One of the biggest buzzwords in the industry right now is curcumin—it seems like every periodical, journal, and blog that features supplements, nutrition, holistic wellness, and/or alternative medicine is getting in on the action, touting curcumin and the health benefits that can come from its daily use. For example, Dr. Jacob Teitlbaum, M.D., points out that the incidence of Alzheimer’s Disease in India is 70% lower than it is in the United States, due largely to the daily consumption of curcumin in the Indian diet. In addition, there are numerous studies and research papers that indicate a strong correlation between the daily use of curcumin and the support of the body’s systemic response to inflammation (both chronic and acute). This is giving new insight into many natural approaches that seek to address the core nutritional imbalances and deficiencies that can cause and aggravate inflammatory-related diseases, possibly including diabetes, many types of cancer, and a host of other chronic diseases and imbalances.
What Is Curcumin?
In the most basic of terms, curcumin is the active ingredient of the spice turmeric. Think of turmeric as the food and curcumin as the natural “medicine” (strictly a comparative analogy—not a medical claim). The problem with just including the spice (turmeric) into your diet is that it yields very little curcumin, and in its raw form, it is very difficult for the body to use. In addition, not all curcumin extracts are created equal in terms of active potency and delivery method. In fact, according to Dr. Teitlbaum in his forward to the book Curcumin – Nature’s Answer to Cancer and Other Chronic Diseases, in terms of efficacy, just one BCM-95TM capsule can replace 14 capsules of the next-best curcumin options on the market today and can replace a whopping 700 turmeric capsules.
Curcumin vs Cancer
Despite declaring war on cancer in the 1950s, we don’t seem to have made much progress. We’ve spent billions on research and treatment, and most of us have lost someone close to us to this terrible disease, and yet it seems as though a cure for cancer is perpetually out of reach. According to Ajay Goel, Ph.D., this is because cancer is an unusually complex disease, and cancer cells are very “smart”—meaning that even if a focused, targeted treatment is working today, cancer cells are very adept in terms of adapting and altering course. They can quickly and easily become resistant to many of the traditional “one-size-fits-all” approaches typically used in many cancer treatments. According to Dr. Goel, this is largely due to the fact that even the most advanced and expensive cancer-treating drugs typically address only one cancer pathway or target faculty. The aggressive and adaptive nature of most cancer means that targeting or closing one road just means that the cancer cells can simply start using another. That is why this excerpt from Goel in the book Curcumin – Nature’s Answer to Cancer and Other Chronic Diseases is so prolific: “I say this without qualification. Curcumin is a natural substance and it is one of the only substances, natural or synthetic, that science has proven addresses and combats cancer in so many different ways.” Goel goes on to state very clearly that “cancer is an inflammatory disease,” and one that can be described as “almost exclusively a lifestyle disease.”
Goel goes on to explain that “less than 5% of cancer cases are hereditary,” meaning that 95% of the responsibility lies not with our genes but with what we do (and don’t do) in terms of diet, lifestyle, supplementation, and exercise. These elements factor into a field of study Goel refers to as epigenetics. Epigenetics, in the simplest of terms, refers to the impact that our lifestyle choices, environment, and other factors have on our genes and whether or not they behave themselves. According to Goel, as we age, many of our cancer- and other disease-suppressing genes that are built into our genetic code as natural defenses and protections can be “turned off” or “go to sleep” as a result of our lifestyle and environment. The great news (according to Goel) is that “epigenetic changes are reversible. The moment you start making wiser lifestyle choices, you can get back on track to a healthier life. Damage to the genetic material in our cells is the root cause of many diseases, including cancer. It is certainly in everyone’s best interest and within everyone’s reach to keep our genomes healthy.” Goel goes on to offer evidence of his assertion that we place a disproportionately large amount of the blame on our genes . . . he suggests we look at cases of identical twins. Despite the fact that their DNA and genetic structure are identical at birth, as they age, twins will begin to look different, will develop different body types and diseases and become entirely different people, depending on their unique environments and lifestyle choices.
How Can Curcumin Help?
So what do we do about it? Goel states the obvious—eating well, exercising regularly, and taking the right supplements (he specifically names curcumin as one of the most important) can go a long way toward helping. If we seek to help control inflammation, we can help set the stage to help our bodies to do what they were designed to do—activate and optimize our genes and other systemic faculties to respond to inflammation (and disease) in a healthy way. Goel says that “your choice to eat organic fruits, vegetables, and herbs in abundance is part of a small plan” to help control chronic/systemic inflammation (and possibly chronic disease), but “curcumin surpasses them all. Think of the epigenetic power of curcumin as your insurance policy, not only against cancer,” but also against other chronic lifestyle diseases including diabetes and others.
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