What is curcumin?
Curcumin is one of the most powerful natural medicines you could take. Curcumin is the main active compound in turmeric, which is one of the most widely used plants in Chinese and Indian medicine. Curcumin is extracted from tumeric to make supplements and there’s growing interest in the capability of this all-powerful plant medicine to help prevent and reverse so many of our common health challenges.
Here are some of the conditions that curcumin has been proven to help with:
- Depression and anxiety
- Heart disease
- Inflammatory bowel disease
- Period pain and other body pain
Curcumin works in many ways that researchers are only just starting to understand. One of the most exciting things about curcumin is its anti-inflammatory effect.
Inflammation plays a major role in almost every chronic, Western disease and it is a huge challenge for women. In a previous article, I talked about how statistics show that women suffer from more inflammatory conditions than men.
Inflammation is a huge challenge to women’s health and curcumin offers a natural option for keeping it in check.
That’s one major reason that curcumin is such a promising supplement for women. If curcumin keeps inflammation in check, it has the potential to help us feel a whole lot better. Here are just a few ways curcumin benefits women specifically.
Benefits of curcumin for women
1. Lowers inflammation
Inflammation is a major challenge to our health and quality of life. Got niggling injuries from training? Period pain? Headache? Or maybe you’ve got a bit of arthritis? Your means of treating these problems is probably to pop an ibuprofen or some other sort of anti-inflammatory and then try to ignore any pain you feel or grit your teeth until it’s over.
Curcumin is exciting because it acts just like popular anti-inflammatories but without any of the negative side effects.
When it comes to inflammation, we often think of arthritis and joint paint. Curcumin has been shown to work on the same inflammatory compounds that cause arthritis and to help stimulate a process called chondrogenesis where the joint rebuilds itself. It offers a powerful natural solution to managing pain, without any of the negative side effects of regular anti-inflammatories you’d take for these problems.
2. Helps balance hormones
Estrogen dominance causes many of our female troubles and, if left unchecked, can contribute to even more serious problems like fibroids, endometriosis and cancer. Environmental estrogens are a significant part of the problem because they contribute to the overall estrogen effect in your body.
It’s difficult, if not impossible, to avoid exposure to environmental estrogens but there are certain foods and supplements that can improve your detoxification and overall estrogen balance. Curcumin is one of those supplements.
There a number of ways curcumin blocks these estrogens from working in your body and helps your body eliminate estrogen it doesn’t need. In fact, it’s so potent that researchers are investigating its potential to prevent and treat breast cancer (which is an estrogen-induced cancer).
3. Reduces period pain
If you’ve got painful and/or heavy periods, you are probably willing to try anything – especially something natural like curcumin. Curcumin has been shown to work specifically on the inflammatory pathways that lead to painful periods (and general period related body ache).
Many people report that curcumin seems to also help with heavy periods. Lara Briden, an internationally recognized women’s hormone expert, recommends curcumin for both heavy periods and period pain. In fact, I contacted her when writing this blog post and she confirmed that she has good results with her clients using curcumin for heavy periods.
Just remember, if you want better periods, you’ve got to also address your diet – a supplement alone will probably not make significant changes. However, along with an anti-inflammatory diet, curcumin has a lot of potential to improve your periods.
4. Offers a natural treatment for fibroids and endometrosis
Fibroids and endometriosis can be problematic for some women. To date, even though it’s estimated that about 30-40 per cent of women have fibroids, there’s not really that much we can do about them. Hysterectomy is often the only option when they get too big and pesky.
It’s exciting then that some studies have shown that curcumin inhibits fibroid cell proliferation and overall growth of fibroids. One study found significant changes in size of fibroids after 3 to 6 months of taking about 1200 mg of curcumin daily.
Curcumin has also been found to help prevent the spread of endometriosis. Just a few of the ways that curcumin helps with endometriosis include regulating estrogen levels, decreasing inflammation and reducing some of the proteins involved in the condition.
5. Helps with weight and appetite management
If all these benefits weren’t enough, it turns out that curcumin can also help with weight loss and management! I only found out about this benefit when a client came in recently and mentioned that she thought curcumin may be the reason she had finally started losing weight again. She asked me if there were any benefits of using curcumin for weight loss and when I started to delve into it, here’s what I found:
- Curcumin helps your body deal better with insulin (and that’s also why it is of interest for the prevention and management of diabetes).
- Body fat is inflammatory and curcumin helps keep this in check (which is important if you want to lose weight).
- Curcumin helps control appetite.
6. Relieves depression and anxiety
Curcumin has been shown to have a positive effect for people who suffer with depression and anxiety. People with depression may have more inflammation and oxidative stress which can be improved by curcumin’s anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties but it also works a number of other ways to help us have healthier and happier brains. At least one study has also shown some benefits for PMS mood symptoms.
7. Treats digestive problems.
Digestive conditions such as Chrohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis can be extremely frustrating and limiting for the women who suffer with them. Both these conditions involve inflammation of the gut and curcumin may help address that inflammation.
In India, tumeric is widely used to treat digestive problems so it should come as no surprise that studies suggest that curcumin may be helpful in reducing overall symptoms from these conditions and decreasing the need for medications. Research also suggests that curcumin may help to heal ulcers and help lessen symptoms of indigestion.
How to take curcumin
Curcumin has so many benefits and I’ve only just skimmed the surface of them in this blog post. If you want the benefits of curcumin, you might be wondering if you can just use more turmeric in your diet rather than taking a supplement.
While it can definitely help to add turmeric to your food regularly and to drink some turmeric lattes, which are growing in popularity, turmeric has a very distinct flavour and you probably aren’t going to want to use it everyday.
Curcumin is not easily absorbed by your body so you need to use a supplement that has been formulated to be more “bioavailable.” Here are some of the forms of curcumin that claim to be more absorbable and effective:
- Curcumin with BioPerine®
Personally I’ve noticed more effect from the Meriva® form of curcumin. This is the specific one I use (and it is now available through the Female Fitness Systems shop).
A couple other tips for taking curcumin:
- Curcumin is fat-soluble which means that your body uses curcumin better when you have it with fat. So you should try to take it at the same time as you are consuming some sort of fat like nuts, oil or avocado. If you take fish oil, take your curcumin at the same time as there’s evidence that they may work synergistically and the fat from the fish oil will help your body absorb the curcumin.
- Curcumin can bind to heavy metals, which can be a good thing as it helps remove metals like excess lead and iron from our body. However, for those of you who have low iron and are taking iron supplements, it might be prudent to take curcumin at a different time. For example, I take my curcumin in the morning or at lunch and then I take my iron before my evening meal.
No supplement is a “cure-all” but curcumin comes pretty darn close. Just remember, you’ve got to address your diet and lifestyle as well. Especially if you have an inflammatory condition. Combining an anti-inflammatory diet with supplements like curcumin and fish oil is one of the most powerful ways to radically change your health.
To learn more about supplements for women, check out these articles: