You might wonder why we’re including curcumin in this series. It’s not terribly well known, and its health claims range from helping with dementia to heart disease and cancer. Why would a healthy derby skater even care about this supplement? It’s just curry after all, right?
In a word – pain. Curcumin has some decent science behind its anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant properties. But what is it and how do you take it?
What it is: Curcumin is the yellow pigment that you find in turmeric and ginger (turmeric is one of the main components of curry spice). In North America, turmeric is primarily used for flavouring, but in Asia it’s been used for years for its anti-inflammatory effects.
What it claims:
- Strong anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant properties
- Combats cognitive decline associated with aging
- Decreases pain and aids in recovery
- Reduces cancer treatment side effects, and may aid in slowing tumour growth
- Fights heart disease
- Tempers effects of sleep deprivation
Does it work?
Science is pretty positive about some of the claims above, especially when it comes to inflammation and anti-oxidants.
Curcumin basically blocks a molecule called NF-kB (NF-kB turns on genes that promote your body’s inflammatory response and is suspected to play a role in a number of chronic diseases). Curcumin does a few different things to help slow inflammation, including preventing signals from turning on inflammation, and reducing the activity of pro-inflammation enzymes where inflammation is already present. What does that mean? Less pain associated with inflammation. Yes, some inflammation is necessary in order to fight off infection and repair muscle after training, but studies suggest that curcumin may be able to take the edge off, without some of the side effects associated with other NSAIDS and similar drugs (like Tylenol).
Other studies have been conducted around its use with regard to chronic stress, depression, sleep deprivation, various cancer issues, Alzheimer’s disease and heart disease. While a lot of the research is promising, the studies are still limited and more research needs to be done.
Should I take it?
Are you always hurting? Then it might be a good option for you. The thing about curcumin, though, is that you can’t just order some curry and call it medicine. It has a very poor absorption when taken orally, and to enhance its bioavailability, you have to take it with other substances. A good curcumin supplement will do that for you, or you can pair a sub-par supplement or straight turmeric with some black pepper.
If you’d prefer to fight inflammation through your diet, the following foods also have proven anti-inflammatory properties: dark leafy greens, flax, walnuts, pineapple, tomatoes, carrots, squash, sweet potatoes, pumpkins, onions, cinnamon, ginger, garlic, leeks and chives.
For further reading:
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Where to buy:
You’d be looking at taking anywhere from 80-600mg of curcumin for an effect – without help from black pepper, phytosomes or nanoparticles (theracumin) only roughly 8-16g/4000g are absorbed and used. So when you’re shopping, make sure that your supplement has one of those things to make it useful.
Exos* makes a great complete curcumin supplement using a phytosome-bound botanical extract to ensure maximum absorption. It’s on the steep end of the pricing scale, but it’s a high-quality product.
In the middle price range, both NOW and Natural Factors have good-looking options. NOW uses phytosomes to improve bio-availability and Natural Factors uses theracumin.
If you want to go it alone (and don’t want to spend much money), you could seek out a cheap curcumin/turmeric supplement and pop it with some black peppercorns.
* Disclaimer: I’m an affiliate for Exos, but I wouldn’t be if I didn’t believe in their products!