Turmeric: Anti-inflammatory Curcumin May Help Kidney Damage Heal

Turmeric is a wonderful yellow/orange spice used extensively in Indian cooking. There’s plenty of research that supports it use in health, specifically as an anti-inflammatory.  I’m excited because there’s a new study that has shown that it reduces the effects of diabetic nephropathy.  This is a good good thing and if you or someone you love has nephropathy then you are going to be excited by this research too.

The main anti-inflammatory element in turmeric is Curcumin

If Inflammation is the root of all illness then curcumin is the root of all wellness.  Inflammation not only creates the conditions for nephropathy it causes premature aging, contributes heavily to heart disease, is involved in progressing diseases of immune response like rheumatoid arthritis and is even implicated in the progression of allzheimer’s.   Who wouldn’t want to take steps to reduce inflammation in their bodies? Most of us have some inflammation going on.  If you eat poorly, are overweight, have high blood sugars or any one of the conditions mentioned above then unfortunately you are going to be prone to inflammation.

I am very interested supplemental Curcumin because of its effects in preventing the damage of inflammation.

If you love curries and cook with it every day it might be helpful, but its doubtful you could get enough for therapeutic benefits.  The amount recommended is about 1.5 to 2 grams daily – and that’s quite a lot.  Even if you love curries or use it in other foods (like chicken covered with turmeric and other herbs) turmeric has a slightly bitter taste and eating that much is not going to be palatable.   And you would have to be extremely motivated to eat that much Curcumin on a daily basis to help manage inflammatory conditions.  I know in India chewing on the root is common practice, but I don’t think our taste buds are quite open to that.  I bet chewing it stains teeth too – I used some turmeric powder the other day and I had yellow fingers for several days.  Even scrubbing wouldn’t remove it.

I have heard about turmeric before (of course) but haven’t really delved into it.

I didn’t set out to study turmeric for this post I got a notification of this new research paper published in the Journal of Nutrition and Metabolism.  I always read at least the abstracts some are more interesting to me than others – and this one was.  Because I work in the health industry I see people with damage from nephropathy almost every day- and that’s why this one caught my attention.  Usually they have had high blood sugars for a long time.  Nephropathy or nerve damage is a nasty condition that can affect organs like the eyes, kidneys and gastro intestinal tract.  This kind of nerve damage is mostly associated with diabetes but it also can happen because of uncontrolled blood pressure that are chronically high.  If you have diabetes or high blood pressure then developing nephropathy is something you don’t want to happen.  It is painful and makes activities that most of us take for granted – like walking – difficult.  When it affects the GI tract it makes proper digestion impossible and causes a condition called gastroparesis.  People routinely wind up on dialysis because of nephropathy in the kidney.  And that is no picnic.  With these potential complications you can see why I am so interested in Curcumin. In the past I posted about GABA rice – and that is something that it’s good to eat a lot of too.  I will definitely be passing this information on.  Most people won’t do anything about it because mainstream medicine takes a long time to catch up to cutting edge research.   The Natural Standards Data Base reports that turmeric needs more evidence before it can be recommended because there is insufficient evidence as yet.  Like I said, it takes about 15 years before something can make it into the main stream.  At lot of the reason is there is a lack of good research studies – and that comes down to money.  There’s probably not a whole lot of money in proving that supplements of turmeric can be very beneficial for kidney disease or cancer.  There’s a lot more money in developing drugs instead.   The database says that turmeric is possibly safe when used in medicinal amounts but that it might cause nausea or diarrhea.  I think that’s not too bad of a risk to take. The data base did not mention any increase in liver enzymes, but anecdotal information reports that it can do that.  Monitoring this requires a simple blood test.

Curcumin has the ability to help reverse the damage caused by nephropathy.

I don’t want to get too technical, but I’m going to have to tell you something so that you have a reason to believe me – so here it is.   We posses proteins called NF- κB   or nuclear factor kapp-light-chain enhancer of activated B cells.  These are involved in immune response and are needed to duplicate cells properly at the DNA level.  If your DNA gets messed up in this regard then you are at greater risk of getting cancers, autoimmune diseases, and other inflammatory problems.  High blood sugars increase the movement of a type of cell called macrophages into the kidneys.  It’s amazing that we know so much, yet so little.  We know that macrophages are attracted to the area because the area is inflammed, and that high levels of macrophages result in damage to the kidney – but we don’t know how they cause damage.  The scientific literature says ‘its unclear’.  Theoretically they shouldn’t cause damage at all.  Macrophages are supposed to clear out dead cells and viruses and the like from the body.  I always think of them as hungry pac-men eating their way through debris and helping to clean up. But in this case something is amiss.  They are attracted to the area, increase inflammation and lead to kidney injury.

Curcumin affects the way DNA is reproduced because it has an effect on proteins that tell the DNA how to replicate itself. It is so good at helping DNA to replicate properly that it is being used to treat cancers, arthritis, diabetes, psoriasis, alzheimers, osteoporosis, chrons disease, heart disease and other illnesses – according to the authors of this study.   The studies that have tested turmeric with actual people (not lab rats) are pretty thin on the ground for kidney disease.  I couldn’t find any research with people for this actual condition.  But in the study – high blood glucose, weight loss and the markers of kidney damage, creatinine clearance, blood urea nitrogen and proteinuria– were all significantly reduced.  As always – if you have a condition that you are being treated for you need to let your primary health carer know if you want to add anything like this to your diet.  You always want to play it safe and it is a simple matter of a blood test to see how your markers are doing.  It might be well worth your while.


Curcumin ameliorates macrophage infiltration by inhibiting NF-kappaB activation and proinflammatory cytokines in streptozotocin induced-diabetic nephropathy
Vivian Soetikno, etal Nutrition & Metabolism 2011, 8:35 doi:10.1186/1743-7075-8-35  Published: 10 June 2011



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