NMU 136 – Curcumin and Arthritis
Nutrition / Natural Medicine Update No 136 (July 17, 2019)
with Dr. James Meschino
Topic: Curcumin Supplements Reduce Pain and Swelling in Patients with Osteoarthritis.
Source: Journal “Nutrients” (2019)
Osteoarthritis or degenerative arthritis is a common problem that can often affect the knees and/or the hips. The pain, swelling, and stiffness associated with this condition can very much restrict mobility and prohibit many otherwise enjoyable physical activities. The main drug treatment for osteoarthritis are anti-inflammatory drugs, but as pointed out in the review article in the Journal of Medicinal Food in 2016 (see reference below), these drugs can cause serious side effects, such as intestinal bleeding and ulceration, as well as high blood pressure and congestive heart failure. As such, researchers have looked for natural agents that can reduce pain, swelling, stiffness in osteoarthritis patients that don’t have serious side effects. In fact, there are several natural agents with known anti-inflammatory properties, but in recent years no less than twelve human clinical studies have strongly demonstrated the profound anti-inflammatory effect of the natural supplement known as curcumin (from the spice turmeric), which has been shown to significantly reduces osteoarthritis symptoms and improving quality of life for these patients.
Clinical studies show that curcumin supplementation provides the same reduction in pain, swelling, and stiffness, as do anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen and diclofenac (Voltaren). The difference is that curcumin does not cause intestinal irritation, ulceration or bleeding, nor does it raise blood pressure or increase the risk of congestive heart failure. In fact, the 2019 review of curcumin published in the journal “Nutrients”, highlights the fact that curcumin also improves blood sugar regulation in diabetics and prediabetics, and helps to lower cholesterol and triglycerides. These, of course, are good side effects, not to mention curcumin’s well-documented anti-cancer properties.
How does curcumin reduce inflammation? Experimental studies show that curcumin blocks the activity of Nuclear Factor – kappa beta (NFk-beta) which is a key driver of the inflammatory and osteoarthritic process. Curcumin also blocks the release of many inflammatory cytokines and inhibits enzymes (phospholipase A2 and lipoxygenase) that initiate the inflammatory process in both osteoarthritides and in autoimmune diseases that affect joints, such as rheumatoid arthritis. To benefit from curcumin, it’s important to use the dosage that has been shown to be effective. Typically, this means ingesting 1,000 -1,200 mg per day, in divided doses, such as 400 mg, three times daily. It is best absorbed with food (especially foods that contain some fat). This is assuming that the curcumin supplement is a 90% grade of curcumin, derived from the Indian spice turmeric. So, look for that on the label.
I personally have seen curcumin, as well as other natural anti-inflammatory supplements, to reduce swelling, pain, and stiffness in arthritic patients. If you suffer from arthritis you may want to consider using curcumin as an adjunct to your treatment, after checking with your doctor. I have included two recent references on curcumin in the text below.
Journal Nutrients (2019): https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/31052496
Journal of Medicinal Food (2016) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5003001/
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