There are plenty of reasons why turmeric is good for you, but it can also be bad for you, especially when consumed in large amounts. The spice is a powerful anti-inflammatory and anti-arthritis agent, boosts immunity and boasts cholesterol lowering and neuroprotective properties. But the same beneficial properties that give it its wonderful health benefits are also responsible for side effects such as gastrointestinal upset, diarrhea, bloating, increased risk of miscarriage in pregnant women, mild to severe allergic reactions or medicine interactions.
Turmeric (Curcuma longa) is a root spice of a vivid golden yellow color and particular taste. Turmeric belongs to the same family as ginger and the two rootstalk spices look similar in appearance to each other. Even more, they have a similar therapeutic action and share both health benefits and side effects. Just like ginger is bad for you in some cases, so is turmeric, especially when eaten in large amounts. Some people are more sensitive than others to the pharmacological properties of turmeric and may experience unpleasant side effects following ingestion.
Turmeric can be both good and bad for you. This depends on whether or not you are sensitive to its active constituents or what you are using it for. For example, curcumin, the main biologically active compound in turmeric, generates the most benefits but also side effects. The fact that it’s found in turmeric supplements in concentrated forms explains why some people experience more side effects after taking the supplements than when simply eating the root.
It also explains why many people experience a visible improvement in their health status compared to when eating the spice as it is, in its natural form. Moreover, certain medical conditions are more susceptible to the effects of turmeric. So while it can be good for arthritis pain, for example, (read about these 7 best anti-inflammatory foods), it can be really bad for certain digestive conditions such as acid reflux or hemorrhoids. There are plenty of reasons to eat turmeric, just as there are reasons not to eat it. Read below to find out the 5 biggest reasons why turmeric is bad for you:
1) Makes acid reflux worse. Turmeric is potentially bad for acid reflux, especially when eaten on an empty stomach, at night before bed and in large amounts. The spice has also been shown to interact with acid reflux medication such as antacids and some people report eating turmeric worsens symptoms like heartburn.
2) Causes stomach upset. Eating too much turmeric has been known to cause mild digestive upset with symptoms such as stomach air and bloating, flatulence and stomach pain. Moreover, turmeric can cause more frequent bowel movements, loose stools and even mild diarrhea. Some people feel the spice irritates their stomach and there have been reports of the supplements making gastritis worse.
3) Increases bleeding risks. Turmeric has natural anticoagulant properties and prevents, to a certain extent, blood clotting, hence the reason it promotes cardiovascular health. But for those with blood disorders that cause poor blood coagulation in the first place, eating turmeric, especially too much of it, can increase bleeding risks. Also, because it’s a blood thinner, turmeric can interact with anticoagulant medication like warfarin, potentiating their effect and, again, increasing bleeding risks. So talk to your doctor first if you have a blood clotting condition.
4) Side effects during pregnancy. Eating turmeric root is normally considered safe during pregnancy as long as consumption is limited to very small amounts. However, eating too much or taking turmeric supplements which contain a concentrated form of curcumin, the active constituent in the spice can potentially lead to a miscarriage. The spice not only interacts with normal blood coagulation and makes blood more fluid, potentially stimulating blood flow in the uterus, but it is also known to cause digestive upset with cramps and pain that, in rare cases, could encourage a miscarriage.
While amounts from dietary sources are generally considered safe during pregnancy, but supplements are not, some experts recommend avoiding turmeric altogether during pregnancy for safety reasons. Your doctor can tell you more about the subject. Also see Turmeric in Pregnancy: Benefits and Side Effects.
5) Risk of allergic reaction. There is a possibility turmeric can cause allergic reactions in people with a certain sensitivity to the spice and its constituents. The fresh root, dried powder and supplements can all engender an allergic reaction. Symptoms of turmeric allergy may be mild or severe and include: skin rash, redness and itching, breathing difficulties, low blood pressure, lightheadedness and even anaphylactic shock. If you suspect you are allergic to the spice, avoid eating it.
Other medical conditions turmeric may be bad for include kidney stones and gallstones. Also, the spice has been found to interact with antidepressants. Supplements which have a concentrated form of the bioactive components in the spice are more likely to produce side effects. Also, prolonged consumption can worsen side effects. Adulteration or contamination with heavy metals can also cause side effects, hence the reason it’s important to get your turmeric from reputable producers.
It’s not a rule that we must all react the same way to a certain food. We are all different and it’s only normal that we respond differently to various foods and their constituents. For those of us that turmeric is good for, eating it can improve our health. Combining it with pepper, whose active constituent piperine makes turmeric more effective, can help improve its beneficial action. Piperine improves turmeric bioavailability, helping us absorb more curcumin and slows down its rapid metabolism, enhancing its health effects. But for those of us turmeric is not good for, it might be best to find other alternatives without side effects.