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If you’re still taking proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) for acid reflux, you may want to put that bottle down after reading this.
So what’s an acid reflux sufferer to do? Luckily, researchers have discovered a plant-based remedy that may get to the root of this common problem…
How turmeric affects the stomach
Turmeric, a spice taken from the root of the Curcuma longa plant, contains a naturally active compound called curcumin that’s believed to have anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties. It’s long been used as a remedy for various conditions, including indigestion, in Southeast Asia.
However, there have been no studies pitting turmeric head to head with any drugs to treat indigestion. That’s why a team of researchers in Thailand decided to test turmeric against omeprazole, one of the most commonly used PPIs to treat excess stomach acid.
Their study involved 206 patients ages 18-70 with recurrent upset stomach or functional dyspepsia. Symptoms of functional dyspepsia include feeling excessively full after food, feeling full after only a little food and pain or a burning sensation in the stomach and/or esophagus.
These patients were assigned to one of three treatment groups for a period of 28 days. One group received two large 250 mg capsules of curcumin, the active ingredient in turmeric, four times a day along with a small dummy capsule. A second group received one small 20 mg capsule of omeprazole and two large dummy capsules four times a day. A third group received the two large curcumin capsules and the small omeprazole capsule four times a day.
At the beginning of the study, all the patients had similar indigestion scores, which were calculated using the Severity of Dyspepsia Assessment (SODA) score. Patients were reassessed after 28 days and again after 56 days.
According to these soda scores, all three groups experienced similar reductions in severity of symptoms by day 28. For pain, the combined group experienced a 4.83 point reduction in their SODA score, while the curcumin group showed a 5.46 point reduction in SODA score and the omeprazole group a 6.22 point reduction. For other symptoms, the combined group showed a 2.22 reduction in SODA score, the curcumin group a 2.32 reduction and the omeprazole group a 2.31 reduction.
The improvements were even stronger after 56 days, with pain scores dropping by 7.19 points for the combined group, 8.07 points for the curcumin group and 8.85 points for the omeprazole group, and other symptoms showing reductions of 4.09, 4.12 and 3.71 points, respectively.
When you compare these improvements, one thing is clear: curcumin proved to be just as effective as omeprazole at relieving the symptoms of indigestion, including acid reflux.
There were no serious side effects reported in the study. However, the researchers note that liver function tests did indicate some level of deterioration among curcumin users carrying excess weight.
Getting the benefits of turmeric
So next time your acid reflux flares up, you may want to try adding some turmeric to your diet to soothe the burn. But there’s one big caveat: curcumin, the active ingredient in turmeric, isn’t absorbed easily by your body. In fact, your body metabolizes it quickly and eliminates it so fast it’s like it was never there.
Luckily, there are a few things you can do to improve turmeric absorption:
- Heat the turmeric. Since heating turmeric makes the curcumin more available to your body, cooking with turmeric is better than taking a turmeric supplement.
- Combine turmeric with a healthy oil. Turmeric is fat-soluble, meaning it dissolves in fat, allowing your body to absorb it.
- Add black pepper to turmeric. Research has shown the compound piperine found in black pepper can prevent curcumin from being eliminated so quickly from your body.
You can incorporate all three of these steps at once by drinking golden milk. This warm, turmeric-based drink has only a few ingredients and can be whipped up in a flash. Here is a recipe for golden milk that will allow you to take full advantage of turmeric’s benefits.
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Curcumin and proton pump inhibitors for functional dyspepsia: a randomised, double blind controlled trial — BMJ Evidence-Based Medicine