By Jennifer Harrington
This colourful spice has a long history of medicinal use. I love it’s nickname The Golden Goddess, for me, it is the perfect menopausal herb for the Goddess approaching her Golden Years, as it can help bring richness to her health and happiness.
Turmeric is known to contain over 300 active constituents, some have been researched others are still undiscovered. For this reason, I don’t recommend isolated Curcumin products, as ideally, you want to use a whole root extract.
Here are just a few of the phytochemicals we know about
- Curcuminoids (curcumin, desmethoxycurcumin, bisdemethoxycurcumin, calebin)
- Turmerones (tumerin, tumerones, turmeronols)
- Nutrients: iron, potassium, fatty acids – oleic acid, linolenic acid (ALA – Omega 3), linolenic acid (Omega 6), polysaccharides
Turmeric has many modes of actions. It is:
- a phytoestrogen
- analgesic (pain relieving)
- antimicrobial (bacteria, viruses, parasites, protozoa)
- Immune modulating
- vulnerary (wound healing)
- nephroprotective (kidney)
- neuroprotective (brain)
- cardioprotective (heart)
And the list goes on, but it’s not for everyone. Make sure you stay till the end to find out about the reasons why you might not use turmeric.
In regard to the menopausal transition, turmeric may benefit you in these ways.
HOT FLUSHES. There are 2 mechanisms to this action. Turmeric is a phytoestrogen, this means it has an oestrogen like effect on the body. The other beneficial action is the anti-histamine effect. Histamine intolerance and hormonal imbalance go hand in. If your menopausal transition has also included lots of skin issues like an intense itch, hives, rashes, or migraines, fatigue, severe sweating – think histamine issues.
WEIGHT LOSS. Ingredients in turmeric regulate fat metabolism and may reduce visceral (dangerous) fat that likes to accumulate around the middle at this stage of life. it does this by increases adiponectin levels that stimulate your metabolism and increase fat breakdown.
SKIN HEALTH. As an anti-oxidant, it may delay the visual signs of skin ageing. Can be used topically or orally.
BONE HEALTH. A Korean study found bone loss caused by oestrogen deficiency can be reduced by supplementing with turmeric due to its phytoestrogen activity.
HEART HEALTH. One of the primary health concerns of postmenopausal women is heart health and rightfully so, it is our top killer. Turmeric has any benefits here, it is a blood thinner, helps dissolves clots, improves blood vessel function, reduces arterial wall stiffness and improves blood flow and lowers blood pressure In regard to cholesterol it can help increase HDL (“good”) cholesterol and reduce total cholesterol.
BRAIN HEALTH. Tetrahydrocurcumin is a metabolism form of curcumin produced by your digestive microbiome. It has a powerful neuroprotective effect. It can increase brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) BDNF helps your brain form new connections. It may help slow down age-related neurodegenerative conditions such as Alzheimer’s. There have been many studies focusing on Alzheimer’s and turmeric and it has been found to reduce amyloid plaque formation and protect against amyloid induced toxicity.
PAIN. As an analgesic it has painkiller like effects, luckily it also has anti-inflammatory effects meaning it can reduce pain, swelling, heat, redness and improve joint mobility. It has successfully been used to reduce joint pain, muscle pain and migraines. It works on both wear and tear affected joints condition and autoimmune conditions like Rheumatoid Arthritis due to its immune regulating action. It is superior over many over the counter pain (OTC) medications both in its effectiveness and its safety profile. Many OTC drugs cause gastrointestinal damage, turmeric doesn’t, it actually helps heal intestinal damage.
IMMUNE HEALTH. As mentioned above it has an immune regulating action. Unfortunately in post menopause, your immune surveillance capacity drops as oestrogen levels lower making you more susceptible to new viral infections, viral reactivation of former infection, bacterial infections, cancer, auto-immune condition etc. Turmeric may play a role in helping all of this, it can boost general immunity, prevent cancer by boost NK cells and balances out auto-immunity. What excites me most is its ability to reduce viral replication. This has been tested on the herpes family which includes the Epstein Barr virus. I often see the confusion over whether symptoms are menopause based or viral-based, especially when there has been a previous EBV infection. Symptoms that could indicate your problems could be viral-based include fatigue, achy joint, night sweats, headaches, digestive issues, behavioural changes, depression, nerve pain, rashes, altered skin sensations such as tingling and itch. If this is you you may like to have a viral screening and you may like to consider turmeric as it may help regardless of your symptoms are viral or hormonal based.
ALLERGIES. Turmerics anti-histamine effects not only helps to reduce hot flushes but also reduces allergies. It works by inhibiting cytokine and IgE production.
CANCER. It has an anti-tumour effect, meaning it may play a role in reducing and preventing cancer. It has chemosensitive and radiosensitive qualities, meaning it increases the sensitivity of cancer cells to conventional treatment, making them more effective. It may also reduce the side effects of these treatments such as nausea, depression and brain fog. Warning – do not use turmeric with cyclophosphamide – a breast cancer treatment. Always seek professional advice before using turmeric with oncology treatments.
URINARY HEALTH. Turmeric inhibits biofilm formation in pathogens causing urinary tract infections. Unfortunately, urinary tract infections are very common in menopause. Turmeric works by preventing bacteria from communication with each other (This is called quorum sensing QS) The bacteria can talk to each other and create a colony called a biofilm. I see the biofilm as being a protective dome to shield them again your immune system and antibiotics. If they can’t create the dome, they are susceptible to attacks.
BLOOD SUGAR/DIABETES. As mentioned earlier, Turmeric increases adiponectin levels. Adiponectin regulates metabolic processes including glucose regulation, insulin sensitivity and fat storage. It’s a great addition if you are prediabetic, but it may potentiate diabetic medication and should only be taken under medical supervision if you have diabetes.
DIGESTION. Turmeric has wound healing properties. It protects and heals any gastrointestinal damage. Its GI protection benefits women with conditions such as Ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease, leaky gut, proctitis and ulcers.
CHELATOR – help to bind and remove excess iron and copper, these 2 minerals are often elevated in menopause and cause symptoms similar to the transitions. Excess iron causes fatigue, joint pain, irregular heartbeat, depression, and concentration issues. Excess copper can cause emotional withdrawal, anxiety, poor stress response, brain fog, concentration issues, depression. But its chelating abilities don’t stop there, it also chelates heavy metals such as mercury and aluminium, aflatoxin A – a toxin produced by mould, and other chemical toxins.
LIVER FUNCTION. Turmeric increases detoxification in particular phase 2 detoxification. It is hepatoprotective which means it protects the liver against assaults, such as alcohol and may play a role in rejuvenating and improving liver function. This is seriously important at this stage of life, as with the reduction of oestrogen comes a reduction in liver function. Data has shown an approximate reduction in the function of 1% per year starting in peri-menopause. This includes the reduction in liver blood flow, overall function and a reduction in the liver’s ability to regenerate.
KIDNEY FUNCTION. It is nephroprotective, it works to protect the kidneys against damage. I just wouldn’t use it if you have issues with kidney stones.
ALL CHRONIC DISEASE. Inflammation is a common risk factor in the development of all chronic disease.
DANGERS!!! Turmeric is not for everyone. I personally haven’t seen any issues with using it as a food but I have seen complications with high concentrate supplements, so please speak to myself or another practitioner before starting it.
These are my main concerns with turmeric:
- It is a blood thinner, don’t take if you are already on blood-thinning medication
- Turmeric naturally contains oxalates, if you have an issue with the development of stones such as kidney stones or gallstones, don’t take it. Oxalates may play a role in gout as well, so avoid them here as well
- It may potentiate the effects of diabetic medication, don’t take unless under professional supervision
- Discontinue use prior to any surgery, due to its blood-thinning effects. Post-surgery turmeric can be a wonderful addition to speed up wound healing, reduce inflammation and pain.
I provide this information as a guide, it is not intended to replace medical advice. Please consider having a consultation to see if this herb is right for you.
About the Author: Jennifer Harrington
Jennifer’s interest in natural therapies started when she was diagnosed with PCOS in her early twenties and was told she may struggle to ever have children. Initially, she tried the oral contraceptive pill as prescribed by her doctor but this didn’t last long as she found the mood swings and other side effects unbearable but she still had to do something about the pain, the stabbing sensation in her ovaries could drop her to the ground. Next, she tried Naturopathy. Her pain stopped, her cycles regulated and her fertility returned. She never looked back. She left her career in television and retrained so that she could help other women like herself.
Upon graduating she moved to Thailand and started working at the famous “Chiva Som International Health Resort”. It was such an amazing experience and opportunity to rub shoulders with the best minds in the industry both from a traditional and modern medicine perspective.
Jennifer’s love of retreats was started here. The transformation that people make outside of the distractions of their home environment were rapid and people left the resort very different individuals to those who arrived. What you can achieve in days may take months at home. This is something that made a huge impression on Jennifer and is why she still runs retreats today.
Jennifer returned to Sydney in 2005 to become a mum. She is eternally gratefully she found naturopathy and was able to have a child after all.
After working in various Sydney based clinics and corporate health businesses Jennifer decided it was time to open her own clinic in 2010. After advertising as a hormone specialist, she found she had more menopausal clients than fertility clients. The fast transformations that her menopausal clients were making made her rethink her work and she started Menopause Natural Solutions in 2014. As the years rolled by she sold her bricks and mortar clinic to free up more time to dedicate herself to researching and creating a better way to help more perimenopausal and menopausal women.
Podcast Menopause Natural Solutions