Tackling Inflammation with Turmeric
With all the side effects and financial costs of common medical treatments for rheumatoid arthritis, many people search for homeopathic options. One supplement that has been used to treat arthritis for thousands of years is turmeric.1 This is a golden-colored spice that is commonly used in preparing curries and mustards. Turmeric contains a chemical called curcumin, and it is this chemical that may have anti-inflammatory properties.2
Although people have been using turmeric to treat inflammatory conditions for thousands of years, there is a lack of research studies on curcumin. A study performed in 2012 on 45 people with active rheumatoid arthritis revealed that the individuals who were given curcumin saw decreased Disease Activity Scores as well as a decrease in the number of tender and/or swollen joints over the group not given curcumin.3 In addition, no adverse effects were seen in the individuals taking curcumin. The researchers who conducted this study stated the need for further research on a larger scale, but were encouraged by their findings.
Before experimenting with taking turmeric for its anti-inflammatory properties, it is recommended that you discuss this with your rheumatologist and any other health professionals you see regularly. While turmeric is a natural supplement derived from a shrub, it can still have some side effects. One of the most common symptoms of taking turmeric in high doses or for long periods of time is digestive issues such as diarrhea, indigestion or nausea and, in extreme cases, ulcers. In addition, people with gallbladder disease should avoid turmeric, as it can exacerbate the condition. Also, turmeric may lower blood sugars. Therefore, if you have diabetes it is important to discuss taking turmeric with the endocrinologist or doctor who treats your diabetes before adding it to your diet. Lastly, while it is safe to eat foods containing turmeric while pregnant or breastfeeding, it is not recommended to take turmeric in high doses or in supplement form.
Once you and your doctor(s) have determined it is safe for you to try turmeric, there are many ways of ingesting the spice to choose from. If you want to add it to foods you eat, there are many recipes available on the internet that feature turmeric, including rice dishes, vegetables, salad dressings, soups, and Indian cuisine. You can also sprinkle it on top of egg dishes or add it to smoothies. It is also possible to make tea by boiling water and adding fresh turmeric root or dried turmeric powder. Lastly, there are supplements available that come in capsule form. Some of these contain higher concentrations of curcumin, the active ingredient in turmeric, than the powdered spice form. The University of Maryland Medical Center recommends the following dosing guidelines for adults taking turmeric for its health benefits: 1.5 to 3 grams per day of cut root; 1 to 3 grams per day of dried, powdered turmeric root (spice); 400-600 mg three times per day of curcumin powder.4
I experimented with taking a curcumin supplement but found that it exacerbated the hypoglycemia (low blood sugars) I have in addition to RA. Unfortunately, my blood sugars were falling too frequently for me to take the supplement long enough to see if it had benefits on my rheumatoid arthritis symptoms.
Have you tried turmeric to treat your RA symptoms? If so, we’d love to hear whether or not it worked for you.
On a scale of 1(low) to 5(high), how difficult is it for you to talk about having RA?