So which is better for fighting inflammation, turmeric or curcumin? That’s actually bit of a trick question as curcumin is a derivative of turmeric. Curcumin is also the pigment in curry that gives it it’s yellow color and the spice that gives it heat. Curcumin is also world renowned for it’s healing properties and is recommended in over 6000 peer reviewed medical journals as an excellent alternative to corticosteroids such as prednisone and other steroid anti-inflammatory drugs.
What is Curcumin aka Turmeric?
I’m currently seeing patients in Peru. My good friend from chiropractic school has a successful family-based practice here in Lima called Innata Quiropractic. He’s been travelling, so I’ve been covering his office.
Peruvians, more so than any of the places I’ve practiced in Asia, are much more inclined to use natural methods of healing rather than those that are prescribed by a physician. Possibly this is because of their indigenous Inca ancestry. Another possibility is because the health care here is quite questionable.
Over the past couple of months I’ve noticed that an overwhelming amount of Peruvian have asked me if I would recommend “curcumin” for pain relief.
Curcumin is not a word my limited Spanish vocabulary has encountered. So, when hearing of something in the treatment room that I don’t recognize, such as curcumin, I do as any good medical practitioner would do… I ask Dr. Google.
As it turns out, curcumin is what most Americans, and predominantly the rest of the world, refer to as turmeric. Often a primary ingredient in curries and mustard, turmeric is also widely regarded as one of the most powerful herbs on the planet because of it’s high concentrations of curcumin.
In researching curcumin, it dawned on me that this could be of tremendous help to my weight loss patients.
Weight Gain Is a Side Effect of Steroid Anti-Inflammatory Drugs
Mix a teaspoon with your morning yogurt.
Many who suffer from chronic pain, often pain resulting from autoimmune conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, lupus or fibromyalgia are often prescribed steroid anti-inflammatories. The most common steroid anti-inflammatory, also known as a corticosteroid is prednisone.
One of the many by-products or side effects of prednisone, and all steroid anti-inflammatory drugs, is weight gain. I’ve had many patients tell me or make posts to our private Facebook group that they began putting on weight following steroid treatment. Subsequently, they were unable to get it off. It’s all too common.
I’ve been fortunate, chronic pain is something I’ve never had to experience. Chronic pain can be debilitating in all aspects of life. It can affect your sleep, which will then affect your work. Chronic pain can also drastically limit your physical activity. Eventually it will infiltrate your emotional state of being and ultimately impact your relationships and your family. It can be devastating.
It’s not wonder chronic patients will go to extreme measures to remedy their condition, even those with known widespread side-effects.
Other known side-effects to steroids other than weight gain
blurred vision, eye pain, or seeing halos around lights;
swelling, rapid weight gain, feeling short of breath;
severe depression, feelings of extreme happiness or sadness, changes in personality or behavior, seizure (convulsions);
bloody or tarry stools, coughing up blood;
pancreatitis (severe pain in your upper stomach spreading to your back, nausea and vomiting, fast heart rate);
low potassium (confusion, uneven heart rate, extreme thirst, increased urination, leg discomfort, muscle weakness or limp feeling); or
dangerously high blood pressure (severe headache, blurred vision, buzzing in your ears, anxiety, confusion, chest pain, shortness of breath, uneven heartbeats, seizure)
sleep problems (insomnia), mood changes;
increased appetite, gradual weight gain;
acne, increased sweating, dry skin, thinning skin, bruising or discoloration;
slow wound healing;
headache, dizziness, spinning sensation;
nausea, stomach pain, bloating; or
changes in the shape or location of body fat (especially in your arms, legs, face, neck, breasts, and waist).
This is quite a list, right? Did you notice how many side effects relate to weight gain and abnormal deposits of fat. And these are only the side-effects of steroid anti-inflammatories. There is a separate, yet equally distinguished list of side-effect to what are called NSAIDs or Non-Steroid Anti-Inflammatories Drugs that are equally as dangerous. Aspirin, ibuprofin and naproxin are all NSAIDs.
There has to be a better way to treat chronic pain..?
Turmeric – The all natural anti-inflammatory and steroid alternative
The regarded medical journal Oncogene recently published the results of a study that evaluated several anti-inflammatory compounds, some prescribed, some over the counter drugs such as aspirin. It also evaluated some all-natural therapies. It’s conclusion was that NSAIDs (non steroid anti-inflammatory drugs) such as aspirin and ibuprofen were least effective, while curcumin is one of the most effective. Steroids such as prednisone were right in the middle.
How are painkillers different from anti-inflammatory drugs?
This is a great question and one I often get from chronic pain patients. If you suffer from chronic pain, in addition to prednisone or other steroid anti-inflammatory drugs, you may have also been prescribed a painkiller such as tramadol, vicodin, hydrocodone and oxycodone.
These are prescription narcotics that activate the opioid system within the brain. These drugs are highly addictive and in my opinion have very little reward compared to the associated risk involved. Opiate based pain medications actually reward pain. They alleviate pain by masking it and making you feel… good. As a result, not only do you become addicted to the drug, but your body becomes addicted to pain. Your body will manufacture pain in order to get the drugs. Bad for you, good for the shareholders of the big pharma.
Curcumin – A non-addictive alternative to painkillers
In 2015, the European Journal of Pharmacology published a journal article that proved curcumin naturally activates the opioid system in diabetic rats. Typically thought to be only manipulated by the drugs mentioned above, this natural process serves as the body’s inherent pain-relieving response.
Let’s take severe burn victims, for example. These types of injuries are treated by the dangerously addictive opioids and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories that I mentioned above. However, because of its anti-inflammatory benefits, U.S. Army Institute of Surgical Research suggests that, curcumin should be used to treat burns instead of these conventional medications. That tells you something, right?
By now you should be able to see where I’m coming from. The therapeutic use of turmeric and other curcumin-rich plants can be used to replace conventional medical treatments to alleviate chronic pain and inflammation. And it can do so without the weight gain and other adverse side-effects.
Curcomin and AutoImmune Disease
AutoImmune disease runs in my family, specifically Rheumatoid Arthritis and Lupus. I’ve seen my aunt and cousin, young cousin at that, only 26, suffer through the symptoms of these diseases. How excited I was to share this research with them, I cannot explain. I hate seeing travel with all of their prescription pill bottles when we make our annual trip to Gulf Shores.
A breakthrough clinical study way back in 1999 revealed that curcumin has the capacity to cure chronic inflammation of the eye. Often this condition is treated with steroids but today, it’s not uncommon for functional medicine doctors to actually prescribe curcumin as an alternative.
However, what CANNOT be overstated is that although statistically “comparable” to steroids in managing and reversing chronic disease, “The lack of side effects with curcumin is its greatest advantage compared with corticosteroids,” as stated by the authors of the study above from K.G. Medical College.
If you suffer from chronic pain as the result of an injury or auto-immune disease, there ARE other alternatives. In fact, curcumin can provide immediate relief. I now recommend it to all of my acute patients and many report almost over-night results.
The most important thing to remember is that you DO have choices. Only YOU can feel your pain and only YOU can take the steps necessary to remedy it. Start with the least invasive and most natural means first, such as turmeric. If it doesn’t work for you, then move on to something more invasive. What do you have to lose… except the side-effect of weight gain.
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