~ Curcumin May Be Effective Treatment for
Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)

Ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease are inflammatory bowel diseases characterized by abdominal pain, digestive difficulty, diarrhea or constipation and recurrent bowel ulceration. The July 2003 issue of the American Physiological Society journal, Gastrointestinal and Liver Physiology published the findings of Canadian researchers that curcumin, a derivative of the common spice turmeric, may be a well-tolerated and effective therapy for these diseases.

The researchers induced inflammatory bowel disease in mice, some of whom had been pretreated with curcumin for five days. Following induction of IBD, the mice were weighed daily for five days, after which their colons were examined. The investigators found that mice that had been treated with curcumin had less weight loss and better intestinal cell function than the untreated mice. Examination of colon wall cells showed greater mucosal ulceration, thickening of the walls and infiltration of inflammatory cells in untreated compared to treated mice.

Previous research has pointed to activation of the transcription factor NF-B in Crohn's disease, which is involved in the production of inflammatory cytokines and chemokines. The reduction in NF-B DNA binding found in the curcumin treated animals in the current study proved that curcumin inhibits NF- B activation in the colon.

The study utilized a dietary concentration of 0.25 percent curcumin to obtain benefits, yet curcumin's safety has been demonstrated at levels as high as 10 percent. Although the researchers are uncertain in regard to the mechanism of action of curcumin in IBD, they suggest that a combination of its free radical scavenging ability and its effect on NF-B as well as other activities may be responsible for its benefits. They propose that curcumin may have implications for managing inflammatory bowel disease in humans, which currently afflicts approximately two million Americans.


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