Curcumin is a substance that can be consumed in the diet and which has several interesting and beneficial functions to organism’s health.
First, it is an antioxidant that can reduce the occurrence of cancer. It interacts with different enzymes that encourage the metabolism and the elimination of the medicines we take. More and more scientific studies show the positive effects of this plant.
A recent study has shown how curcumin works and its role in autoimmune diseases, i.e. those diseases in which the immune system attacks our organism. In this article we analyze the pathogenesis of autoimmune diseases, and we try to figure out the role that curcumin has in their improvement.
Autoimmune diseases are a group of diseases characterized by the immune system, which mistakes part of our body. For reasons mostly unknown (the idea is however of a multifactorial cause), the immune system starts attacking some structures, giving rise to one or more of the many diseases that may involve the affected organ. Among the most common autoimmune diseases we find Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, Systemic Lupus Erythematosus, rheumatoid arthritis, some forms of diabetes, Addison’s disease and Chron’s disease, which affects the digestive system.
The mechanism of action of the immune system, that instead of fighting viruses and bacteria structure outside the body begins to destroy the body’s own structure, is what unites these diseases.
Classical therapy of autoimmune diseases is based on the use of corticosteroids, which are provided at a dose as to be immunosuppressive. By suppressing the activity of the immune system we prevents the body’s structures destruction but, at the same time, it “opens the way” to infections and other diseases that take advantage of the body’s immune deficiency.
This is where turmeric fit in. Unlike the immunosuppressant drugs, it can prevent excessive activation of the immune system, in particular of a specific population of lymphocytes, but without affecting the functionality of the rest of the defenses (e.g. granulocytes), which suffering from the action of cortisone.
Therapeutic effects of turmeric on autoimmune diseases
The therapeutic effects of turmeric on autoimmune diseases have been highlighted recently because it was explained the mechanism of action.
This mechanism is based on the regulation of a particular cell population, one of the most active in autoimmune diseases: the Th17 cells, which are part of the CD4 T lymphocyte cell line, which play a crucial role in inflammatory conditions and, more specifically, inflammations caused by autoimmunity.
In practice, the body by recognizing as harmful some of its own structures causes these to be attacked by the immune system. The presence of many “enemies” within the body stimulates a mechanism of action, based on molecules called interleukin, which causes the proliferation of lymphocytes, among the main responsible for the autoimmune attack.
Curcumin acts on production of interleukins (specifically Interleukin 6 and interleukin 23,), which is drastically reduced, and this has a number of important effects. As the cytokines do not activate lymphocytes, these do not differ and do not proliferate and, therefore, there is a reduction of attack on the body’s structures. An improvement of the general condition of the patient allows a reduction of inflammatory drugs ingested to fend off the symptoms of the disease.
The mechanism seems to be due to the fact that curmin is able to target a specific receptor, mediating the release from specific interleukin cells. In practice, it is as if this substance would make the structures that the organism would attack invisible to the immune system, not acting on structures but on the immune system itself (as if it were blindfolded). As a result, the immune system does not raise the alarm on the presence of “alien”, and it sleeps without attacking the structures.
At the moment it is impossible to quantify the effect of the turmeric, which will be analyzed in subsequent studies but, having obtained the scientific demonstration of its action, is an excellent starting point because:
- In general, curcumin does not interact with cortisone, the therapy normally used in the fight against autoimmune diseases;
- The doctor, considering the action of turmeric on the individual patient, can recommend the reduction of the dose of cortisone, guaranteeing minor side effects.
The curcumin is therefore proving increasingly a valid substance to be used as an adjuvant to traditional therapies in the treatment of many diseases.