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A good treatment option for indigestion may already be in your spice rack, according to a new study.
The study, published Monday in the medical journal BMJ, compared how more than 150 people with dyspepsia or indigestion responded to the drug omeprazole, turmeric – which contains the compound curcumin – or a combination of the two.
Omeprazole is a common drug used to treat certain heart and esophageal problems by reducing acid in the stomach, according to the Mayo Clinic.
On days 28 and 56 of treatment, people in the study were assessed for their symptoms – which may include stomach pain, bloating, nausea or an early feeling of fullness – using the Severity of Dyspepsia Assessment, a questionnaire that assesses the severity of indigestion. .
According to the study, researchers found no significant differences in the symptoms of the groups taking the drug, turmeric, or the combination of the two.
“In addition to anti-inflammatory and antioxidant purposes, curcumin could be an option for the treatment of dyspepsia with comparable efficacy to omeprazole,” said the study’s lead author, Dr. Krit Pongpirul, associate professor in the department of medicine preventive and social care of Chulalongkorn University. in Bangkok, Thailand.
Turmeric has been used by people in Southeast Asia to treat stomach disorders and other inflammatory conditions, Pongpirul said. Its medicinal use dates back hundreds of years, according to a 2017 study.
In the United States, its primary medicinal use has been as an anti-inflammatory and antioxidant dietary supplement to relieve osteoarthritis and irritable bowel syndrome, he added.
But this is the first clinical trial directly comparing curcumin with omeprazole in the treatment of dyspepsia, Pongpirul said.
Questions about the impact of turmeric
It makes sense for research to investigate turmeric’s impact on indigestion, because its compound curcumin has been studied in a wide variety of inflammatory conditions, including inflammatory bowel disease and arthritis, said Dr. Yuying Luo, gastroenterologist and assistant professor of gastroenterology at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City.
Some studies have shown that curcumin is useful in combination with other medications, he added.
But there were some questions Luo had about the new study.
The scale researchers used to measure symptoms is not the most common scale used to evaluate improvement in indigestion, he said.
Luo would also like to see what the results would be if symptoms were measured more frequently.
“I don’t think this study alone is enough to make me say, ‘I recommend it,’” he said. “Proceed with caution.”
But since there is a lot of research investigating the compound’s impact on different inflammatory conditions, further insights may be at hand, Luo added.
“Curcumin is not going away,” he said.
Should You Start Taking Turmeric?
Should you increase turmeric in your diet for better digestion? Talk to your doctor first, Luo said.
There have been some case studies on curcumin and liver damage, and it’s important to make sure turmeric doesn’t interact badly with any of the other medications you’re taking, he added.
“Consumers should be aware of side effects of curcumin extracts such as allergies and bleeding risk, especially for those taking anticoagulant or antiplatelet medications,” Pongpirul said.
That said, curcumin is “generally considered safe when consumed in amounts normally found in foods,” he added.
Typically, turmeric spices contain about 3 percent curcumin, according to a 2009 study.
The 2-gram dose administered in this study is relatively low compared to extracts commonly found in curcumin supplements, Pongpirul said.
You may not need to take turmeric and omeprazole together if simply taking one or the other works similarly to reduce the risk of side effects, he said.
Although he needs to see more studies before he starts recommending turmeric as a treatment, Luo said he thinks it makes sense to talk to your doctor about whether you should try it in addition to your medications.
He adds, however, a caveat: People trying these alternatives should give them two to four weeks each to see what the full impact is.
“If it’s useful, it’s wonderful,” Luo added. “If not, that’s the hard part of treating disorders…not all patients are the same and have the same response to medications.”
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