The word is out - Turmeric is a natural and potent option for addressing pain and inflammation. A bright orange root native to South Asia, turmeric is also rich in anti-oxidants, which fights formation of free radicals in the body. The main compound in turmeric - curcumin - is the constituent that lends anti-inflammatory benefits. Research has shown that curcumin works through a mechanism in the body that sensitizes cortisol receptor sites, which in turn calms pain signals. Curcumin also acts on inflammatory pathways to halt the development of inflammatory compounds. There have also been studies done that show the efficacy of curcumin supplementation to rival the effects of common NSAIDS.
One issue with turmeric, and curcumin specifically, is low bio-availability - meaning that the compound isn’t well absorbed by our bodies. Luckily, there has been research done to find ways to increase the availability of curcumin. Binding the compound to phospholipid complexes can increase absorption and there are supplements that provide this combination (i.e. Thorne).
What about in whole food form? Well, the active constituent of black pepper - piperine - can increase curcumin’s bioavailibility. A study on this combination showed that a dose of 2000mg of curucmin and 20mg of piperine boosted absorption by 2000%! When cooking, it is difficult to reach these amounts. However, adding turmeric and black pepper into your meals can only help to optimize your nutrition and health. As a rule of thumb, 1 tsp of turmeric is ~200mg.
As always, seeing a practitioner can help guide you in deciding the correct and most efficient way to supplement with curcumin.
In the mean while, here are a few ideas to sneak more turmeric into your diet:
- smoothies (turmeric is pungent but using other strong flavored fruits or a good fat source can smooth out the taste)
- stir fries
- homemade granola/energy bars
OR, give this Golden Milk Latte a try the next time you need a warm, calming, and pain-reducing drink:
- 1 cup unsweetened coconut milk
- 2 tsp turmeric
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp ginger
- 1/2 tsp cardamom
- 1/2 tsp black pepper
- 1/2 tsp coconut oil
- Honey to taste
Heat coconut milk in a sauce pan then add spices. Stir well and allow to simmer a minute or two. Add honey to taste!