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[SPICEY RELIEF] Turmeric may best PPIs for heartburn

Potential good news for the millions of people with heartburn: A natural compound found in the culinary spice turmeric may be as effective as omeprazole—a drug called a proton pump inhibitor (PPI) that’s used to curb excess stomach acid—for treating heartburn.

Turmeric contains a naturally active compound called curcumin, which is thought to have anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties, and has long been used as a medicinal remedy, including for the treatment of indigestion, in South East Asia.

The researchers conducted the first randomized controlled trial comparing turmeric to the PPI omeprazole in a head-to-head study.

A total of 206 patients (average age, about 50; about half, women) with recurrent upset stomach (functional dyspepsia) received curcumin alone; omeprazole alone; or curcumin plus omeprazole (combined group) for 28 days.

The doses were: turmeric (two large 250 mg capsules of curcumin 4 times a day) plus one small dummy capsule; omeprazole (one small 20 mg capsule daily and two large dummy capsules 4 times a day); and turmeric plus omeprazole.

Symptoms were assessed on days 28 and 56 using the Severity of Dyspepsia Assessment (SODA) score.

In the combined group, the curcumin-alone group, and the omeprazole-alone group, SODA scores for pain severity declined significantly by day 28 (-4.83, -5.46, and -6.22, respectively), as did scores for severity of other symptoms (-2.22, -2.32, and -2.31, respectively).

Symptom improvements were even stronger by day 56 for pain (-7.19, -8.07, -8.85) and other symptoms (-4.09, -4.12, -3.71) in the same groups.

Although curcumin was safe and well tolerated, satisfaction scores did not change much among patients taking it, suggesting the possible need to improve its taste or smell to make it more palatable.

The authors write, "The new findings from our study may justify considering curcumin in clinical practice.”

To download the article, published in BMJ Evidence-Based Medicine, click here

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