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Should People With Thyroid Conditions Supplement With Turmeric?

Turmeric is one of the most well known herbs, and there are thousands of research studies showing its benefits.  Over the years I have had many of my patients with thyroid and autoimmune thyroid conditions supplement with turmeric.  But because turmeric is poorly absorbed, if you take a turmeric supplement you need to make sure you take one that has increased bioavailability.

But before talking about turmeric supplements, I’d first like to briefly talk about why turmeric has become even more commonly used over the years.  Turmeric is derived from the plant Curcuma longa, and it has been commonly used in the Indian subcontinent not only for healthcare purposes, but also for the preservation of food and as a yellow dye for textiles (1).  Curcumin is what gives turmeric its yellow color, and it has been shown to exhibit antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antiviral, antibacterial, antifungal, and anticancer activities and thus can potentially benefit people with various malignant diseases, diabetes, allergies, arthritis, Alzheimer’s disease, and other chronic illnesses (1) [1].  I have written a separate article entitled “Turmeric and Thyroid Health [2]“, where I spoke about many of these health benefits.

Why Many People With Thyroid And Autoimmune Thyroid Conditions Should Consider Supplementing With Turmeric

With most chronic health conditions, inflammation is a big factor.  And it’s no exception with most of the patients I work with.  This is especially true with those patients who have autoimmune thyroid conditions such as Graves’ Disease and Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis.  And while the overall goal should be to address the underlying cause of the condition, taking things to help with the inflammation can be beneficial.  And turmeric is one of the best options available for helping to reduce inflammation.

In fact, autoimmune conditions are characterized by an increase in proinflammatory cytokines, and numerous research studies show that turmeric can help to reduce these cytokines (2) [3] (3) [4].  In addition, having an abundance of regulatory T cells is necessary for a healthy immune system, and for keeping autoimmunity in check.  And there is evidence that turmeric can help to increase regulatory T cells (4) [5].

How To Increase The Absorption Of Turmeric

So if you take a turmeric/curcumin supplement, then how can you be certain that it will be well absorbed?  Although curcumin can help many people with numerous health conditions, the potential health benefits of curcumin are limited by its poor solubility, low absorption from the gut, rapid metabolism, and rapid systemic elimination (5) [6] (6) [7]. What I’d like to do below is list some of the different mechanisms used to increase the absorption of turmeric.

Piperine.  Piperine is an alkaloid that is responsible for the pungency of black pepper.  Numerous studies show that piperine can greatly increase the bioavailability of curcumin in humans (5) [6] (7) [8].  It accomplishes this by inhibiting hepatic and intestinal glucuronidation.  One study showed that in humans, curcumin bioavailability was increased by 2,000% after combining curcumin with piperine (7) [8].

Liposomes, micelles, and phospholipid complexes.  This involves combining turmeric with a source of fat, which in turn will increase its absorption.  An example of a curcumin supplement which falls under this category is Meriva, which has been involved in a few research studies.  Meriva is a patented phytosome complex of curcumin with soy phosphatidylcholine (8) [9]. The absorption of a curcuminoid mixture and Meriva was examined in a randomized, double-blind, crossover human study, which revealed that the absorption of curcumin was about 29-fold higher for the Meriva mixture (9) [10].

Nanoparticles. Nanoparticles are very tiny particles, and studies show that nanoparticles of curcumin increases its bioavailability (10) [11] (11) [12] (12) [13].

How Much Turmeric Should You Take?        

Curcumin does seem to be safe at doses as high as 12 grams per day over 12 months (13) [9], although most people don’t need to take this high of a dosage.  This is especially true if someone is taking a curcumin supplement that has been enhanced by one of the methods I listed in this post.  When this is the case, many people will receive benefits from taking 500 to 1,000 mg of curcumin per day.  On the other hand, some people find that taking 2,000 to 4,000 mg of curcumin/day is more beneficial.  In some people, taking higher doses of curcumin has caused symptoms such as nausea or abdominal discomfort.  And so while curcumin seems to be safe, not everyone can tolerate higher doses.

Eating Turmeric vs. Taking A Turmeric Supplement

I’m sure some reading this are wondering if you can get the same benefits from eating turmeric.  First of all, while many people with thyroid and autoimmune thyroid conditions can benefit from supplementing with curcumin, I do want to say that not everyone needs to take this as a supplement.  In fact, while I do recommend supplements to my patients, I’m also an advocate of getting as many nutrients as you can from the food you eat.  However, supplementation is frequently necessary in order to get a therapeutic effect.  If you do choose to eat turmeric rather than taking it as a supplement, you still want to make sure to prepare it in a way to help increase its absorption. So for example, mixing turmeric with black pepper will help to increase its absorption.

In summary, turmeric can help greatly in reducing inflammation, which in turn can benefit many people with thyroid and autoimmune thyroid conditions.  However, turmeric is poorly absorbed, and so if you choose to take a turmeric supplement, you want to make sure that the absorption has been enhanced using one of the methods I described in this post.  And the same is true if you choose to eat turmeric.  Many people notice a difference when taking 500 to 1,000 mg of turmeric per day, although some people can benefit from higher doses.