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Medical News Today: Turmeric for IBS: Does it work?

Beyond being a staple of Asian cuisine, turmeric has long been used in traditional medicine to treat conditions from indigestion to depression. More recently, the spice has been associated with the treatment of irritable bowel syndrome.

This article will review the evidence behind the claims that turmeric can help symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome or IBS, discuss how it may be used, and if there are any risks.

What is turmeric?

Turmeric thrown into the air. May help with IBS
Turmeric may have healing properties that derive from its curcumin compound.

Turmeric has been used to treat conditions, including colds, digestive problems, and infections. Its potential healing properties come from curcumin, which is an anti-inflammatory compound it contains.

Turmeric has recently attracted attention for its potential to reduce IBS symptoms. IBS is a common disorder of the digestive system that causes symptoms, such as stomach cramps, diarrhea, and constipation.

The cause of IBS is unknown, and there are currently no available cures. Symptoms of IBS are typically managed using medicine and lifestyle changes that tend to involve changes in diet.

Including turmeric as part of a healthful diet-based approach to managing IBS symptoms is an easy step to take.

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Does it work?

One study found that curcumin had a positive impact on gastrointestinal functioning in rats. The authors of the study suggested that their findings could have implications for the use curcumin in treating IBS symptoms. However, more studies are needed in humans to establish this conclusively.

A pilot study conducted in 2004 found that human participants with IBS who took 2 tablets of turmeric every day for 8 weeks reported reductions in abdominal discomfort and improved bowel movement patterns.

However, this study lacked a control group, and the authors concluded that more research was needed to rule out the placebo effect and other variables.

Turmeric has been associated with benefits for other disorders of the digestive system, including ulcerative colitis, a chronic condition that causes diarrhea and abdominal pain.

One study in 2015 found that adding curcumin to the regular treatment routine had a positive impact on the symptoms of ulcerative colitis.

There are some positive findings relating to the use of turmeric in reducing IBS symptoms, and these effects may also extend to other digestive disorders. However, more research is required to determine whether turmeric can have any real benefits for the treatment of IBS.

Side effects and safety

Turmeric root and powder for IBS
Turmeric can be purchased as a root or powder, and is also available as a supplement.

Curcumin is considered safe to consume for most people in doses ranging from 500 miligrams (mg) to 12,000 mg per day, for short-term use only. More studies are needed to determine toxicity associated with long-term use.

Some side effects can occur with regular turmeric use, including:

  • abdominal pain
  • digestive problems
  • nausea
  • blood-thinning

It is currently unclear whether curcumin supplements are safe for pregnant women, so it is important for these women to speak to a doctor before trying any supplements.

People with diabetes should also avoid consuming turmeric, as it can lower blood glucose levels. It may also interact with some medications, such as blood thinners or diabetes drugs, so people should be sure to talk to their doctor before taking curcumin supplements.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) do not regulate supplements, so the safety and contents of turmeric products cannot be guaranteed.

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How to use turmeric

Turmeric is commonly used to flavor foods from savory curries and soups to sweet cakes and smoothies. It can be purchased as a powder or in its root form. It is also possible to take curcumin supplements, which are normally available in health food stores.

Unlike turmeric in other forms, the supplements are highly concentrated doses of curcumin, so people should be sure to read the instructions on how much is safe to consume.

Takeaway

Turmeric has shown promise in initial studies for its positive effect on some IBS symptoms. In most cases, including turmeric or curcumin supplements, as a part of a healthful diet, will not pose any health risk for people with IBS.

Whether turmeric has any real benefits for IBS symptoms remains unclear, and further research in this area is required.

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