Dr. Farrell on Colon Health

Curcumin is Beneficial for Ulcerative Colitis

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Posted By Dr. Farrell

I have previously blogged about Curcumin which is one of eight ingredients in The Colon Vitamin. (See blog post here.) In August, it was reported in the journal Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology (2015; 13: 1444-49) that curcumin was effective in helping to treat mild-to-moderate ulcerative colitis. This is fairly big news in the world of gastroenterology and I thought it would be a good topic to blog about.

Curcumin (‘Kur kyoo min’) is a phytochemical herbal compound derived from the superfood turmeric (Curcuma longa), which is a member of the ginger family. Curcumin has been widely used for centuries in both traditional Indian (Ayurvedic) and Chinese herbal medicine to treat inflammatory diseases. Curcumin has anti-inflammatory and antioxidative properties. Curcumin has been shown to inhibit carcinogenesis (events leading to cancer) in colon cancer cell lines as well as cell lines in breast, cervical, stomach, liver, leukemia, ovarian, pancreatic, and prostate cancers.

Ulcerative colitis is a form of inflammatory bowel disease that involves inflammation of the colon lining. Symptoms may include diarrhea, abdominal cramping, and rectal bleeding. The other form of inflammatory bowel disease is Crohn’s disease. The highest rates of inflammatory bowel disease are seen in the populations of Northern Europe and North America and the lowest in continental Asia which includes India.

Treatment for mild-to-moderate ulcerative colitis involves using the medication mesalamine, which is given orally and also administered topically, usually in the form of an enema and/or suppository. Patients with mild-to-moderate ulcerative colitis often do not respond fully to treatment with mesalamine and further treatment usually involves adding steroid therapy or immune-altering drugs which are potent medications with potentially severe side effects. We welcome the good news that a simple, safe agent can be added to mesalamine with good results.

Many of us in the field of gastroenterology have been aware of curcumin’s colon health benefits. Prior clinical studies have shown that curcumin is beneficial in maintaining disease remission in ulcerative colitis and curcumin appears to have promise as an adjunct to chemotherapy in the treatment of colon cancer.

In this recent study, 50 patients were studied with mild-to-moderate ulcerative colitis that were already receiving maximal dosing of oral mesalamine along with topical mesalamine therapy. Curcumin at a dose of 3 grams per day given orally was added to the mesalamine therapy. Twenty-six patients received curcumin and 24 received a placebo.

The results of the study are quite eye-opening. Patients receiving curcumin showed a 65% clinical response vs. 12.5% in the placebo group. Remission as determined by endoscopic assessment was achieved by 38% in the curcumin group vs. 0% in the placebo group. There were no serious side effects reported with curcumin use which is in keeping with our understanding that curcumin is an very safe antioxidant.

This is a very promising study that further validates the benefits of curcumin for colon health. Current ongoing studies are looking at the use of curcumin in ulcerative colitis and also in pediatric inflammatory bowel disease. Stay tuned for what is likely more promising news about the benefits of curcumin for colon health.

Here’s to your colon health!

Signature of Dr. Farrell

Frank Farrell, MD, MPH, AGAF

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