Food experts have suggested that a natural compound found in the culinary spice turmeric could be as effective as omeprazole, a drug used to reduce excess stomach acid, in alleviating indigestion symptoms.
Turmeric is derived from the root of the Curcuma longa plant and contains a naturally active compound known as curcumin, believed to possess anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties. It has been used as a medicinal remedy, including for indigestion treatment, in South-East Asia for a long time.
Previously, there was a lack of research comparing turmeric to conventional medicine for indigestion treatment. In the latest study conducted from 2019 to 2021 in Thailand, 206 patients aged 18-70 with recurrent upset stomach (functional dyspepsia) of unknown origin were randomly recruited from hospitals.
Each participant was assigned to one of three treatment groups for 28 days:
- Turmeric: Two large 250mg capsules of curcumin four times a day and one small placebo capsule (69 patients).
- Omeprazole: One small 20mg capsule daily and two large placebo capsules four times a day (68 patients).
- Turmeric plus omeprazole (69 patients).
Omeprazole is a proton pump inhibitor (PPI) used to treat functional dyspepsia, characterized by symptoms like feeling excessively full after eating (postprandial fullness), early satiety, and stomach or food pipe discomfort (epigastric pain).
However, prolonged use of PPIs has been associated with increased fracture risk, micronutrient deficiencies, and a higher risk of infection, according to the researchers.
Out of the 206 patients initially enrolled, 151 completed the study, with 20 in the curcumin group, 19 in the omeprazole group, and 16 in the combined treatment group dropping out. All three groups had similar clinical characteristics and indigestion scores at the study’s outset. They were reassessed after 28 and 56 days.
By day 28, the severity of symptoms had significantly decreased in the combined, curcumin alone, and omeprazole alone groups. These improvements were even more pronounced after 56 days, particularly for pain and other symptoms. No serious side effects were reported, although liver function tests indicated some deterioration among curcumin users with excess weight.
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The researchers acknowledged the study’s limitations, including its small sample size, short intervention period, and lack of long-term monitoring data. They recommend further, larger, and longer-term studies to validate these findings.
In conclusion, the researchers stated that this multicenter randomized controlled trial provides robust evidence for the treatment of functional dyspepsia and suggests that curcumin may warrant consideration in clinical practice.