If you love spices, then you must be familiar with turmeric.
Although it’s most famous now as a culinary staple for those who are into Persian or Middle Eastern dishes, it can do so much more than that. Turmeric is also well known for its therapeutic effects, dating back nearly 4000 years and slowly getting recognition by modern medicine.
Turmeric’s Latin name is Curcuma longa, a plant belonging to the ginger family. It is native in South Asia as the region provides the right temperature and the considerable amount of rainfall that turmeric needs to thrive. India is the biggest producer and consumer of turmeric. When speaking about turmeric’s healing properties, you will always hear mention of curcumin. Curcumin is the inherent ingredient that gives turmeric its yellow color. But aside from being a pigment, it boasts of a lot of medicinal capabilities. It is said to be anti-oxidant, anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, antifungal, and anti-cancer. This makes turmeric a potential elixir for a long list of diseases affecting the cardiovascular, nervous, respiratory, and digestive systems among others.
Indeed, turmeric has a plethora of sought-after benefits and is hailed as a natural cure for a number of chronic and debilitating diseases. Of all the scientifically-proven abilities of this “golden spice”, we are putting a spotlight on turmeric health benefits for the gallbladder and the biliary system as a whole.
7 Benefits of Turmeric for the Gallbladder
The active ingredient Curcumin in Turmeric may:
- Increase Secretion of Bile
- Increase Gallbladder Contraction
- Boost Liver Health
- Regulate Cholesterol Levels
- Inhibit Cox 2 Inflammation
- Regulate Blood Sugar
- Help in Recovery After Surgery
Turmeric For Liver
In a clinical experiment conducted in 2015 and published in the BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine Journal, researchers investigated turmeric’s protective and regenerative effects on damaged livers. Animal tests showed that turmeric supplementation successfully tempered liver toxicity induced in the subjects. The study’s conclusion attributed it to turmeric’s inflammatory activity.
Another study published in the Journal of Food Science also exhibited turmeric’s ability to reduce the risk of fatty liver disease. It showed that curcumin from turmeric promotes programmed death in liver cells that cause scarring which can lead to liver cirrhosis in the long run. Because of curcumin’s ability to arrest inflammation and boost detoxification, molecules that promote liver damage are significantly reduced.
Aside from combating liver toxicity and protecting the liver from eventual cirrhosis, turmeric also does wonders in already-problematic livers. In separate instances, turmeric was administered to subjects who were diabetic, suffering from fatty liver disease, and diagnosed with mild to moderate alanine aminotransferase (ALT) levels respectively. All these indicated notable liver damages or dysfunction. In all these cases, turmeric helped the liver cells to repair and regenerate. It has also been known to shrink enlarged and inflamed hepatic ducts.
Liver health is of utmost importance since it is one of the three most vital organs in the body. Also, the state of the liver is closely linked to gallbladder health as they work together to ensure a sufficient effective and non-toxic bile flow.
Turmeric Helps Regulate Cholesterol Levels
Another function that makes turmeric an effective agent in achieving optimum liver health is its effect on cholesterol. Turmeric powered by curcumin has the ability to minimize cholesterol absorption in the gut, prevent cholesterol production in the liver, and lessen low-density lipoprotein (LDL a.k.a. bad cholesterol) while reducing its oxidation in the arteries.
When tested on rats that were fed a high cholesterol diet, scientists concluded that turmeric supplements were able to regulate plasma cholesterol levels. Plasma cholesterol contributes to the formation of fatty plaques in the arteries which can lead to atherosclerosis, stroke, or a heart attack. Turmeric reduces the adhesive properties of blood platelets, thus preventing the formation of clots. It also relaxes blood vessels and promotes healthy circulation. The cholesterol-regulating property also benefits the gallbladder and biliary system as a whole since excessive cholesterol may lead to the formation of gallstones or the disruption of normal bile flow.
Another reason for plaque build-up is cholesterol oxidation. During this process, oxygenated derivatives of cholesterol called oxysterols are formed. Although oxysterol synthesis is an important part of the immune response to pathogens and a valuable transport form of cholesterol, oxysterols are also implicated in the development of numerous diseases like gallstones, atherosclerosis, cancer, multiple sclerosis, and neurodegenerative diseases. Oxysterols are also considered markers for oxidative stress.
Turmeric and curcuminoids have also been proven to be effective protective agents against cardiovascular disease as they decrease blood cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL cholesterol) levels. This belief has been tested in numerous studies including one published in Nutrition Research and Practice back in 2010 highlighting the hypocholesterolemic effects of curcumin. Based on test results, the administration of curcumin to animal subjects significantly decreased triglycerides by 27, total cholesterol by 33.8%, and LDL cholesterol by 56%. Another study published in The American Journal of Cardiology proved that the anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects of curcumin account for its cardioprotective properties. In the experiment, turmeric was administered to patient subjects who have undergone coronary artery bypass and results prove that post-operation heart attack risk is reduced by 56%
Turmeric Boosts Gastrointestinal Health
There are many ways that turmeric and curcumin boost gastrointestinal health.
First, it improves bile flow. This was exemplified in a 2011 study focused on the effect of turmeric given to animal subjects with infection and obstruction due to partial biliary obstruction by liver fluke. The experiment proved that treatment with curcumin plus other agents resulted in enhanced biliary contraction and bile flow. A separate study concluded that curcumin stimulates the gallbladder to release bile.
Secondly, turmeric helps resolve common digestive problems. Whether it is gas, bloating, or cramping, turmeric shows the potential to be a natural treatment. In Ayurvedic or ancient medicine, turmeric is known to be carminative, relieving flatulence and calming the upper digestive system. It is also considered antispasmodic which helps in smoothing muscles and reducing digestive cramping and even dysmenorrhea (painful menstrual cramps). This also helps ease symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). A study published in the Journal of Alternative Complementary Medicine showed that turmeric supplementation reduced IBS prevalence, relieved discomfort, and generally assisted in improving patients’ quality of life.
Another way in which turmeric helps the gastrointestinal tract is by preventing gastroesophageal reflux disease or GERD, acid reflux, and heartburn. According to a 2013 article from the World Journal of Gastroenterology, turmeric can reduce esophageal sensitivity to acid, helping in alleviating GERD symptoms. GERD or acid reflux is also said to be brought about by improper digestion which leads to acid build-up, pressuring the lower esophageal sphincter. Since turmeric improves bile flow and increases gallbladder contraction, it can significantly improve digestion and indirectly stop one of the sources of GERD. Lastly, turmeric provides relief for GERD, acid reflux, or heartburn by healing peptic ulcers. Studies show that regular ingestion of curcumin heals wounds and sores in the gut lining by reducing the secretion of gastrin, a hormone that stimulates acid production.
Turmeric: Anti-Inflammatory Extraordinaire
Turmeric and curcumin are preventive agents and potential answers to metabolic diseases like obesity, type-2 diabetes, and fatty liver disease. This is primarily because of the anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant capabilities of the herb. An article from Reuters Health also underscored the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties of curcumin and its role in metabolic syndromes. This is good news even for those conscious about their gallbladder health. Metabolic syndromes have long been associated with the development of gallstones and other gallbladder diseases. In fact, metabolic syndromes can increase the risk of gallstone disease by 4 times.
Aside from metabolic diseases, turmeric can also provide relief from inflammatory bowel diseases like Chron’s Disease and ulcerative colitis. IBS increases the possibility of developing gallstones and other complications. These diseases are often chronic, and they reappear over short or long periods of time. Studies show that turmeric supplements taken regularly can prevent or delay the recurrence of symptoms. Turmeric extract can also be given as an enema. It is compatible when used with conventional treatments.
Curcumin in turmeric blocks the cox 2 molecule which goes into the cell nucleus and turns on genes related to inflammation. The inflammation found in the gallbladder walls as well as in bile ducts and the sphincter of Oddi has been found to be cox 2 related. While there are specific drugs that have been designed as cox 2 inhibitors such as Celebrex or celecoxib, there are natural cox 2 inhibitors found in nature, and curcumin is one of the most powerful of these.
Since inflammation plays a major role in almost every chronic disease, turmeric’s benefit is not limited to the digestive and biliary systems.
Turmeric and Diabetes
Turmeric helps regulate blood sugar levels in numerous ways.
Firstly, it is most famous for its ability to lower blood sugar levels. In a study published in the International Journal of Endocrinology and Metabolism, curcumin was said to reduce glucose production in the liver and stimulate glucose uptake by boosting expressions of GLUT4, GLUT 2, and GLUT3 genes. The results of the experiment also showed curcumin’s ability to stimulate insulin secretion while improving pancreatic cell functions and reducing insulin resistance. All of these contribute to lower blood sugar levels.
Secondly, since turmeric is effective in counteracting inflammation, diabetes is addressed at the onset. A 2014 experiment conducted with patients suffering from Type 2 Diabetes, showed that curcuminoids have anti-diabetic effects. Supplementation showed positive changes in terms of glucose levels, free fatty acids, and C-reactive protein. It even increased the activity of serum superoxide dismutase (SOD) which lowers oxidative stress associated with diabetes, cancer, obesity, and cardiovascular diseases. A separate experiment led to a similar conclusion that curcumin has antihyperglycemic and insulin sensitizer effects.
For those who are still on the brink of developing diabetes, turmeric also brings great news as it can help stop the aggravation of the condition. A study involving subjects with pre-diabetes showed that none of the people who received regular supplementation of curcumin for 9 months developed diabetes while the control group didn’t show favorable results.
Turmeric Helps in Recovery After Surgery
This health benefit from turmeric is especially useful for those who are considering cholecystectomy or people who have just undergone gallbladder removal or any other kind of invasive procedure. These procedures always create inflammation to a lesser or greater extent. According to the study published by Molecular and Cellular Biochemistry, curcumin improves wound healing by increased cellular proliferation and collagen synthesis. The topical application of curcumin soothes irritation. It can also reduce overall fatigue and pain after surgery. The detoxifying property of curcumin is also important in activating our body’s natural antioxidants.
Turmeric Side Effects
Turmeric is both a choleretic and a cholagogue.
This means that turmeric stimulates bile production from the liver and it also causes the gallbladder to contract. It can be a blessing or a curse, in some ways, if you have gallbladder problems, stones, or low functioning bile ducts; some will experience relief while some will feel increased symptoms. If you are suffering from these conditions, start slowly and note your response.
Unless you have acute gallstone problems, i.e. a stone stuck causing you pain or attack, you actually want the gallbladder to contract. The idea is to keep the gallbladder working, to keep the bile moving so that things do not stagnate. But, you need to start slowly with something like turmeric that can cause contraction. Many people who have gallbladder symptoms do not have stones at all. Even so, starting slowly is always recommended.
Turmeric may slow blood clotting
Since turmeric can have a thinning effect on the blood, it may have interaction with anticoagulant or anti-platelet drugs. There might be an increased possibility of bruising and bleeding if taken along medications that slow clotting.
Turmeric must be used with caution by people with iron deficiency as turmeric ingestion in high amounts may prevent absorption of iron.
Turmeric and Pepper
Turmeric with black pepper increases absorption by 8 times. Black pepper is stronger than the white variant which makes it a more suitable partner for curcumin. When using our Turmeric supplement, or any other without Pipera nigris on the label, it is fine to take some pepper with a meal then the supplement, even a couple of hours separately. Pepper lasts for a couple of hours within our system so it can be ingested ahead but not the other way around. It takes only a tiny pinch to do its work. A word of caution though – anyone with gastritis or any kind of sensitivity in the gastric area should use white pepper only, and in the tiniest amounts.
Fresh Raw Turmeric Recipe
4 tbsp of fresh raw turmeric juice*
½-1 tsp honey
pinch of very finely ground black pepper
Take on an empty stomach every morning 20-30 minutes before eating or drinking. Add nothing else to this recipe.
Note: This must be juiced since blending requires the addition of water.
If you can’t get to include turmeric in your meals and drinks daily, consider a quality turmeric supplement. Try Nature’s Edge® curcu-gel® for your daily dose (Available on Amazon).