Curcumin Supports Gut Lining and Health

By Dr. Linda J. Dobberstein, DC, Board Certified in Clinical Nutrition

July 15, 2019

Curcumin Supports Gut Lining and Health
Curcumin continues to be an impressive nutrient with multiple benefits. Heavily researched and widely known for its antioxidant, immune and inflammatory signaling, cholesterol and blood sugar support, this prized golden spice provides a vast array of nutritional support throughout the body including the gastrointestinal system.

Some individuals say we are what we eat. Others say we are what we digest. Rather, we are what we eat, digest, absorb, and don’t absorb amidst the gut’s vast microbiome and surface area of the gastrointestinal system. Your overall health depends directly on the intact nature and local health of the gut lining. If the gut lining allows more things to pass through it than it should, then it can create an adverse domino effect elsewhere in the body. Curcumin is one versatile and helpful nutrient that helps support a healthy digestive tract.

Gut Lining

The gut lining and barrier are incredible tissues with its sophisticated physiological make-up and dynamic ability with its untold daily duties. Every morsel of food and gulp of a beverage you consume are managed by the intestinal tract throughout your entire life. You don’t have to tell your gut what to do with any of it; the innate wisdom of your body goes to work at transforming the contents into things to nourish yet protect you from things that are harmful.

Trillions of germs form the gut microbiome that is vastly important to the gut-immune system interplay, digestion, nutrient absorption, detoxification, and gene signaling. This microbiome is housed inside the tubing of the intestinal tract. This tube is not a like a simple garden hose, it is an ingenious barrier that forms an interface between the gut microbiome and you. This gut lining must be intact for nourishment to take place, but also to keep unwanted particles from affecting the rest of the body. This highly sophisticated barrier system constantly works surveillance, absorption, and detoxification and must be intact for health and vitality.

The Gut’s Physical Barriers

The gut barrier is the human body’s largest surface area which is estimated at 4300 square feet or 400 meters squared. The gut lining has several different barriers that have a unique purpose and make-up.

The intestinal physical barrier contains four major components. These four barriers consist of:

(1) tight junctions or little doors that allow select passage of substances in and out of the intestinal tract wall,

(2) a layer of alkaline phosphatase that helps detoxify toxins from lipopolysaccharides (LPS),

(3) a physical mucin or mucous-like barrier that blocks bacteria from interacting with gut lining,

(4) a component called Paneth cells, which control intestinal growth of bacterial pathogens through secretion of antimicrobial proteins and peptides.

Paneth cells also affect digestion and gut inflammation. LPS refers to endotoxins shed by bacteria or another germ that induces inflammation.

Each layer provides a different type of protection to the gut lining and they all work synergistically together. Yet, if there is disruption to one or more barriers, it creates an inflammatory response that allows LPS toxins and other inflammatory compounds to move across the intestinal barrier. These toxins then enter into circulation, travel to the liver, and eventually can affect any tissue in the body with oxidative stress.

Gut Barrier Breakdown or Leaky Gut Syndrome

As the gut lining breaks down, it leads to increased intestinal permeability or “Leaky Gut Syndrome” and leads to an overall worsening of health. Many medications like antibiotics, aspirin, ibuprofen, steroids, acid blockers/ proton pump inhibitors (PPIs), food allergies and gluten intake, high stress, lack of nutrients and the Standard American Diet (SAD) of high fat, high carb, calorie rich-nutrient poor diet all challenge the gut lining. In fact, the Western Diet or SAD is used in studies to actually induce intestinal permeability. 

According to a June 2019 study in the International Journal of Clinical Practice, the strongest risk factors for increased intestinal permeability include consumption of the Western-style diet, elevated levels of proinflammatory markers, elevated cholesterol and high blood sugar levels, insulin resistance, obesity, advanced disease, and loss of health.

Psychological stress is another significant cause for increased intestinal permeability. In one study, the stress of giving a public speech caused more adverse changes to the intestinal tract lining than intake of the pain medication indomethacin or the threat of exposure to electric shocks.

Leaky Gut Syndrome

Increased intestinal permeability can cause a chain reaction of unhealthy effects anywhere in the body. Brain fog and poor focus, fatigue, headaches, skin problems, thyroid concerns, joint aches, blood sugar and cholesterol problems, obesity, liver stress, new or worse allergies, sinus congestion, heart disease, and a plethora of other concerns can develop from “Leaky Gut Syndrome”. A healthy gut lining needs to be priority. This perspective lends more to the thought of “we are what we eat, digest, absorb, and don’t absorb”.

One nutrient that provides support into these various concerns is curcumin. Research on curcumin’s effect on the gut lining shows exceptionally positive benefits in many dimensions. Curcumin is the active compound obtained from the spice turmeric. This golden spice offers powerful support in a time when the Western Diet is sadly at the crux of deteriorating health for many.

Curcumin, Tight Junctions, and Alkaline Phosphatase

Curcumin helps the proteins that are essential in protecting tight junctions or little doors in the digestive tract’s physical barrier. Animal studies show that curcumin increases the activity in alkaline phosphatase layer which helps quench the secretion of LPS toxins and free radicals that provoke stress and breakdown to the gut wall.

Curcumin helps modulate and balance various immune cytokines that impact immune wear-and-tear within the gut. Immune cytokines like TNF-a, IL-6, and IL-12 that are out of balance are positively enhanced. This helps protect the gut lining from the effects of oxidative stress. Curcumin quenches the free radicals ROS and NOS that can infiltrate and “punch holes” in any of the intestinal barrier components.

Mucosal Barrier Support

Curcumin supports gut flora that produce short-chain fatty acids (SCFA) like butyrate. SCFA are the result of bacterial fermentation of fibers in the colon. SCFAs are essential for immune system regulation, maintaining the gut barrier, and feeling satisfied after meals. Animal studies showed that curcumin intake helped increase gut bacteria that produced butyrate which helps the mucosal barrier of the large intestine. This is essential to protection of the intestinal mucosal lining and healthy immune inflammation management. Extra fiber in the diet is also essential for SCFA support the gut mucosa and microbiome.

Gut Bacteria Support

Curcumin helps support healthy bacteria in gut. This is essential also to keeping the gut lining intact and helps Paneth cell function. Cellular studies have shown that curcumin inhibits the process that bacteria use to multiply and divide that can lead to overgrowth.

Curcumin increases beneficial bacterial diversity in the gut and increases the overall abundance of Lactobacillus. Animal studies demonstrate that colon and immune cells were protected from loss of vitality due to age-related gut decline when supplemental curcumin was ingested.

Hormone shifts such as menopause, pregnancy, and menstrual cycles affect the gut flora and intestinal tract. There is often a negative shift in the gut flora which why GI symptoms flare during these times. Researchers identified that in rodents forced into menopause causing negative gut flora changes, curcumin intake helped maintain healthy structure and lining of the intestinal tract while helping keep good microbial diversity.

Other Benefits for Gut Health

Curcumin also helps enhance enzymes related with detoxification of xenoestrogens. Xenoestrogens are endocrine disrupting compounds that we get from environmental exposure from pesticides, plastics, petroleum by-products or from an imbalanced gut microbiome and poor detoxification. Curcumin also helps balance natural killer cells, B cells, T cells, matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs) and other immune related compounds found in the intestinal immune system that are involved with inflammatory regulation.

Curcumin and Black Pepper Extract

Turmeric as a kitchen spice is very hard for the body to absorb. Using a standardized extract of curcumin with the active curcuminoids and the black pepper extract called BioPerine makes an immense difference in how curcumin works in the body. BioPerine® is clinically shown to significantly enhance GI tract absorption of curcumin. It increases bioavailability of curcumin by 20-fold or 2000%, maximizing health benefits.

Other Support

Additional nutrients that help gut health include quercetin, vitamin D, vitamin A, omega-3 and omega-6 oils, probiotics, oat bran fiber, arabinogalactan, glutamine, noni, probiotics, caprylic acid and others.

Your gut flora reacts to stress and can rapidly change. Have ever noticed that when you are under significant stress, had a burger, fries, and milkshake or beer, you feel like your gut it is knots and that your irritated bowel flares up? You might feel more fatigued, have brain fog and skin problems that flare up. These clues may indicate that your gut lining is under duress and needs support. Consider curcumin at the front lines of your gut lining border patrol defense system.

Additional articles of interest include:

Taking a Turmeric or Curcumin Supplement? Read this First

Healthy Poop: What is Your Digestive Tract Telling You?

Leaky Gut Syndrome: More Than Just a Gut Problem

Asthma, Methylation, Leaky Gut Syndrome, and Roundup

Gut Motility: Fundamentals to Master for Metabolism, Weight Management, and Gut Health 

Disrupted Gut Clockes Linked with IBS, GERD, Obesity, and Other GI Concerns

Wellness Resources Top 10 Most Popular Supplements

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