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Turmeric and Your Kidneys: Is the Spice Bad for Kidney Health?

Anyone whose taste palate extends past the desire for bland, flavorless food has likely encountered turmeric in one meal or another. This iconic yellow spice has been consumed for thousands of years due to its apparent health benefits and notable flavor profile, and ancient Ayurvedic and Chinese medical practices have utilized turmeric in the treatment of a variety of health problems, including digestive issues and skin diseases. 

A quick trip to the health section of any local supermarket will reveal a plethora of turmeric supplements available for public consumption on account of their proven positive health effects, but there still remains room for discussion regarding the potency of turmeric and its full range of capabilities. One area that is worth further discussion happens to be the effects turmeric has on kidney health, and whether or not it is actually bad for your kidneys.

While science is constantly evolving as more and more research is conducted every day, I’m here to present the facts on what we currently do know regarding turmeric. Kidney problems can occur due to multiple different factors, resulting in an array of symptoms that may or may not be remedied via turmeric. While certain conditions may benefit from supplementing with turmeric, the spice shouldn’t be viewed as an elixir with the ability to cure every ailment. 

Focal points of this article will include the following: 

  • Why turmeric is a positive influence on your health
  • Turmeric’s relationship with kidney health (is the spice bad for your kidneys?)
  • What to expect when taking turmeric supplements

How Does Turmeric Work?

If you think sprinkling a little turmeric powder onto every dish you eat is going to be the ultimate remedy to your ailments, then you would be sorely mistaken. While incorporating the spice into your typical meals may offer a small boost to your overall health, the true potential of turmeric lies in its supplemental form, where a high enough dosage is consumed to truly reap the benefits of its active ingredients, curcumin. 

Basically, every positive quality associated with turmeric consumption is thanks to curcumin, a phenolic compound that is attributed with giving the plant its bright yellow coloration. Research indicates that curcumin possesses many properties that are beneficial to overall wellness. Among the positive characteristics curcumin exhibits are antimicrobial, antioxidant, hypoglycemic, and anti-inflammatory effects. 

Compared to many other medications, curcumin is relatively safe and can be tolerated in high doses. However, one unfortunate drawback about this compound is its lack of bioavailability, which refers to how much of a substance your body can adequately absorb. Curcumin’s poor bioavailability means that the full extent of turmeric’s capabilities cannot be appreciated by the body. 

While this is certainly not ideal, there is a workaround to low absorption by way of piperine, an active compound found in black pepper. Combining piperine with turmeric or curcumin can increase its bioavailability by up to 2,000%, so be sure to check the label of supplements for piperine before you buy. 

An individual grabbing their lower back
While turmeric’s reputation is in good standing with the medical community on account of its potent effects, what does the research say about whether or not turmeric is bad for your kidneys? 

The Negative Side of Turmeric 

As with any medication or supplement, certain risks come with its consumption which you should be made aware of before deciding if it’s the right choice for you. While none of these potential problems are specific to the kidneys, they can impact your overall health and cause even more issues for you to deal with. 

Possible risks to keep in mind when considering turmeric curcumin include:

  • Headaches, dizzy spells, diarrhea, nausea, and acid reflux are all mild side effects that may occur
  • Turmeric can aggravate certain stomach issues, and gastrointestinal disorders may not react well to excess curcumin
  • Iron absorption is limited through turmeric, so it’s best to avoid turmeric if you take iron supplements 
  • Certain medications and turmeric do not mix well together such as antidepressants, antibiotics, cardiac medications, blood thinners, antihistamines, and chemotherapy treatments
  • Don’t take turmeric if you have a bleeding disorder since it functions as a blood thinner
  • People with diabetes who take medication may want to steer clear of turmeric supplements because turmeric can interfere with the medicine and result in dangerously low blood sugar levels
  • Pregnant or breastfeeding individuals may eat turmeric in small amounts, but they should not take turmeric supplements as the supplements could stimulate contractions of the uterus and cause further birth complications
  • Individuals who experience issues with kidney stones may want to hold off on taking turmeric supplements, as curcumin can lead to the formation of new kidney stones

Is Turmeric Bad For Your Kidneys?

A shocking statistic reveals that around 14% of American adults live with chronic kidney disease, and that doesn’t even account for the various other kidney problems that many deal with on a daily basis. With so many struggling with the adverse effects of unhealthy kidneys, it’s no wonder there’s been a resurgence of discussions surrounding turmeric and its potential influence on the kidneys.

As it turns out, scientific research appears to back up claims of turmeric being an effective supplement to take when dealing with kidney problems. From increasing the presence of beneficial gut microbes that limit toxicity to protecting the body from free radicals caused by oxidative stress, curcumin offers a lot of positive potential for your kidney health. 

Exploring the Effects of Curcumin in Relation to Chronic Kidney Disease and Related Kidney Conditions

Findings from a 2014 study reveal that there may be a link between curcumin and chronic kidney disease. The leakage of cytokines and other pro-inflammatory compounds in the gut can result in the development of certain health concerns by increasing intestinal permeability. 

The mucous lining of our intestines is specifically designed so that the water and essential nutrients we get from the food we eat is absorbed into the bloodstream. Intestinal permeability is a natural feature of the body, but for those with increased intestinal permeability or hyperpermeability the gut wall allows more than just water and nutrients through. This leak can be extremely dangerous and lead to a number of unpleasant medical conditions including diabetes, plaque buildup on artery walls, and chronic kidney disease. 

However, since curcumin acts as an anti-inflammatory agent, ingesting the compound may reduce the inflammation present in the gut, protecting against these disorders by reducing their symptoms or preventing them entirely. It is also speculated from the evidence of recent studies that curcumin may delay the progression of chronic kidney disease, and though the aforementioned studies were small, they had promising results. 

One small clinical trial consisted of twenty-four patients diagnosed with lupus nephritis, which is kidney inflammation caused by lupus. The findings of this trial indicate that curcumin may work to reduce systolic blood pressure, excess proteins in the urine, and blood in the urine in just over three months of treatment. 

When it comes to using turmeric to combat kidney failure, the spice may have some real benefits. Consuming curcumin can decrease certain inflammatory markers present in hemodialysis patients, improve fats in the blood, and reduce risk of kidney disease overall. This is all possible thanks to curcumins anti-inflammatory and antioxidative qualities. 

Several pill capsules in the palm of a hand
Taking a new supplement can be both exciting and nerve-wracking when you don’t know what to expect, so be sure to use caution and consult your doctor to see if turmeric is right for you.

Kidney Stones

The effects of turmeric in relation to kidney stones is a bit of an outlier when looking at the positive relationship between turmeric and kidney health as a whole, but it must be discussed regardless. 

If you struggle with kidney stones on a relatively frequent basis, then it may be in your best interest to avoid turmeric supplements for the sake of your health. Since curcumin is high in its oxalate content, it can contribute to the development of kidney stones. Individuals susceptible to developing kidney stones should keep their turmeric consumption at a minimum. 

What You Can Expect Out of Taking Turmeric 

Before we wrap up this article, let’s get all of our facts straight so that you have a good idea of what to expect out of taking turmeric supplements.

First and foremost, do not start taking turmeric supplements with the assumption that the results you desire to see will be instantaneous. As with most supplements and medications, time is the greatest factor in seeing improvements. There is no exact timeframe I can give you in regards to witnessing substantial changes or results from consuming turmeric supplements. What I can say, however, is that you should employ patience and wait at least a few months before giving up your hopes.  

Potential Health Benefits of Turmeric

Though I briefly discussed the medicinal qualities of curcumin earlier in this article, I want to further explore the positive effects that may arise from taking turmeric. From heart disease and gastrointestinal disorders to arthritis and even Alzheimer’s disease, curcumin has been shown to be a promising treatment method for an array of health issues

Health benefits you can expect when taking turmeric consist of: 

  • Pain relief: Turmeric has been shown to reduce pain caused by rheumatoid arthritis and gastrointestinal pain stemming from inflammatory bowel disease
  • Immunity booster: Turmeric has antibacterial, antiseptic, antiviral, and antifungal properties that help stimulate the immune system and protect against future infections
  • Reduces depression: Curcumin boosts neurotrophic factors in the brain and neurotransmitters like dopamine and serotonin, which helps mitigate symptoms of depression
  • Antioxidant properties: One of turmeric’s most known benefits is its antioxidative effects, which protect the body against free radicals that attack healthy cells
  • Anti-inflammatory properties: Rather than rely on anti-inflammatory medication that produces unwanted side effects, turmeric’s anti-inflammatory properties can take its place to reduce chronic joint and wound inflammation, swelling, pain, and general discomfort
  • Promotes good skin: Turmeric can delay wrinkles, prevent acne, reduce eczema, reduce scarring, and help heal wounds
  • Aids digestion: Turmeric makes the digestive system more efficient by stimulating the gallbladder to produce bile and prevents bloating in the gut

That about concludes our dive into turmeric and its effects on kidney health. Hopefully you gained some insight into how curcumin works as a supplement and you feel more confident about your health decisions moving forward. 

Remember, supplements work differently for everyone, and there’s no shame in experimenting with different types to see which ones are the best fit for you. If you deal with ongoing kidney issues and believe turmeric could potentially benefit your health, don’t wait on consulting a medical professional. As long as you get the green light to give turmeric supplements a try, there’s no harm in adding them to your daily routine. 

At the end of the day, you are in control over your body and the health decisions you make, so use your best judgment and start living a healthier life today!

You should consult a licensed health care professional before starting any supplement, dietary, or exercise program, especially if you are pregnant or have any pre-existing injuries or medical conditions.

These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any diseases.

Author: Dr. Emil Hodzovic

Holding degrees in both medicine and Sports + Exercise Science from renowned research institution Cardiff University, Dr. Emil Hodzovic has the dual distinction of being a practicing clinician and respected authority in nutrition and supplementation.

During his parallel careers as a personal trainer and professional athlete, Dr. Emil recognized a critical flaw in the supplement space: too much emphasis on appearance and performance—and zero concern for making holistic health and happiness accessible to everyone.

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