January 28th 1986 was an unusually cold day. However, it did little to dampen the spirits of NASA and the crew members of the Space Shuttle Challenger. Among the seven people who were about to blast off into space was Christa McAuliffe, a social studies teacher from New Hampshire. She was going to conduct the first ever class from space!
However, tragedy struck just 73 seconds after liftoff. The space shuttle began to veer wildly off course and disintegrated in a massive fiery explosion. Horrified crowds watched in silence as debris was reported to fall hundreds of miles around the Kennedy Space Center. This was a huge blow and brought the entire space program to a standstill for almost four years.
Investigations into the accident revealed that a single rubber O-Ring between two parts of the rocket booster failed. One single component among the many millions – failed as it was not certified to be used in the usual cold temperatures.
Imagine such a component in your own body. It’s designed to work well in normal conditions, but our lifestyle and diet is putting undue stress on it. Scary, right?
There is a solution though. An herb which can soothe the organ in question, and have it function normally under all the stress it gets under. Isn’t that great? Read on below to find out more.
Turmeric, (Curcuma longa) is a long-leafed plant that is native to South East Asia. It is the ginger plant’s cousin. The root from this plant is extracted and processed for consumption. It has been grown and harvested for thousands of years. Turmeric is used in Ayurveda, Unani and ancient traditional Chinese Medicine. It’s various medicinal properties are well documented. When used in cooking, it imparts a rich yellow color and an earthy flavour to your dish.
The uses of turmeric are so widespread that a company in the US tried to Patent all the methods of processing and extraction of turmeric. This led to a controversy and an international lawsuit. The patent was eventually nullified, allowing it’s daily use.
So, what does it do and how is it useful?
The benefits of turmeric are many, and in this article, we’ll look at how it helps with digestion and liver function.
Our digestive system is a beautiful combination of organs. They work together to ingest food, process it, break it down, harvest the good stuff from it and send out the waste. We get energy from the whatever is harvested to go about our daily lives. Among these organs, the liver, with the gall bladder are vital parts that help break down your food with the clever use of a fluid called Bile.
Bile is a greenish yellow fluid made in the liver. Its job is to flush into the small intestine and break down fats into smaller bits. It attaches itself to the fat and metabolizes them. The liver produces anywhere between 400ml to 800ml of bile in an adult.
So, how much bile does a body need?
The liver can produce bile on demand. However, over the many thousands of years, the body has developed some good practices. There is always some extra concentrated bile that is produced and stored in case it is needed right away. Just like how our mum keeps an extra packet of milk or coffee powder for unexpected guests. Where is this extra bile stored? In the gall bladder.
The Gall on that bladder!
Imagine you’re at an office party. The open bar and the unlimited starters are flowing. Conversation flows as you discuss and catch up on the latest gossip, while munching on all the savouries at hand. Potluck goes well and everyone has a great time. As you get home feeling contended and drowsy, your stomach, liver and gall bladder are working overtime to break down all the food
First, the stomach has a clever way of alerting the liver that there’s a lot of fatty food material coming it’s way. Well placed hormones interact with the concentrated bile and brings it to the right consistency. The liver then regulates the gall bladder making it contract. This empties the stored bile into the small intestine and the reserve bile joins the rest in breaking down the food. After a tough couple of hours work while you’re sleeping soundly, the exhausted liver replenishes the spent bile, stores it in the gall bladder and prepares for the next day.
NEAT! It’s so well designed, what could possibly go wrong?
You would be surprised.
As we see from the mechanics, bile needs to be quick to release and easy to store. It’s easy to imagine a benign yellow liquid that does just this. However, it’s really not that simple. Bile contains salts which do the actual breaking down of fats. Where there are salts, there can be salt deposits in the plumbing. To put it very crudely, the common bile duct is like the tap that opens and allows bile to flow from the liver and gall bladder into the small intestine.
So it is easy to imagine that this opening has to be clear of any debris. It is also a given that bile itself must be ‘liquid’ enough to flow freely. The bladder itself must contract properly to eject the right amount of stored bile.
However, due to various reasons ranging from food habits to lifestyle choices, the bile could be thick with salts. Moving thick bile through the bile duct would be like drinking ice-cream shake through a straw. Not easy.
This means that there isn’t enough bile flow to properly break down food. This inefficient digestion can result in low energy, fatigue, mood swings, unhealthy weight gain leading to obesity.
With the advent of processed oils and preservatives in our food, the gall bladder doesn’t always contract fully and empty all the bile. This results in highly concentrated salts being in the gall bladder for a long time.
The salt particles in the bile can then get deposited in the gall bladder itself, leading to what are commonly called gallstones. These “stones” can be anywhere from as small as a grain of sand to sometimes as big as a golf ball. If left untreated, these can pose a huge health risk. The treatment for these extreme cases would be to surgically remove the gall bladder entirely.
Okay! How do I make sure this doesn’t happen?
As I said earlier, there are a variety of factors that determine how well your liver is working. A lot of it comes down to your diet and your lifestyle. A well-regulated diet with appropriate amounts of fibre ensures optimum bile production. It also helps in maintaining the viscosity of bile helping it flow more smoothly whenever required. A healthy lifestyle with appropriate exercise and eating on time also helps regulate the amount of bile secreted and stored.
What More can I do?
A little turmeric can go a long way!
Benefits of Turmeric in your diet on your liver, and therefore your overall health is as below:
• An active component of turmeric called Curcumin helps the liver break down Low Density Lipoproteins (‘bad’ cholesterol) and prevent it’s oxidation.
• Several independent studies have shown that curcumin increases the expression of cholesterol and lipoprotein receptors which results in better metabolism.
• Curcumin helps reducing inflammation, scarring, and fibrosis in the bile duct. This means a better flow of bile between the liver and the intestine.
• Researchers from University of Nottingham have identified curcumin as one of the food ingredients that stimulates gall bladder emptying.
• This cleansing nature of turmeric also means it is a potent blood purifier.
Sounds too good to be true? It really is!
What should I be careful about?
Turmeric is one of the safest, non-toxic herbs known to man. There are little to no known side effects of consuming turmeric. However, like everything, too much of it could cause imbalances.
• Too much turmeric can cause mild upset stomach, diarrhea and kidney stones
• Turmeric supplements in large quantities reduce blood sugar levels. There is possibility it could interfere with diabetes medicines.
• Turmeric is an anti-coagulant. Avoid turmeric supplements from two weeks before any planned surgery.
I’m sold! How do I take it?
The best way to include turmeric in your diet is to use it whole as an ingredient. It is also available in powder form. Nirogam’s Turmeric Powder is crushed from organically grown turmeric. This is the healthiest way of taking this herb.
Turmeric milk is a delicious way to introduce turmeric to your diet. Just add 2 table spoons of turmeric powder to about 500ml of milk and heat for 15 minutes until it almost boils over.
You could add a few peppercorns to this as well. Peppercorns have been known to increase the bio-availability of turmeric.
Turmeric has so many advantages and innumerable uses. It would be impossible to list all of its uses in a single article.
However, we now have more clarity on how turmeric can help maintaining a healthy liver and gall bladder. We also learnt how it can keep bile flow and prevent commonly occurring diseases of the digestive system.
So, what is your favourite method of using turmeric in your cooking. What other benefits have you found from using this amazing herb? Let us know in the comments below.