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On the left, an arm extends with the hand holding several turmeric tablets. On the right, a different arm drops turmeric tablets. In the middle, a bottle of turmeric tablets is set against ground turmeric behind it.

Can Turmeric Benefit IBS Patients?

As a longtime chronic pain patient with several autoimmune-related illnesses, I have heard a lot about turmeric–an herb that has been used for centuries in cooking and healing.

Turmeric is an anti-inflammatory

My most intimate familiarity with turmeric is its involvement in some of my favorite meals –specifically that in Indian cuisine (turmeric is native to Southeast Asia). It’s somewhat similar in taste and composition–and is a cousin–of a more ubiquitous spice, ginger. Turmeric contains a compound known as “curcumin,” which is a powerful anti-inflammatory. It’s been boasted as a potential treatment for a host of ailments, including cardiovascular disease, arthritis, diabetes and yes, irritable bowel syndrome.

Does turmeric aggravate symptoms of IBS?

However, I’ve also seen reports that too much turmeric can actually aggravate symptoms of IBS, as its possible side effects (especially if taking higher amounts) tend to include stomach upset, nausea, and diarrhea. For instance, I have posted myself here how eating spicy foods (as in “hot” spicy) actually instigates IBS flares–so if and when I eat certain cuisines–including Indian foods–I tend to request that my meal be made “extra mild.”

A meta-analysis published last year on the impacts of curcumin from across three separate studies that analyzed a total of 326 IBS patients concluded that it had “…a beneficial albeit not statistically significant effect on IBS symptoms.”1 So in other words, it may help IBS patients, but it didn’t seem to be very significant in its positive effects. Of course though, this meta-analysis wasn’t particularly extensive or robust and more studies would be needed to come to a firmer conclusion.

My experience with turmeric

All of this being said, I haven’t personally delved too deeply into curcumin or its parent spice turmeric as an option for my IBS or other health complaints. The few times I tried it, it did actually instigate my reflux and made me feel a little queasy. Also, I do occasionally take its cousin herb ginger, and while it does help quite a bit with nausea, I try to not take it too often as I find it messes with my menstrual cycle and can bring on my period sooner than I want (and since I have endometriosis, my periods are very painful; being able to accurately predict when it will be arriving helps me better manage the pain). Turmeric has similar emmenagogue-like qualities, so I am wary of it for that reason as well.

If you are considering taking turmeric or curcumin for IBS or another ailment, please talk to a medical professional first, as it can interfere with the effectiveness of some medications and may contain certain risks for those with certain disorders.

Have you tried taking turmeric or curcumin for your IBS? Did it help or hurt? Please feel free to share in the comments section below!

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The IrritableBowelSyndrome.net team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

  1. Ng, Q. X., Soh, A., Loke, W., Venkatanarayanan, N., Lim, D. Y., & Yeo, W. S. (2018). A Meta-Analysis of the Clinical Use of Curcumin for Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). Journal of clinical medicine, 7(10), 298. doi:10.3390/jcm7100298

Comments

  • Missjimmie
    2 weeks ago

    I am taking 2000mg. of Tumeric daily due to back pain from stenosis and arthritis. I have had back surgery in the past, but the condition has progressed further up my spine and into my cervical spine, too. I was also diagnosed with IBSD and GI warned that the tumeric could have negative effect on IBSD. However, I am taking Loperamide and Bentyl and have finally found a dosage of that combo that has relieved the awful diarrhea I was experiencing. I have to back off sometimes on the Loperamide when I start getting constipated! I was desperate for pain relief and had read about tumeric and started taking 1000mg. a day. I did not feel much difference, so increased to 2000mg. Initially, I felt some difference and was really excited to have found a “natural” OTC pain relief! However, I do not feel much relief now, but continue to take it for its’ other benefits. I have not experienced any reflux problems because I take Ranitidine for a long hx. of reflux already. I feel my IBS is under good control now with the Bentyl and Loperamide. The only thing that has concerned me about my dx. is that every article I read about IBS says a symptom of it is abdominal pain. I have never had any pain since this problem started. I worry that maybe I have been dx. incorrectly, but am so grateful that I no longer have to worry about the impact of uncontrollable diarrhea any more! I think I will back off of the Tumeric for a while and see if my back pain level changes. No need to take something if it really isn’t helpful, right?

  • tmholland moderator
    2 weeks ago

    @missjimmie,

    I’m happy to hear you’ve found some IBS relief with the Bentyl and Loperamide. Any relief is good relief, I say :-). It sounds like you have done a lot of hard work to help yourself. That’s to be congratulated. Thank you for sharing your experiences and I hope you are having a good day. -Todd, IrritableBowelSyndrome.net Team

  • ExplodingGuts
    3 weeks ago

    Neither FODMAP nor turmeric has had any effect on my IBS exploding guts – none at all.

    NEW theory: I now suspect that years of asthma puffing has somehow changed stomach/esophagus such that autoimmune system responds with regular floods of unneeded acid.

    I had some ltd help taking tbsp of apple cider vinegar in water an hour or so before eating, and a college try at the Water Cure, which involves drinking a half- to a gallon of water each day at intervals until 8 p.m. I did get a LOT of exercise to and from the bathroom but guts continued exploding at fairly regular intervals, alas.

    Now shopping for a new GP who will let me try other drugs which some have found effective. So far, Dexilante and all the ‘sand’-like nonsense have proved an expensive fail.

    My problem is, I loathe biology. It’s not my area of expertise or interest. And I resent having to do so much research just to plead a case to a lazy, ineffectual, disinterested, intellectually inferior GP. In my business, if I had the nerve to tell a client, ‘Sorry, I don’t know’ without a demonstrated commitment to research the problem, I sure as heck wouldn ‘t expect to bill him for an ‘office visit’ or expect the guy ever to come back.

    Thank goodness for social media review sites like RateMyMD! They give consumers a fighting chance against our rapacious, largely unregulated professional monopolies.

  • tmholland moderator
    2 weeks ago

    @explodingguts,

    I’m a big fan of sites like RateMyMD, too. They can be very helpful when looking for the needle in the haysack. Sorry to hear you sound so frustrated. That said, I know you are always on to to try the next thing and your resilience is always impressive. I hope you are well today and thank you for sharing. -Todd, IrritableBowelSyndrome.net Team

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