Turmeric – medical jack-of-all trades, or just a great curry ingredient?

Chemistry-of-Turmeric
http://www.compoundchem.com/

Turmeric is a wonderful ingredient to add to a curry – it has also been exalted as a wonder food with lots of great benefits for health. Some of the more pervasive anecdotes with regards to turmerics ‘heath benefits’ are antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer effects and benefits for digestive health and IBS.

I have always had a bit of a problem with the anti-oxidant hypothesis in health, as an ex-polymer chemist, I was very experienced in protecting polymer products such as paints and adhesives from the effects of oxidation and environmental free radical degradation. This was not always easy to achieve – even the in simplest of formulations.

These free radical reactions do occur in our bodies – at a base level we are a very complex mix of chemical reactions and our bodies contain polymers. Turmeric is a polyphenol, and polyphenols do show anti-oxidant properties. With anti-oxidant protection, as a chemical reaction, one factor needs to be fulfilled – the anti-oxidant has to be situated at the site where the free radical reactions occur to be able to mop them up. Therefore any research involving turmeric in Petri dishes to observe it’s anti-oxidant (and anti-inflammatory or anti-cancer effects), or by feeding animals unsustainably large amounts may be very interesting, but far from proving it to be an effective anti-oxidant in our body. There is a problem with turmeric – it is very poorly absorbed in the digestive tract, it has poor solubility – therefore it would be difficult to transport it to the site of reaction. If the anti-oxidant cannot physically be transported to the site of free radical reaction, then it is clearly not possible for it to react! Until this problem is solved it is perhaps an entirely useless medical treatment, and of course, it needs to be studied in humans as a treatment, with randomized controlled trials and ultimately a systematic review. These problems can possibly be solved – by utilizing chemistry.

But…but…turmeric is ‘natural’, is the response, so therefore it is surely better for us than all those ‘chemicals’ in medicines? If you are going to use the anti-oxidant theory for the promotion of ‘alternative’ natural care, then you are buying into chemistry by using this as your argument. Spoiler alert – curcumin, the active compound in turmeric, is a chemical – see the infographic above. If it was effective it would be called a medicine, which may be possible in the future with lot’s more health research – but certainly, we are a very long way from this now. One research paper proposed turmeric as a jack-of-all-trades, in other words ‘useful’ for numerous health areas, which concomitantly also means master of none, an insightful figure of speech here, perhaps.

For digestive complaints, turmeric has a long history of use in Ayurvedic medicine as a compound which can be useful for indigestion, but with little strong evidence for effective use in either IBS or indigestion – just tantalizing pre-clinical trials and uncontrolled studies.

Past history has taught us that medicines are often derived from naturally occurring pharmacological plants, so research of turmeric should certainly continue – but we really shouldn’t be tempted to jump the gun with promoting turmerics alleged health effects, this is disingenuous.

So does turmeric have any benefits at all? Of course! Turmeric is low fodmap as a spice and can be used to flavour low fodmap recipes for people who have irritable bowel syndrome and imparts these foods with a very vibrant colour. If you are wanting a January ‘health kick’ from turmeric, or use it to ‘cure’ your IBS, then think again, but enjoying a great, warming, vibrant low fodmap meal made from turmeric, either low fodmap curry, or the low fodmap soup recipe below, in the depth of winter, is surely a sublime use of this wonderful spice?

Carrot, ginger and turmeric soup

Ingredients

500g carrots

1 tablespoon of oil

1 teaspoon of Moroccan spice (Fodify)

1 teaspoon of ginger

2 teaspoons of turmeric

1500mls water

seasoning to taste

Method

Peel and chop the carrots

Fry the spices in oil to release the flavour

Add the water and carrots to the spices

Cook till the carrots are soft, then blend with a hand blender

Season

Serves 3-4

https://www.nhs.uk/news/cancer/curry-spice-kills-cancer-cells/

https://www.nhs.uk/news/food-and-diet/spice-for-mice/

https://www.nhs.uk/news/food-and-diet/could-curry-spice-boost-brain-cell-repair/

https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs11894-016-0494-0

Celebration trifle – low fodmap

It’s New Years eve and if you want a celebration dessert that can help people following a low fodmap diet but is also tasty for all your New Years Day party guests, this is ideal – it is made with lactose free mascarpone and lactose free creme fraiche (you can buy these at Tesco) plus gluten free sponge. Whilst this trifle is low fodmap it is not low in fat – if you have issues with foods high in fat resulting in symptoms take care – a small portion only is probably best!

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Ingredients

Sponge

100g gluten free self raising flour

2 eggs

100g margarine

100g castor sugar

Rhubarb

250g rhubarb

2 tablespoons of maple syrup

1/2 teaspoon of orange oil

1 tablespoon of granulated sugar

100ml of water

Topping

50g chopped pecan nuts

Cream

200g lactose free mascarpone

100g of lactose free creme fraiche

1 tablespoon of icing sugar

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Method

Sponge

Make the sponge – this is better prepared the day before to allow it to stale a little

Add the margarine and castor sugar to a bowl and using a hand mixer mix until light and creamy

Add one egg and beat till incorporated into the mix – if it curdles or separates just add a little of the flour to the mix.

Repeat with the other egg.

Add the flour and mix it in slowly with a metal spoon.

Pour into a 7 inch lined cake tin and put in an oven to cook at gas mark 5 190 degrees C for 45 minutes – or until a metal skewer inserted into the cake comes out clean.

Cool and slice length ways into two circles

Rhubarb

Wash slice and cook the rhubarb with the water, maple syrup and sugar and orange oil until soft – cool and save the cooking liquor. I like my rhubarb quite sharp to counteract the sweetness – add sugar or syrup to your preference here.

Cream

Mix the mascarpone with the creme fraiche and icing sugar – keep in the fridge

and build….

Build the trifle, one layer of rhubarb, then sponge – add some of the rhubarb cooking liquor to the sponge, then mascarpone – repeat until all the mixes are used up ending with a layer of mascarpone. Add chopped nuts to the top of the cake to decorate.

Serves 8

🎇🎊 Wishing all my followers a Happy New Year!🎊🎇

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mini chocolate orange panettone – low fodmap

This is an ideal Christmas recipe for low fodmappers who want to have a festive bread without marzipan and probably one of the only bread recipes that I have managed to produce that has risen well! It is based on an enriched bead dough mix produced using a standard purchased bread flour.

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Recipe

250g gluten free bread flour

150g dark chocolate chips

2 teaspoons of orange oil

2 eggs

1 tablespoon of oil

1 teaspoon of vanilla

1 pack of fast acting yeast

1 pinch of salt

1 small pinch of cream of tartar

50g of castor sugar

1 teaspoon of cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon of cloves

1 teaspoon of ginger

1 teaspoon of mixed spice

400ml of warm water

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Method

Add the flour, spices salt and dark chocolate chips to a bowl, mix.

Separate the yolk from the white of the eggs.

To the white add a pinch of cream of tartar and whisk till peaks are formed, adding 25g of sugar half way through, then add the rest when soft peaks are formed.

To the yolks add the oil, vanilla and orange oil

Start adding the water to the dry ingredients and mix with a hand mixer. Then add the yolks.

Fold into the mix half the beaten egg whites quickly to slacken the mix. The gently fold in the rest of the egg white.

Add to bread tins and leave in a warm place for 30 minutes to rise. Cook in a warm oven (200˚C, Fan 180˚C, 400˚F, Gas 6) for 30 minutes until cooked.

Coffee, caffeine and the complexities of digestion.

Struggling with sleep? Constantly wired? Have to dash to the toilet immediately after drinking your morning brew?

It’s possible that coffee is causing these symptoms. The caffeine contained in coffee is a gastrointestinal stimulant, this means caffeine increases the contractions that move the contents through the bowel, risking diarrhoea and urgency. For those with slower bowels (constipation) caffeine containing food and drinks may help you to go to the toilet, but caffeine does have other effects that should be considered.  For those with alternating symptoms it is worth tracking you caffeine intake through the day – you may find that intake might be the cause of problems. Black coffee is not a fodmap containing drink – but it can cause symptoms of IBS – so it is an important dietary factor to consider.

Many people with an overly sensitive digestive tract will experience symptoms with food and drinks high in caffeine, due to these exaggerated reflexes that occur with IBS. Older research suggests that for some people coffee can stimulate bowel function within 4 minutes of drinking it. This cannot possibly be a direct affect of coffee traveling through the bowel – but suggests that a pharmacological (drug like) affect or perhaps due to hormone stimulation?

Production of the hormone gastrin by the stomach is stimulated by coffee, which results in increased movement of the digestive system by the gastrocolic reflex (an involuntary and nearly instantaneous movement in response to a stimulus.) This reflex in some people is caused by the act of drinking coffee (the stimulus) and results in the bowels emptying to ‘make room’ for the next meal. This reflex can often be exaggerated in people who have problems with their bowels.

Coffee has a low osmolality of 58 osmol/Kg – meaning that drinking it black with no sugar can affect how quickly fluids pass from the digestive tract into the body – low osmolality drinks can result in fluids being absorbed more quickly. Drinking coffee with a meal could reduce these effects and so can adding milk/sugar (but sugar is not great for health) – so, having a breakfast of a cup of black coffee or a strong shot of espresso to kick start the day might not be too helpful for those with IBS.

Caffeine also has systemic effects on the body it is a bio-active compound – in other words – it can result in other symptoms in the body that might have consequences for people with IBS. IBS is also systemic condition, symptoms are not just confined to the digestive tract – see here for a comprehensive list of other symptoms https://www.theibsnetwork.org/have-i-got-ibs/what-is-ibs/. Not everyone has the experience of the stimulation of the nervous system as a result of large intakes of caffeine. If you are affected however caffeine can exert the following effects – increases in perception of alertness and wakefulness, palpitations, high blood pressure, insomnia, headaches and sometimes anxiety depending on individual tolerance.

Is it just the caffeine that is responsible in coffee for causing symptoms? Coffee contains many different compounds and whilst caffeine is responsible for some systemic effects there is little evidence that de-caffeinated coffee has and affects on the bowel – but some anecdotal evidence suggests that it might.

Coffee and the bladder

Some people also have bladder problems with IBS – urinary urgency and frequency can be affected by caffeine containing drinks. This is because they can relax the muscles in the pelvic floor.

Coffee, caffeine and sleep.

Health advice for sleep hygiene suggests that drinks containing caffeine should be limited a few hours before bed to avoid insomnia https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/insomnia/self-help/ Poor sleep is also associated with IBS with up to 74% of people with IBS stating that sleep is a problem and insomnia can increase levels of pain and perception of pain the next day. It is worth trying to incorporate some aspects of sleep hygiene into your treatment, if this is a problem for you.

Where else is caffeine found?

It can be very easy to have a large amount of caffeine, as it is found in a number of different foods and drinks – here is a table taken from our book IBS -Dietary advice to calm your gut available here http://amzn.to/2yBk3u7:

Food Approximate caffeine content
Coffee expresso (small cup) 200 mg
Coffee filter (1 cup) 140 mg
Coffee instant (1 cup) 100 mg
Energy drinks (250ml) 80 mg
Tea (1 cup) 75 mg
Cola (330 ml can) 25 mg
Chocolate (dark 25g) 20 mg
Chocolate (milk 25g)* 10 mg

*Also contains lactose and fats, which can also induce symptoms.

Caffeine can also be found in medications – discuss with your doctor or pharmacist if you wish to cut down or change medications.

How do I reduce my intake?

Because coffee is a bioactive compound immediately stopping drinking it can cause symptoms in susceptible people. Symptoms of withdrawal start 12-24 hours after abstinence and can last for 2-9 days. Symptoms are headache, fatigue, depression, difficulty concentrating, irritability and ‘brain fog ‘.

So DO NOT be tempted to go cold turkey, if you are considering cutting down on your intake. Cutting down gradually is helpful for withdrawal effects, slow changes can also help with maintaining the changes you have made.

Try reducing your intake by half a cup a day over a seven day period. Ensure you have other fluids available to drink – water or squash for example, to keep hydrated. You could use decaf tea/coffee if you wish but this might be a problem for some people perhaps.

Don’t be tempted to use coffee weaning products – they are expensive and have no evidence that they work.

Vegan Pate – Christmas starter Low Fodmap

This is a spiced vegan pate starter – a really nice way to begin Christmas lunch. It has lots of seasonal flavours to remind you of the traditional Christmas. Being very easy to make it will take no time at all for you to prepare. Entertaining guests can be challenging so this dish can be prepared in advance and refrigerated till the 25th or perhaps used as a nice supper dish on the 24th if you prefer.

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Ingredients

100g pecan nuts

1/2 preserved lemon

1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon of mixed spice

1 teaspoon of oil

4-5 sage leaves

150g roasted peppers (you can purchase these ready prepared from most supermarkets)

100g gluten-free breadcrumbs

season to taste

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Method

Cover the pecan nuts with boiling water and leave to soak for a few hours till soft .

Add the oil to a pan and fry the spice a little to release the flavour.

Then add all the ingredients to a food processor and blend well.

Serve with toasted gluten free bread

Serves 4-5

Chestnut, carrot & celeriac soup – low fodmap Christmas recipes

Having guests around for Christmas lunch and wondering what to serve for a starter? This recipe is a tasty soup, suitable for vegan low fodmappers and has Christmas flavours with mixed spice. I have been using my copy of the flavour thesaurus by Niki Segnit, a gift for my birthday, and this marries chestnuts with carrot, celery (celeriac is a low fodmap food with a similar flavour to celery – a good substitution) carrot and rosemary and yes, this really works. It is a slightly sweet, winter roots flavour with a light addition of spices. Your guests will never know you have a low fodmap starter for them that is really easy to make and really tasty!

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Ingredients

200g celeriac

500g carrots

200g cooked chestnuts

1/4 teaspoon of mixed spice

10 g rosemary

Drizzle of hazelnut oil

Some chilli flakes (if tolerated)

Seasoning

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Method

Chop the vegetables

Add all ingredients to a pan

Add water to just cover the vegetables

Season to taste

Puree

Serve, drizzle with hazelnut oil and chilli flakes!

serves 6