Inflammation is the name of the process whereby the body sends white blood cells to combat viruses and infection. Inflammation is a good thing because if a person injures themselves, white blood cells will rush to the site of injury attacking any foreign invaders such as viruses and bacteria. This immune response has been honed over millions of years of evolution and works efficiently. However the human body sometime produces inflammation in the absence of any infection or virus and this is known as an autoimmune disorder which includes diseases such as Asthma. Unfortunately, this means that instead of the body's immune system protecting itself, it starts to attack.
Occasionally inflammation can be seen, especially if it is in the joints which can be accompanied with stiffness, swelling and soreness. Sometimes inflammation can feel warm. In fact the English word inflammation is derived from the Latin word 'Inflammatio' which means to set a fire.
Levels of inflammation can measured in the body using a C-Reactive Protein (CRP) test. CRP is produced by the liver in response to the presence of inflammation in the body. It is one of the standard tests that is usually ordered by doctors. Not only do the test results hint at Arthritis, Cancer or vascular problems but some scientists are starting to think that long term low grade inflammation in the human body can lead to diseases such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's.
In the instances of chronic low grade inflammation, its is a silent killer. A 2016 study called "Interplay Between Inflammation and Epigenetic Changes in Cancer" suggests that inflammation can induce epigenic changes leading to Cancer by switching of tumour suppressor genes. Epigenetics looks at how genes can be activated or deactivated (gene expression).
A study entitled 'The effect of hydro-ethanolic extract of Curcuma longa rhizome and curcumin on total and differential WBC and serum oxidant, antioxidant bio-markers in rat model of asthma' published in February 2017 looked at the effect of Curcumin on white blood cell count and anti inflammatory markers in rat models of Asthma.
The results from the study showed that the use of Curcuma Longa improved the eosinophil percentage. Eosinophil is a type of white blood cell that fights certain types of infection including asthma which was the target of the study. The researchers in the report have indicated that the use of Curcumin had beneficial anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory effects and Curcumin could be used for the treatment of animals as well as asthma.
Many other studies also suggest that Curcumin has anti-inflammatory properties and has found it to be a potent COX-2 inhibitor (Cyclooxygenase 2). COX-2 is an enzyme responsible for inflammation and pain in the body, and the inhibition of the COX-2 enzyme can reduce these effects. Medicines known as Non Steroidal Anti Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDS) work on the same principal. An commonly found example of an NSAID is Ibuprofen which in the United Kingdom can be bought over the counter very inexpensively and is often used as an alternative to Aspirin or Paracetamol.
Another study entitled 'A Combination of Resveratrol and Curcumin is Effective Against Aluminum Chloride-Induced Neuroinflammation in Rats' also looked at inflammation.
In this study, the researchers wanted to find out if a combination of Curcumin and Resveratrol would help combat neuroinflamamtion caused by aluminum in rats.
The results of the study found that the combined resveratrol-curcumin therapy worked synergistically and that the beneficial effects appeared both as a combination and also through the targeting of individual pathways.
A 2008 study entitled 'Anti-inflammatory activity of curcumin in macrophages stimulated by lipopolysaccharides from Porphyromonas gingivalis' investigated Curcumin's ability to inhibit the bacterium Porphyromonas Gingivalis. It is believed that the bacterium is necessary for the stimulation of inflammatory cytokines (signalling proteins) which create inflammation prior to periodontitis which is a very serious gum infection that if left untreated can travel to the jawbone.
The results from the study showed that Curcumin was able to inhibit Porphyromonas Gingivalis as well as Lipopolysaccharide (part of the outer surface of gram positive bacteria) induced cytokine expression. The researchers hypothesised that the inhibitory effects may be due to Curcumin's ability to NF-kappaB pathway which is a pro inflammatory signalling molecule.
Curcumin has also been shown to help in inflammation caused by exercise as was shown in the study 'Reduced inflammatory and muscle damage biomarkers following oral supplementation with bio-available curcumin'.
The study investigated muscle damage caused by exercise and also delayed muscle soreness. The Curcumin supplement used in the study was Longvida and the researchers attempted to identify the underlying the mechanisms in which Curcumin may reduce inflammation. Two subject groups were used with the one group using the Longvida supplement and the other group using a rice based placebo. Both groups were given either the supplement or the placebo two days before exercise and post exercise blood samples were taken.
The results from the study showed that the use of the supplement significantly decreased inflammation compared to the placebo group.
A further study looking at the effects of Curcumin and inflammation was conducted using thirty two mice. The study entitled 'Curcumin Attenuates Inflammation, Oxidative Stress, and Ultrastructural Damage Induced by Spinal Cord Ischemia-Reperfusion Injury in Rats' investigated Curcumin's ability for neurorepair and improvement of locomotor function in rats.
The study investigated inflammation through the effects of Curcumin on spinal cord reperfusion injury. Reperfusion is also known as re-oxygenation which is a type of tissue damage that appears after the return of blood supply to the site of an injury following ischemia (lack of oxygen).
The Curcumin was injected through the peritoneum of the rats in order to produce the spinal cord reperfusion injury and the results from the study showed that the use of Curcumin was able to preserve the viability of neurons in rat brains against inflammation by reducing the expression of the cytokine signalling molecules.
It appears from much of the research and also anecdotal evidence that the supplementation of Curcumin and adding Turmeric to cooking is a safe and effective way of helping to fight against inflammation although it should be used as an adjunct only and it shouldn't replace medical advice.