First and foremost, I love the concept of healing with food, food as medicine, or as I like to call it, food pharmacology :)
I became a pharmacist because I was interested in the effect different substances have on human physiology. Medications are an obvious example of how tiny substances can produce a tremendous change in the human body, but what’s even more intriguing to me is the profound effect that foods and natural substances can have on the body. I am always fascinated by how we can incorporate the healing properties of the food in our everyday lives.
Pharmacognosy is the study of medicines derived from natural sources, and the spice turmeric has received a lot of attention as a potential sources of medicines due to its healing properties.
Turmeric is a plant of the ginger family that is often used in Indian cuisines, Pakistani cuisine and curries. This plant has a long history of medicinal use, and curcumin, it’s most studied active ingredient has anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, antibacterial and antiviral activity. It has a really nice taste to it!
Historically, turmeric has been used to treat pain as well as stomach and liver ailments. Topically, turmeric was used to help with treating many skin conditions, including helping to heal sores, eczema and and skin rashes.
Turmeric for Hashimoto's
Excess inflammation is always present in Hashimoto’s thyroiditis (the suffix "itis" denotes inflammation in the thyroid gland), and intestinal permeability has been found as a common factor in every case of autoimmunity. In some cases, people with Hashimoto’s may also have heavy metal toxicity. Turmeric can be helpful in reducing whole body inflammation, healing the gut, as well as detoxifying from heavy metals.
Studies of the effect of curcumin, the active ingredient of turmeric on the thyroid gland and autoimmunity have showed encouraging results.
1) Research shows that curcumin can help to protect the intestinal barrier from invasion by bacterial infection and can help heal a leaky gut.
2) According to a 2014 study in the journal Food Chemistry and Toxicology; "Curcumin reduces the hepatotoxicity induced by arsenic, cadmium, chromium, copper, lead and mercury, prevents histological injury, lipid peroxidation and glutathione (GSH) depletion, maintains the liver antioxidant enzyme status and protects against mitochondrial dysfunction."
3) Curcumin showed tumor inhibiting activity in thyroid cancer.
4) Curcumin was protective against the genetic damage and side effects induced by radioactive iodine that is sometimes used to treat Graves’ disease
5) Curcumin has anti-inflammatory benefits that can be helpful in down-regulating autoimmune conditions. Specifically, curcumin produces an anti-inflammatory effect by down-regulating Th-1 cytokines (TNF-A, IL-1, 2, 6, 8, 12), which may be overactive in Hashimoto’s. Curcumin has been found to reduce joint inflammation in the Th-1 autoimmune condition rheumatoid arthritis. Additionally, it seems to have therapeutic anti-inflammatory effects in a variety of gastrointestinal conditions, showing improvement in Crohn’s disease (Th-1), Ulcerative colitis (Th-2) and irritable bowel syndrome.
In my survey of 2232 people with Hashimoto's, 680 people reported that they had tried curcumin. 56% reported that it was helpful, 40% did not see a change in how they felt, while 3% said it made them feel worse.
When asked about the specific benefits seen from the use of turmeric, 64% of people reported that it helped them with reducing pain symptoms. Other positive benefits were an increase in energy (seen in 35%), improvement in mood (seen in 34%), and an improvement in thyroid antibodies (12.5%).
Pain is the most obvious manifestation of inflammation in the body, so I'm not surprised that those that had pain saw an improvement with curcumin use. While most people with Hashimoto's do have inflammation, only some will present with pain symptoms. Poor energy, mood changes and thyroid antibodies are also indicative of inflammation and it was encouraging that curcumin also impacted those parameters, but it should be noted that improvements in those symptoms may be less obvious to notice, and may also take a bit longer to manifest.
While curcumin can also boost glutathione (an antioxidant that's often depleted in Hashimoto's), reduce inflammation, help with healing the gut, and detoxifying from heavy metals, it's difficult to assess these improvements symptomatically.
While most people with Hashimoto's will benefit from the addition of turmeric, I would say that if you are currently experiencing pain, you will see the most benefit.
How to use turmeric/curcumin
Some researchers suggested that the daily intake of curcumin in a typical Indian diet may be anti-inflammatory, however, curcumin is cleared from the body within one hour or so. Luckily, there's a hack for that. Combining curcumin with piperine, an alkaloid found in pepper, extends the life of curcumin in the body, helping it to stick around longer.
I recommend adding more turmeric into your cooking (remember to add some pepper to the mix), as well as a high quality curcumin supplement. Be sure that the supplement you're getting either combines the curcumin with piperine, or uses a suspended release technology to help the curcumin stick around in the body. Curcumin appears to be extremely safe, even at doses of up to 8 grams/day.
I have personally used curcumin to detoxify my body from arsenic poisoning (full story about my arsenic poisoning coming in a few months...), and often recommend it for clients with Hashimoto's to support the gut, liver and inflammatory pathways, especially if they are experiencing pain!
The curcumin supplement I took is called Curcumin with Bioperineand is free of gluten, dairy and soy. I took 500 mg three times per day.
I also made Turmeric Tea (recipe below) twice per day and ate my Tandoori chicken (recipe below) multiple times per week. I believe that the addition of turmeric helped me clear out the arsenic within a month, and helped me to prevent long term damage.
1 teaspoon of turmeric
1 teaspoon of ginger
pinch of salt
pinch of cinnamon
sweetener to taste (Stevia and maple syrup are my top recommendations)
1 cup of hot water
Directions: Put all ingredients in cup of your choice, top of with boiling water and mix!
1 teaspoon curry
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon paprika* (skip if you are nightshade sensitive)
1 teaspoon garlic
½ teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon sea salt
2 cups coconut milk
1 whole cut up chicken or 8 chicken drumsticks
Directions: Add all ingredients to slow cooker and cook on medium for 8 hours
I hope this information helps you on your journey!