Speeding Recovery from Surgery with Turmeric

Speeding Recovery from Surgery with Turmeric
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The anti-inflammatory effect of curcumin, the pigment in the spice turmeric, was put to the test to see if it could reduce postoperative pain and fatigue after surgery.

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Medicine is messy. One of reasons researchers experiment on animals is that they can create uniform, standardized injuries to test potential remedies. It’s not like you can just cut open 50 people and see if something works better than a sugar pill. But, wait a second, we cut people open all the time. It’s called surgery. The efficacy of turmeric curcumin in pain and postoperative fatigue after laparoscopic cholecystectomy—people getting their gallbladder removed: a double-blind, randomized placebo-controlled study. Fifty people were cut into, given curcumin, or an identical looking placebo, along with rescue analgesics—actual pain killers to take if the pain became unbearable. Even though it’s just laparoscopic surgery, people don’t realize what a toll it can take—you can be out of commission for a month. In India, turmeric, in curry powder, has traditionally been used as a remedy for traumatic pain and fatigue; so, let’s put it to the test.

In the weeks following surgery, a dramatic drop in pain and fatigue scores in the curcumin group. Those are my kind of p values. It’s hard to come up with objective measures of pain and fatigue, but drug-wise, the curcumin group was still in so much pain, they were forced to take seven of the rescue painkillers. In the same time period, though, the control group had to take 39. Of course, better to not get gallstones in the first place, but their conclusion was like no other I’ve ever read in a drug trial. “Turmeric is a natural food ingredient, palatable, and harmless.” OK, so far so good. “It proves to be beneficial as it may be an ecofriendly alternative to synthesized anti-inflammatory drugs which have a definite carbon footprint due to industrial production.” Since when do surgeons care about the greenhouse gas emissions from drug companies? I just had to look up this reference. And, there it is, the journey of the carbon-literate and climate-conscious endosurgeon. I don’t know what’s stranger, seeing the word holistic in a surgical journal or the name of this guy’s practice: Dr. Agarwal’s Surgery & Yoga.

To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video. This is just an approximation of the audio contributed by Katie Schloer.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Images thanks to Ed Schuipel and Anant Nath Sharma via Flickr.

Medicine is messy. One of reasons researchers experiment on animals is that they can create uniform, standardized injuries to test potential remedies. It’s not like you can just cut open 50 people and see if something works better than a sugar pill. But, wait a second, we cut people open all the time. It’s called surgery. The efficacy of turmeric curcumin in pain and postoperative fatigue after laparoscopic cholecystectomy—people getting their gallbladder removed: a double-blind, randomized placebo-controlled study. Fifty people were cut into, given curcumin, or an identical looking placebo, along with rescue analgesics—actual pain killers to take if the pain became unbearable. Even though it’s just laparoscopic surgery, people don’t realize what a toll it can take—you can be out of commission for a month. In India, turmeric, in curry powder, has traditionally been used as a remedy for traumatic pain and fatigue; so, let’s put it to the test.

In the weeks following surgery, a dramatic drop in pain and fatigue scores in the curcumin group. Those are my kind of p values. It’s hard to come up with objective measures of pain and fatigue, but drug-wise, the curcumin group was still in so much pain, they were forced to take seven of the rescue painkillers. In the same time period, though, the control group had to take 39. Of course, better to not get gallstones in the first place, but their conclusion was like no other I’ve ever read in a drug trial. “Turmeric is a natural food ingredient, palatable, and harmless.” OK, so far so good. “It proves to be beneficial as it may be an ecofriendly alternative to synthesized anti-inflammatory drugs which have a definite carbon footprint due to industrial production.” Since when do surgeons care about the greenhouse gas emissions from drug companies? I just had to look up this reference. And, there it is, the journey of the carbon-literate and climate-conscious endosurgeon. I don’t know what’s stranger, seeing the word holistic in a surgical journal or the name of this guy’s practice: Dr. Agarwal’s Surgery & Yoga.

To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video. This is just an approximation of the audio contributed by Katie Schloer.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Images thanks to Ed Schuipel and Anant Nath Sharma via Flickr.

Doctor's Note

Here’s the video I mentioned on preventing gallstones in the first place: Cholesterol Gallstones.

The “p value” I mention in the video refers to a measure of the strength of evidence. The smaller it is, the stronger the evidence is that the result they found didn’t just happen by chance. By convention, a p value under 0.05 is considered small enough for a result to be considered statistically significant. This means that you’d only expect to find a result that remarkable simply by coincidence 5% of the time, or in 1 out of 20 cases. So, a p value like the one in the study, <.000, suggests you’d have to run the experiment thousands of times before you’d come up with such a dramatic result just by chance.

Do the turmeric videos ever end? Here are some on turmeric and cancer:

Turmeric is effective at fighting many other health conditions, too, as evident in these videos:

Finally, you may be wondering whether turmeric should be taken as a supplement or in whole food form. I invite you to watch Turmeric or Curcumin: Plants vs. Pills to find out. 

If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to my videos for free by clicking here.

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