Despite worldwide efforts to improve the environment, we remain exposed to numerous toxins through food, the air we breathe, and the products we use. These toxins can accumulate in our bodies and negatively impact our health and well-being, potentially curtailing our ability to enjoy healthy aging. Detoxification is a healthy habit that will make a huge difference.
Detoxification is a process that removes toxins from the body, enabling optimal function to maintain good health.
Many ways to support detoxification include regular exercise, massage therapy, drinking more water, getting more sleep, and avoiding environmental toxins. However, incorporating certain antioxidant-rich foods and supplements into our diet can be particularly helpful. One such superfood that has been gaining popularity in recent years is turmeric.
Turmeric is a bright, yellow spice and major ingredient in curry powder that has been used for thousands of years in traditional medicine, particularly in Ayurveda. It has gained popularity in the West for its potential health benefits, especially its ability to aid in detoxification and support liver health. Its powerful active compound, curcumin, which gives turmeric its yellow color, is responsible for its many health benefits. With potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activity, curcumin has been shown to provide many health benefits, including cellular protection and healthy aging.
The terms “turmeric” and “curcumin” are commonly used interchangeably. Turmeric is a flowering plant, the rhizomes (roots) of which are commonly used in cooking. The activities of turmeric root are commonly attributed to its bioactive components called curcuminoids. Curcumin is the major curcuminoid and component of turmeric rhizomes. Turmeric supplements are available as turmeric root powder or turmeric root extract standardized to curcumin, which is preferable as curcumin and related curcuminoids are what researchers tend to focus on when seeking to discern specific health benefits.
How Turmeric (Curcumin) Promotes Healthy Detox
The bioactives in turmeric can help support detoxification in several ways. Curcumin has been shown to have a protective effect on the liver. The liver plays a crucial role in overall health with over 500 functions, including regulating the body’s metabolic processes and detoxification. When the liver is overloaded with toxins, it can result in liver injury, disorders, and other health problems. By aiding in detoxification and protecting the liver, curcumin in turmeric can help support liver health and overall health.
Curcumin helps protect the liver by inhibiting inflammatory activity, particularly NF-kB, a major inflammatory pathway involved in liver disease, and reduces levels of many inflammation-producing proteins called proinflammatory cytokines.
As a potent antioxidant, curcumin also protects against oxidative stress by neutralizing reactive oxygen species (ROS), a type of free radical. Curcumin may increase levels of glutathione, a powerful antioxidant that reduces lipid peroxidation and helps protect the liver from damage. The antioxidant activity of curcumin also protects liver cells from death.
Another way Curcumin has been shown to support healthy liver function is by reducing liver enzymes and improving lipid profiles such as low-density lipoprotein (“bad” cholesterol) and triglycerides. Incidentally, this positively impacts heart health.
Dr Shefali Thanawala, General Manager of Medical Affairs at Nutriventia and a practicing Ayurvedic physician, explains, “Multiple clinical trials and in vivo studies have demonstrated the positive impacts of turmeric and curcumin on liver function. Consuming curcumin has been reported to reduce liver enzymes significantly and lower low-density lipoprotein and total cholesterol levels among individuals with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD).
Curcumin improves fatty liver through several mechanisms. One key mechanism is the mevalonate pathway, involving the aggressive liver enzyme known as HMG-COA reductase that produces triglycerides to an unhealthy level. Curcumin has been shown in some studies to inhibit the activity of HMG-COA reductase, resulting in regulating healthy production of triglycerides. Additionally, curcumin has been shown to reduce cholesterol absorption from the intestine, and improve lipid profiles, resulting in reduced risk of cardiovascular diseases.
Curcumin Sets the Stage for Healthy Aging
There is a pattern here: detox, liver function and reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, all are related. These positive outcomes can be rightfully called healthy aging.
But there is more that curcumin in turmeric can do to promote healthy aging. Curcumin has been shown to activate a protein called sirtuin, which regulates cellular processes such as stimulating the formation of mitochondria — the cells’ energy powerhouses.
Curcumin also helps support the health of telomeres, which are the protective caps at the end of our chromosomes that help maintain the integrity of our DNA and healthy cell function. Healthy telomeres are those that are “long.” The length of telomeres in newborns range from about 8,000 base pairs (the term of how they are counted), compared to 1,500 in elderly individuals. Therefore, shortened telomeres are linked to aging and diseases associated with aging. By safeguarding our telomeres, we can apply the brakes to the aging process and enhance our overall health.
Curcumin in Your Diet
There are many ways to incorporate curcumin-containing turmeric into your diet. One popular option is to use turmeric powder in cooking. Turmeric is often used in Indian and Middle Eastern cuisines. It can be added to various dishes, including curries, stews, soups and so much more, even scrambled eggs. Turmeric can also be added to smoothies and used to make turmeric teas and tisanes. If you’re looking for an easier, less complicated, and more potent form of turmeric, consider taking a turmeric supplement.
There’s a caveat, though: to obtain any benefit from this medicinal-culinary spice, you would have to consume 2-3 teaspoons with full fat, which is both impractical and unpalatable. So look at spicing up your foods with turmeric as a bonus to supplementation.
Curcumin is found in turmeric supplements that come in various forms, including capsules, gummies, and tinctures. Popular supplements are turmeric powder or standardized extracts that guarantee consistent bioactives/serving, but typically require large doses because turmeric is not easily absorbed by the body. So, when choosing a turmeric supplement, it is important to look for one that contains a bioavailable, natural, clinically substantiated dose of curcumin. These should, by design, also be significantly lower in dose.
Turmeric supplements can also be combined with other detox-supporting nutrients to create a powerful blend. For example, some supplements may contain milk thistle, another herb that supports liver health, or ashwagandha, an adaptogen that helps reduce stress and balance the body.
Detox is an important process that eliminates harmful toxins and promotes healthy aging. While there are many ways to support detoxification, incorporating certain foods and supplements into your diet can be particularly helpful. Turmeric is a powerful superfood shown to have many health benefits, including supporting liver health, protecting against cellular damage, and reducing inflammation.
When considering turmeric (curcumin) supplements, focus on those that enhance the natural ability of the herb to get absorbed into the body, have a higher curcuminoid concentration, and are clinically studied for their dose and benefit.
Rajat Shah, Founder & Executive Director