Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is a chronic immune disorder that is divided into two major categories, ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease. Standard treatment includes anti-inflammatory drugs.
Curcumin, found naturally in turmeric spice, has also been reported to have significant anti-inflammatory properties. Dr. Rebecca A. Taylor and Dr. Mandy C. Leonard of the Cleveland Clinic, Ohio, provided a review of the use of curcumin in treating IBD.
A pilot study explored the effects of adding curcumin to standard drug therapy with corticosteroids, sulfasalazine, or mesalamine (5-aminosalicylic acid) for five patients with ulcerative colitis and five with Crohn's disease.
All patients improved within two months. In the ulcerative colitis group, all patients improved enough to reduce their use of drugs.
A larger study compared curcumin to placebo in a double-blind study of 89 patients. All received standard drug therapy in addition to the dose of either curcumin or placebo.
The curcumin dose was 1,000 mg after breakfast and 1,000 mg after dinner. Patients in the curcumin group had significantly better results in terms of symptoms, lab tests, and endoscopic evaluation.
“To date, no studies in animals or humans have discovered significant toxicity related to curcumin, even at very high doses,” Taylor and Leonard reported. However, they offered one warning.
“Patients with gallstones or bile duct obstructions should use curcumin with caution, primarily due to curcumin's ability to cause gallbladder contractions.”
The National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse (NDDIC), a division of the National Institutes of Health, provides more information on Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis.
Crohn's disease causes inflammation of any part of the gastrointestinal tract. The end section of the small intestine, called the ileum, is most often affected. Ulcerative colitis causes inflammation and ulcers in the large intestine.
With Crohn's disease, chronic inflammation may cause scar tissue that slows down the movement of food and stool through the digestive system, producing pain, cramps, and diarrhea.