Turmeric Supplements Linked to Liver Damage: Tips for Safely Including Haldi in Your Diet

Turmeric or haldi is a common ingredient in desi cuisines. After all, it has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, and gives dishes a beautiful intense yellow color. But the Departments of Health and Aged Care and the Australian Government’s Therapeutic Goods Administration recently issued a joint advisory on turmeric supplements. According to the advisory, herbal supplements and medicines containing turmeric and/or curcumin can cause liver damage in rare cases. Also in the past, a similar link between liver damage and turmeric supplements has been found. According to a 2021 study published in the US National Library of Medicine, more than a dozen cases of liver damage linked to turmeric products have been reported. So, should you avoid turmeric for liver health?

Things to keep in mind before taking turmeric supplements

The latest advice and earlier findings reflect the importance of monitoring and being cautious when using herbal supplements, including turmeric and curcumin.

Turmeric supplements may not be good for the liver! Image courtesy: Adobe Stock

Before taking turmeric supplements, consider the following:

1. Individual variability

People’s reactions to supplements can vary widely. While many people can benefit from turmeric supplements without experiencing adverse effects, others might be more susceptible to complications including liver damage, says Ekta Singhwal, Dietician, Ujala Cygnus Group of Hospitals, Moradabad, Uttar Pradesh .

2. Dosage and quality

Some turmeric supplements may contain different levels of active ingredients or contaminants that may contribute to adverse effects. Dosages can vary widely with different supplements, and there is no universally recommended dosage for everyone. Typical doses of curcumin supplements range from 500 to 2,000 mg per day, the expert explains. But remember that higher doses do not necessarily equate to better results, and the appropriate dosage depends on individual factors such as health status, existing conditions, and potential interactions with other medications. Quality is also important, as the potency of curcumin supplements can vary depending on factors such as formulation, manufacturing processes, and source. It is advisable to choose supplements from reputable brands that are subject to third-party quality and purity testing.

3. Underlying health issues

People with pre-existing liver disease or other health conditions may be more vulnerable to potential side effects from turmeric supplements.

4. Drug Interaction

Turmeric and curcumin can interact with certain medications like blood thinners, antidiabetics, and antacids, potentially affecting their effectiveness or causing side effects.

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5. Consult medical professionals

People considering using turmeric supplements should consult with their healthcare providers before beginning a new regimen. They will be able to assess individual health status, potential interactions and offer personalized recommendations.

Is raw turmeric healthy?

Turmeric supplements may be more convenient for those who do not consume turmeric in their diet. But turmeric in raw form is believed to offer several potential health benefits. These include improving digestive health and supporting joint health. All you have to do is watch the portions. Here’s why turmeric in meals works well:

1. Benefits of Whole Foods

When you consume turmeric in whole foods, for example in cooking or as a drink like turmeric water, you get a combination of compounds that work synergistically, the expert explains. Turmeric contains various bioactive compounds, including curcumin, but also other potentially beneficial components that may contribute to its overall health effects.

turmeric milk
Haldi can be consumed in many ways to reap its health benefits! Image provided by: Shutterstock

2. Bioavailability

Curcumin, which is the active compound in haldi, has low bioavailability. This means that it is easily absorbed by our body. Consuming turmeric with fats or black pepper (which contains piperine) can improve the absorption of curcumin. Traditional Indian cuisine often incorporates these factors, which can enhance the body’s utilization of curcumin.

3. Balanced Nutrient Intake

Incorporating turmeric into a balanced diet ensures that you benefit from its potential health effects in the context of a wider range of nutrients. This is often lacking when taking isolated turmeric supplements.

4. Minimized risk of overconsumption

When you consume turmeric as part of whole foods, you are less likely to consume excessive amounts. High doses of supplements can pose potential risks, especially in terms of drug interactions or the possibility of adverse effects.

Safe ways to consume turmeric

Turmeric is generally considered safe when consumed as a spice in food, excessive consumption of turmeric supplements could potentially impact the liver, says the expert. In rare cases, high doses can lead to liver problems. This is why it is important to use turmeric in moderation. Here are some safe ways to include turmeric in your diet:

1. Kitchen

Using turmeric as a spice in cooking is a traditional and safe way to enjoy its flavor and potential benefits. It is commonly used in curries, soups, stews and rice dishes.

2. Turmeric milk

It is a popular drink made by mixing turmeric with milk along with other spices like black pepper, ginger, and cinnamon.

3. Turmeric tea

Similar to haldi milk, turmeric tea involves steeping turmeric in hot water. You can add lemon, honey or other spices for flavor.

4. Smoothies

Adding a small amount of turmeric to smoothies can give you a nutritional boost.

5. Dressings

If you watch your weight and eat salad, you can incorporate turmeric into your salad dressings.

All you need to remember is not to overdo it with Haldi.

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