How turmeric can help treat irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)

Turmeric could work as a good complementary treatment option for IBS.

It has been a great couple of years for turmeric. Before 2015, the wonders of turmeric were only known to people of the Orient. Today the glory of turmeric has travelled far and wide even to the West, where everyone has suddenly taken a fancy towards this golden spice. It's safe to say that turmeric has gone global; we have been getting to see it in lattes, salads, roasts and smoothies these days. The active ingredient in the spice, curcumin, has a laundry list of health benefits. A recent case study in the BMJ showed how a cancer-stricken 57-year-old woman who was given only a few months to live cured herself with turmeric. Currently, there is enough evidence to make a case for turmeric as complementary therapy also for irritable bowel syndrome or IBS.

What is IBS?

IBS is a chronic digestive disorder which causes abdominal pain, bloating, diarrhoea and constipation. Current treatment options don't focus on a cure but on management of its symptoms, which has led many sufferers towards alternative treatment methods like Ayurveda. Studies have also investigated the efficiency of using herbs for the treatment of IBS and curcuma longa, or turmeric, seems to exhibit promising results. Learn some tips to manage IBS.

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What the studies say

Turmeric has been used in traditional systems of medicine like Ayurveda and Chinese medicine for digestive issues, abdominal pain, bloating and distension of the stomach. A 2004 pilot study tested the effects of turmeric extracts on 500 IBS patients for 8 weeks.1 Around two thirds of the subjects reported feeling better and saw improvement in their symptoms.

The beneficial effects of turmeric on IBS could be attributed to its anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, antibacterial and spasmolytic effects. Another 2010 study conducted on animals showed that curcumin in the turmeric could be beneficial in curbing stomach disorders such as diarrhoea, cramps and IBS.2

How to treat IBS with turmeric

Although studies seem to give turmeric the green signal, do not attempt to self treat without getting a go ahead from your gastroenterologist. It's best to approach a certified naturopath or an Ayurvedic physician for assistance. In Indian cuisine, turmeric is used quite frequently in savoury dishes so we already are ingesting moderate amounts of the spice. Since turmeric has a pleasing flavour and colour, it can be adapted to any cuisine. You can get a healthy dose of turmeric by adding it to smoothies, milk, roasts, salads, yoghurt, curries and soups. Read how you could prevent IBS.


Bundy, R., Walker, A. F., Middleton, R. W., & Booth, J. (2004). Turmeric extract may improve irritable bowel syndrome symptomology in otherwise healthy adults: a pilot study. Journal of Alternative & Complementary Medicine, 10(6), 1015-1018.

Kumar, A., Purwar, B., Shrivastava, A., & Pandey, S. (2010). Effects of curcumin on the intestinal motility of albino rats.

Thavorn, K., Mamdani, M. M., & Straus, S. E. (2014). Efficacy of turmeric in the treatment of digestive disorders: a systematic review and meta-analysis protocol. Systematic Reviews, 3, 71.

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