There’s a lot going on in our worlds right now. It’s easy to feel a bit overwhelmed – home-schooling, juggling the demands of the office from your kitchen table, working early mornings and late nights while also concerned about elderly parents. Or perhaps you’re isolated away from family and loved ones, missing cuddles with grandchildren and the sound of their infectious laughter in the sunshine. This constant state of worry can leave you feeling frazzled, sapped of energy and in all honesty, pretty low.
Many of my clients have gone, or are going through, huge energic and emotional shifts right now. Supporting them to reconnect with themselves and stay grounded emotionally and physically is a priority for us. In some cases I look to add in simple ingredients and supplements that can support them through this time – calm the hustle and bustle of their mind.
Turmeric is one of my favourites. For many of the women I work with turmeric not only supports their hormonal balance but it leaves them feeling more in control and ready to take on whatever life throws their way. Read on to find out how turmeric might help lift your mood and ease your anxiety.
So, why turmeric?
Turmeric is a major food source of the polyphenol curcumin, a chemical which gives turmeric its bright yellow colour. Turmeric has been used for centuries across the world owing to its powerful anti-inflammatory properties, which have been shown to be beneficial for health in a number of ways, including reducing pain, improving muscle recovery, supporting gut health and even regulating mood (1). In this article, we explore how curcumin works in the brain and body to improve low mood and anxiety – to bring a sense of calm back to your day.
How can turmeric support low mood and anxiety?
Curcumin has a small molecular weight and because of this unlike many nutrients, can successfully cross the blood brain barrier, where it exhibits various neuroprotective effects – many of which show benefit for reducing low mood and anxiety. Firstly, several studies have demonstrated that turmeric supplementation can prevent cell death in the hippocampus (2), a part of the brain which has a key role in emotional regulation. It has also been shown to increase a protein in the hippocampus called brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), which promotes the growth of new cells in the brain (3) – owing to these mechanisms, evidence is strong for turmeric's antidepressant-like effects.
In fact, curcumin has been studied quite extensively for its role in depression and anxiety disorders, and supplementation with the nutrient has been shown to improve the synthesis of DHA. DHA (or docosahexaenoic acid!) is an omega-3 fatty acid and is the most prevalent fatty acid found in brain tissue; it plays a key role in brain development and function and is sourced primarily from fatty fish in the diet. Unfortunately, many of us in the Western world do not eat a great deal of fatty fish and as such, are not consuming adequate omega-3, which has been linked to low mood. Fortunately, the body can also make its own when needed from another omega-3 fatty acid, ALA (or alpha linolenic acid). However, the conversion rate of ALA to DHA is very low, approximately just 0.5%; curcumin supplementation has been shown to increase this (4). DHA is crucial for reducing inflammation and has been proven to be supportive in the treatment of depression, demonstrating the importance of curcumin, particularly in those who are not eating much fatty fish.
Curcumin can also support with low mood and anxiety by supporting in hormone regulation; curcumin modulates the production of neurotransmitters in the brain, namely serotonin (known as the happiness hormone) and dopamine (the pleasure hormone) - both of these hormones have key roles in mood status and low levels have been linked with depressive and anxious states. Many randomised controlled trials have studied curcumin as a treatment for depression, and found increased levels of serotonin and dopamine which has led to improved outcomes when compared to a placebo treatment (5).
Finally, turmeric may support mood by improving the health of the gut; our brain and gut are intrinsically linked and are always communicating with each other via the vagus nerve, known as the gut-brain axis. We now know that poor gut health can play a role in both anxiety and mood disorders - therefore by improving the health of the gut, we can improve our mental state. A structurally sound gut and diversity of the microbiome – the collection of microbes that live within it – are crucial for healthy gut function. Curcumin has demonstrated powerful effects in improving the health of the gut, by reducing inflammation, decreasing gut permeability and amplifying microbiome diversity (6).
Can turmeric reduce stress?
Cortisol – better known as the stress hormone – is vital for many actions in the body, but too much can lead to unwanted symptoms including weight gain, irritability, hormonal imbalances (menopause symptoms) and fatigue, as well as conditions such as PCOS and high blood pressure - all due in part to the inflammation caused by an excess of this hormone. Over time, chronic stress can increase levels of circulating cortisol, which in turn can result in low mood and anxiety. However, studies have shown that high doses of curcumin (more than 1000mg/per) can inhibit the production of cortisol (7), thus helping to modulate mood states.
How much turmeric should I be consuming to reap these benefits?
The average dose of curcumin used in most studies is between 500mg - 1000mg/day for at least 6 weeks. However, curcumin only makes up around 3% of turmeric – meaning you would have to eat 15,000g - 33,000g a day to get this amount! I think it’s safe to say none of us will be attempting that any time soon - instead, taking a curcumin supplement is a much more viable option.
Of course, turmeric is delicious so if you like it, it’s definitely worth including in your diet. Meals such as curries and dhals are fab options for increasing your turmeric intake and turmeric eggs are one of my favourite ways to start the day.
As curcumin is hydrophobic (meaning it repels water), the body does not absorb it well, with up to 85% passing through the digestive system unchanged (8).
This is one of the main reasons why Maya developed DEFLAME. So that we can incorporate curcumin into our bodies in sufficient quantities to truly reap the benefits. DEFLAME uses an advanced technology called Liposomal Technology, which allows curcumin to dissolve in water and pass through the intestinal lining and into the blood stream and delivers the nutrients at a cellular level, making it the most efficient delivery mechanism available today. . It is incomparable to pills and powders in terms of value for money and expected results. DEFLAME also has 3 other powerful anti inflammatory ingredients - Vegan and Omega 3 DHA, Ginger and Indian Frankincense.
To read more about DEFLAME, head over here.