.
Curcumin is able to prevent the harmful substances from carrying out their detrimental effects, so this is the ‘slowing down’ of the bad substances. Curcumin also increases antioxidants such as the body’s main antioxidant…glutathione, this is more of an ‘active fight’ against the bad substances. These points together summarise how curcumin works as an antioxidant, by stopping and fighting off any damaging substances we get from our environment.
Where do the antioxidant benefits help you within the body?
Well, the liver, kidneys and brain will benefit from curcumin as an antioxidant source as with these organs you definitely want to reduce toxin exposure and stress.
Curcumin actively improves liver detoxification enzymes, which will help prevent liver conditions and help it to carry out its function as the body’s primary detoxification site. But antioxidants can be beneficial to most cells in the body simply by preventing cell damage, so the positive effects are quite ‘global’.
Curcumin as an Anti-inflammatory:
Curcumin is also well known for reducing inflammation, and this is also important for our health, reduced inflammation results in better functioning of insulin and thus better blood sugar control, it helps protect the brain from inflammation which can contribute to neurodegenerative diseases (e.g Alzheimer’s), and can also help the lungs with some people using for improving asthma, bronchitis and allergies.
Keeping inflammation in check is important for our health, body composition and disease prevention and curcumin is a welcome combatant to inflammation.
The anti-inflammatory side links with the antioxidant side of things, this is because curcumin reduces toxins and oxidative stress which subsequently reduces the chronic inflammation that results from those things.
This is, in addition, to directly improving inflammation, curcumin can directly work on the inflammation pathways, in other words, the process of how inflammation occurs in the body can be directly suppressed with curcumin.
Who should use it and when?
Again, there may be several reasons why you would use curcumin, so this has to be decided upon your personal circumstances.
You may live in a polluted environment, most of us do to some extent whether that be unfiltered water or living in a city, and therefore providing support to your body to detoxify is essential, curcumin’s support for the liver and preventing cell damage is particularly relevant in this regard.
Curcumin could be used for more general immune support because of its antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and anti-viral effects, a stronger immune system will hopefully stave off any unwelcome illness.
Curcumin can be used to help fat loss and improve body composition, this is because reducing the toxins and inflammation associated with fat cells is important in getting leaner.
The anti-inflammatory effects of curcumin may help with respiratory health, for example lessening allergies, and potentially aiding bronchitis and asthma. This would obviously need to be decided upon with the advice of your doctor or specialist, but there is evidence to suggest it has a role in these conditions (see references for additional reading).
Our Curmcum Complex includes Vitamin E, sunflower lectin and turmeric oil, all of which increase its antioxidant ability and bioavailability (how well the body absorbs it). Provides 1 gram of curcuminoids per 1 soft gel.
What about the dosage?
Curcumin has been safely used in high doses, however, the recommended to start with an intake of 0.3 mg per kg of body weight (so 300mg for a 100kg person). (2)
As with any supplement, scale up the dose, monitor the effects and re-assess whether you need to increase, decrease or maintain the dosage.
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