Background: There is preliminary evidence to suggest curcumin can alleviate digestive symptoms in adults with self-reported digestive complaints and irritable bowel syndrome. However, in all these trials, curcumin was used as a component of a multi-herbal combination and there were consistent concerns associated with risk of bias in most studies. The goal of this study was to investigate the effects of a curcumin extract (Curcugen™) on gastrointestinal symptoms, mood, and overall quality of life in adults presenting with self-reported digestive complaints. Moreover, to determine the potential therapeutic mechanisms of action associated with curcumin, its effects on intestinal microbiota and small intestinal bowel overgrowth (SIBO) were examined.
Methods: In this 8-week, parallel-group, double-blind, randomised controlled trial, 79 adults with self-reported digestive complaints were recruited and randomised to receive either a placebo or 500 mg of the curcumin extract, Curcugen™. Outcome measures included the Gastrointestinal Symptom Rating Scale (GSRS), intestinal microbial profile (16S rRNA), Depression, Anxiety, and Stress Scale - 21 (DASS-21), Short Form-36 (SF-36), and SIBO breath test.
Results: Based on self-report data collected from 77 participants, curcumin was associated with a significantly greater reduction in the GSRS total score compared to the placebo. There was also a greater reduction in the DASS-21 anxiety score. No other significant between-group changes in self-report data were identified. An examination of changes in the intestinal microbial profile and SIBO test revealed curcumin had no significant effect on these parameters. Curcumin was well-tolerated with no significant adverse events.
Conclusions: The curcumin extract, Curcugen™, administered for 8 weeks at a dose of 500 mg once daily was associated with greater improvements in digestive complaints and anxiety levels in adults with self-reported digestive complaints. Compared to the placebo, there were no significant changes in intestinal microbiota or SIBO; however, further research using larger samples and testing methods that allow more detailed microbial analyses will be important. An investigation into other potential mechanisms associated with curcumin's gastrointestinal-relieving effects will also be important such as examining its influence on the intestinal barrier function, inflammation, neurotransmitter activity, and visceral sensitivity.
Trial registration: Australian New Zealand Clinical Trials Registry, Trial ID. ACTRN12619001236189 . Registered 6 September 2019.
Keywords: Curcumin; Gastrointestinal symptoms; IBS; Microbiota; Turmeric.