Many people are familiar with the nagging symptoms of heartburn and regurgitation that occur after certain meals or activities. A June 2011 review article published in "Alternative Medicine Review" reports that 14 to 20 percent of adults in the United States exhibit heartburn or other symptoms of gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD. These symptoms are often treated with over-the-counter medications such as antacids, antihistamines or proton-pump-inhibitors. However, natural remedies like turmeric have been used as an alternative therapy. Turmeric, a well-known spice and supplement, has properties that could prove effective in preventing and decreasing GERD symptoms.
GERD is a condition characterized by frequent or severe acid reflux -- the backward flow of acidic liquid from the stomach into the esophagus. The causes of GERD can vary from person to person, but some common symptoms include heartburn, difficulty swallowing and regurgitation. Other reported symptoms are chest pain and cough. The American College of Gastroenterology's 2013 clinical practice guidelines outline that lifestyle changes such as weight management, avoiding meals before bedtime and elevating the head of the bed during sleep can help in the management of GERD. Due to a lack of solid research on herbal medicines and GERD, these guidelines do not mention the use of turmeric to manage GERD.
Turmeric is a common spice added to foods such as curry and mustards. Historically, it has also been used as an herbal remedy for heartburn, stomach ulcer and other digestive problems. According to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, turmeric contains a compound called curcumin -- the component that gives turmeric both its yellow color and most of its health benefits. Curcumin is known to have antiinflammatory, antioxidant and anti-cancer effects. The antiinflammatory and antioxidant benefits have the potential to relieve GERD symptoms and possibly prevent GERD, though these benefits have not been confirmed in any human studies.
Turmeric and GERD
According to a January 2007 review article published in the “Journal of Clinical Biochemistry and Nutrition," high levels of inflammation are involved in the development of GERD. Because turmeric is thought to decrease inflammatory chemicals in the body, it may play a role in relieving or preventing heartburn. Turmeric's antioxidant activity can also get rid of substances called oxygen-free radicals that could cause damage to the esophagus and eventually lead to GERD. Another article published in the December 2013 "World Journal of Gastroenterology” reported that turmeric can also reduce the sensitivity of the esophagus to acid, which could also help alleviate GERD symptoms.
While turmeric's potential benefits are intriguing, there simply is not enough quality research to clearly understand its role in GERD prevention and management. As with any alternative therapy, anyone considering using turmeric for GERD should review the effectiveness, potential side effects and drug interactions with a physician. Turmeric can interact with medications such as blood thinners. Similar to other herbal remedies, turmeric may have other unknown interactions with medications. If symptoms get worse or persist while using any treatment for GERD, consult a doctor. Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding should discuss the use of herbal medicines with their doctor before beginning their use.