Spice Up Your IBD Diet

Last updated: April 2022

Spice. It is what runs the economy on planet Arrakis in Frank Herbert's novel (turned blockbuster movie) "Dune." It also appears to be an excellent way to improve gut health.

What spices are beneficial for IBD? Below I describe 3 I use on a regular basis. They've all been shown to be helpful in reducing gastrointestinal issues such as Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. While I wouldn’t expect a miracle cure, the possible benefits here certainly outweigh the drawbacks.

3 spices to help settle an IBD colon

Turmeric

Turmeric comes from a flowering plant of the ginger family. It is often used in curry and other Asian foods. I use it in a stir fry, to season chicken or lamb, and on vegetables like squash and zucchini.

What are the benefits of turmeric? It's believed that turmeric – and its primary substance curcumin – can help reduce inflammation in the bowel. An article published in the International Journal of Molecular Sciences further suggests that curcumin has anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial properties. More specifically, the article highlights how curcumin defends against chronic inflammation in the intestines. For example, the authors state, "Recent research has indicated certain natural products with anti-inflammatory properties, such as curcumin, can help tame the inflammation involved in intestinal inflammatory diseases, thus improving intestinal barrier function, and potentially, clinical outcomes."1

Oregano

Oregano is a type of flowering plant from the mint family Lamiaceae. An alternative practitioner convinced me to take oregano oil and pills when I was in a bad flare years ago and I've continued that practice when unwell to this day. I'll also add oregano leaves or powder to my food when I can.

Why? Oregano not only has a nice flavor, but it can also be helpful with IBD. According to The International Journal of Nutrition, oregano has "anti-oxidant, anti-microbial, anti-inflammatory, and analgesic properties." This article further claims oregano "promote(s) GI health." The authors back this up by referring to past scientific examination of oregano in mouse models, stating, "Studies performed in mice have shown positive effects of [oregano] lowering GI inflammation."2

Ginger

Ginger is yet another flowering plant whose rhizome, ginger root, is commonly employed in folk medicine. It is derived from a tropical plant native to Southeast Asia.

Why take ginger? It's thought to aid digestion. What is more, a study led by Dr. Merlin at The Institute for Biomedical Sciences at Georgia State University wherein they juiced fresh ginger, added it to a high-speed centrifuge to achieve ultrasonic dispersion, and fed it to mice resulted in a positive benefit: "The particles appear to help in intestinal repair by encouraging the survival and proliferation of cells in the lining of the colon. They also appear to lower the production of proteins that promote inflammation and to raise the levels of proteins that fight inflammation." The authors further suggest, "The particles could be used to treat the two main forms of IBD as well as cancer linked to colitis."3

I buy ginger root and add slices of it to various dishes. I also drink ginger tea regularly. Perhaps all these potential benefits explain why, when your stomach was upset as a kid, your grandma insisted you imbibe ginger ale.

Spices may be worth a try

Spice. We tend to view it as a garnish, a flavor, a needless luxury. But as you can see, spices often have numerous health benefits. Turmeric, oregano, and ginger are three spices that appear to be of particular value to IBD patients.

Thanks for reading. I look forward to your comments below.

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