Turmeric, Black Pepper and Ulcers


Whatever the cause of stomach ulcers, and these may differ between people, horses and companion animals, the common factor is the degradation of the stomach wall either directly by acid burns or indirectly by acid induce microbial infection of exposed cells. Areas of the stomach where there is insufficient mucosal protection – such as the pyloric portion of the horse’s stomach, where stress related factors inhibit mucosal secretion or where there is oxidative degradation – and nutritional/physiological issues that exacerbate the acidity of the stomach, by promoting acid producing bacteria that further reduce the pH of the stomach environment, will result in ulceration. Although correct diet and lifestyle can mitigate the situation by absorbing the acid and maintaining the mucus layer, certain bioactive can help modulate acid and mucus production, thereby supporting optimal physiological performance.

Active components of both turmeric and pepper can help in a number of ways. One aspect of gastroprotection is the action of non-protein sulphyhydral (NPSH) groups in the endothelium, which act as strong antioxidants and help combat degradation of the mucus; curcumin can support this action by being preferentially oxidized, allowing NPSH to continue as free radical scavengers. Supporting this, piperine from pepper inhibits the gucuronidation of curcumins, extending its bioavailability and duration.

Both turmeric and pepper are rich in terpene – a major component of essential oil – which has been demonstrated to support the synthesis of prostaglandin (PGE2); PGE2 moderates gastric secretion, at the same time stimulating mucus production and so is paramount in supporting gastroprotection. Terpene, alongside curcumin and piperine, is also a factor is moderating the inflammation cycle. It has been shown that microbial infection in the stomach can initiate an inflammatory cascade by stimulating proinflammatory cytokine release by the body’s defences; these bioactives have been shown to interfere with this mechanism. There is no evidence to suggest that components of pepper can irritate the stomach, and so add towards the risk of ulceration.

Finally pectic polysaccharide, a major component of the soluble fibre in turmeric, can incorporate into the gastric mucosa and subsequently stimulate the production of intestinal mucus, helping support the natural mucus barrier against acidic and necrotic attack.

Combing turmeric and pepper as a nutritional supplement not only increases the bioavailability of bioactives such as curcumin, but also supports components of the other to help support a normal gastric environment.

 Dr Tom Shurlock BSc PhD

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