The list of health benefits that develop with curcumin supplementation continues to grow, now quite an impressive list.
Curcumin, the active component of the common spice, turmeric, has been found to be safe, even at high doses, and yields numerous anti-inflammatory, metabolic-improving health benefits that include:
- Reduced inflammation, pain, and swelling in osteoarthritis
- Reduced likelihood of pre-diabetes progressing to type 2 diabetes
- Lifting of depression
- Contributes to achieving remission of ulcerative colitis
- Reduced endothelial dysfunction (abnormal arterial constriction that increases potential for atherosclerotic disease)
- Reduced measures of fatty liver
- Improved measures of memory
- Reduced symptoms and C-reactive protein levels in rheumatoid arthritis
It’s also helpful to know that curcumin is a moderately potent antibiotic, especially effective against species such as Staphylococcus aureas, Bacillus subtilis, E. coli, and Pseudomonas aeruginosa. Curcumin also has moderately potent antifungal effects.
Odd thing: Very little curcumin taken orally is actually absorbed. If you take 100 mg, for example, more than 99 mg passes out into the toilet. In a number of studies of curcumin, there was no detectable curcumin or metabolites detected in the blood. In other studies, mega-doses of curcumin were required to generate a rise in blood levels, doses typically of 4000-12,000 mg. A lot of time and energy has therefore been devoted to increasing curcumin’s absorption by adding things like bioperine or piperine, or creating liposomal or nanoparticle forms.
If curcumin works, why fuss about how and why? There are several reasons.
Given its antibacterial and antifungal effects, could many or most of the reasons why curcumin is effective is via changes it exerts on bowel flora composition, i.e., reduction of dysbiosis or small intestinal bacterial overgrowth, SIBO? Take a look at the list of conditions improved with curcumin (above) and you could easily create the same list for SIBO eradication. Recall that key to understanding the effects of SIBO is to recognize that metabolic endotoxemia, the absorption of bacterial breakdown products from the gastrointestinal tract, explains how disrupted bowel flora can “export” its effects to skin, brain, arteries, liver, and joints.
If the antibacterial and antifungal effects of curcumin are responsible for its beneficial effects, it could even be hazardous to take it for long periods of time, as we do not know what happens when you take an antibacterial/antifungal for an extended period—could resistance or other unhealthy shifts in bowel flora composition emerge?
Perhaps there will be additional benefits obtained by increasing curcumin’s absorption. But I’d have a hard time ignoring the fact that it possesses substantial antibacterial and antifungal effects on bowel flora.
Bottom line here, at least until we have better evidence: Use curcumin in the short-term for its antibacterial and antifungal effects as part of an effort to correct SIBO and SIFO (small intestinal fungal overgrowth). Enjoy the benefits on joint, skin, liver, and metabolic health. But I would avoid taking curcumin for any more than a few weeks to reduce the potential for introducing chronic unhealthy changes in bowel flora composition.