The culinary spice turmeric contains a naturally active compound called curcumin. Hence, it is thought to have anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties and has long been used as a medicinal remedy in Southeast Asia, including for treating indigestion.
However, it remains to be seen how well it stacks up against traditional medications for this reason, partly due to the lack of head-to-head research.
A new study compared the efficacy of curcumin versus omeprazole in improving patient-reported outcomes in people with dyspepsia. Therefore, 206 patients with functional dyspepsia (recurrent upset stomach) of unknown etiology, aged 18 to 70, recruited from hospitals in Thailand between 2019 and 2021, were randomly allocated to one of three therapy groups for 28 days.
These included omeprazole (one tiny 20 mg capsule daily and two big fake capsules four times a day; 68 patients); turmeric (two large 250 mg capsules of curcumin four times a day) and one small dummy capsule; and turmeric + omeprazole (69 patients).
Proton pump inhibitors, or PPIs, include omeprazole. PPIs are used to treat functional dyspepsia, which has symptoms include postprandial fullness (excessive sense of fullness after eating), early satiety (feeling full after only a small amount of food), and discomfort and/or a burning sensation in the stomach or food pipe (epigastric pain).
The researchers point out prolonged PPI usage has been associated with an elevated risk of infections, nutritional deficiencies, and fractures.
Of the 206 patients enrolled, 151 finished the study, with dropouts in the omeprazole, curcumin, and combined therapy groups totaling 20, 19, and 16 patients, respectively.
At the beginning of the research, patients in all three groups had comparable clinical features and indigestion scores as measured by the Severity of Dyspepsia Assessment score, or SODA. Patients were reevaluated after 28 days and then again after 56 days.
For those in the combination, curcumin alone, and omeprazole alone groups, respectively, SODA scores showed substantial reductions in symptom severity by day 28 for pain (4.83, -5.46, and 6.22) and other symptoms (2.22, -2.32, and 2.31).
After 56 days, these improvements were even more pronounced for pain (respectively 7.19, -8.07, and 8.85) and other symptoms (4.09, -4.12, and 3.71).
The researchers speculate that the curcumin’s taste and/or fragrance may be related to the fact that SODA also gauges satisfaction scores, which have hardly changed over time among supplement users.
Although liver function tests revealed some impairment among curcumin users carrying excess weight, the researchers add that no major side effects were identified.
They know the limited research size and the study’s other constraints, such as the brief intervention time and the dearth of long-term monitoring data. Long-term, larger research is required.
Scientists noted, “This multicentre randomised controlled trial provides highly reliable evidence for treating functional dyspepsia. The new findings from our study may justify considering curcumin in clinical practice.”