Indian kitchens are never complete without the yellow turmeric which seems to dominate every recipe indeed! While turmeric is predominantly used as a spice throughout the world, we use it to treat health conditions since time immemorial owing to its anti-inflammatory, anti-cancerous and antioxidant properties that are vastly because of the presence of curcumin, a natural polyphenolic substance, that can be extracted from turmeric. Although still unproven without any conclusive research-based evidence its application and use have not been highly questioned and there do exist some preliminary convincing research.
Curcumin as a Cure for Muscle Soreness
Curcumin is a diarylheptanoid that’s responsible for turmeric’s yellow color and quoted to help minimize inflammation while studies also support its application in easing symptoms of osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis such as pain and inflammation. There are several studies in initial changes that show promising effects of curcumin in treating cancer, stomach upset, diabetes, colitis, stomach ulcers and depression.
DOMS: Delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) includes both muscle pain and stiffness that occurs several hours after exercise especially when there is overuse of muscle activity. Any intense exercise damages muscles and causes inflammation depending on the duration, intensity and type of exercise performed. Also, overactive athletes and inactive individuals who start exercising newly both are prone to DOMS that can leave the person with limited physical activity for a couple of days after exercising. Though there have been multiple trials to come out with the best intervention for treating DOMS we’ve not been able to single out one effective solution. Eccentric exercise brings about stress which in turn brings on an inflammatory response and reactive oxygen species (ROS) which maintain the inflammation and stress by promoting transcription factors such as nuclear factor-κB (NF—κB) responsible for production of inflammatory markers and mediators. Such increased inflammation and stress lead to production of oxidative enzymes such as cytokines and chemokines which out lash the antioxidant capacity of the body leading to muscle pain and DOMS.
Curcumin has been investigated for its anti-oxidant property and there have been several studies that have probed into its medicinal effects whose results show that curcumin suppresses the activation of NF—κB thereby safeguarding muscles, prevents loss of muscle mass during sepsis and regenerates muscles after any trauma-related injury. There have also been studies showing that curcumin prevents inflammation and curbs the extensive muscle damage due to eccentric muscle damage.
Placebo Study of Curcumin’s Effect on Muscle Soreness in Humans
A placebo-controlled study on 20 healthy moderately-active men was conducted to study curcumin. These volunteers performed moderate-intensity exercise for at least 4 hours every week and were devoid of any known diseases or conditions. Each of the volunteers were randomly given either a curcumin supplement (200 mg twice daily) during breakfast and dinner or a placebo during the same time intervals for 4 days-starting 48 hours before the test day and 24 hours after the test day. Every participant underwent a standard treadmill test and a downhill running test (45 min duration) that was used to induce eccentric muscle injury.
An MRI of both the thighs was taken, muscle biopsies were performed 48 hours after exercise, blood samples were collected immediately before the downhill running test and 2 and 24 hours after exercise for the measurement of CRP, high-sensitivity CRP (hsCRP), ERS, interleukin-8 (IL-8), monocyte chemoattractant protein-1 (MCP-1), ferric reducing ability of plasma (FRAP), catalase (CAT) and glutathione peroxidase (GPx). Creatine kinase (CK) was used as a marker of muscle damage. Volunteers were asked for a self-assessed report of pain intensity 48 hours after the downhill running on a scale of 0 to 4 where 0 indicates no pain and 4 indicates extreme pain while climbing stairs or getting off them. Results show that:
Another human study that happened sometime later on yet another small group of men showed that curcumin consumption indeed reduced pain following eccentric exercise.
Timing of Curcumin Ingestion Affects Exercise-induced Muscle Soreness in Men
Anyone’s ideology would be to minimize muscle damage and promote recovery after exercise. While we have studies insisting that curcumin does have an impact on reducing DOMS we are not much aware of the effective timing of ingestion that can promote this effect even more. A research group compared the effect of curcumin ingestion before or after exercise on changes in muscle damage markers after eccentric exercise.
24 healthy males were randomly assigned to three different groups-PRE subjects who consumed 180 mg/d of oral curcumin for 7 days before eccentric exercise, POST subjects who ingested 180 mg/d of oral curcumin for 4 days after eccentric exercise and control subjects who ingested 180 mg/d of oral placebo for 4 days after eccentric exercise. All volunteers ate their normal diet and practiced regular lifestyle routines through the study period, were not smokers and were not involved in high-intensity exercise training. Maximal voluntary contraction (MVC), range of motion (ROM) and CK activity was measured before, immediately after and 1-4 d after exercise and blood samples were taken from the volunteers. Results showed that:
EIMD & DOMS Significantly Decrease After Oral Consumption of Curcumin
Resistance exercise is integral to individuals, especially athletes and active individuals but this can lead to exercise-induced muscle damage (EIMD) and soreness that can limit performance in the ensuing sessions. It is to be noted that not all curcumin supplements deliver free curcumin into the blood and those that don’t deliver free curcumin deliver curcumin metabolites that have a short half-life and low bioactivity. Also, the form of curcumin affects its effect. Curcumin has extremely low bioavailability in its naturally occurring form and we have a study that has come up with an optimal dose of commercially available ‘optimized’ curcumin that’s necessary to bring in the biological effect in individuals.
28 participants were involved in the study and were subject to a muscle strength test some 10 days prior to the muscle damage session. The volunteers were randomly assigned to either the intervention group (consumed 400 mg of curcumin) or control group (400 mg of rice flour) both of whom were given the supplements twice daily, one in the morning and one in the evening. EIMD and DOMS were initiated by subjecting the volunteers to different exercises and the participants’ soreness levels were measured during completion of activities of daily living (ADL). CK levels were measured and blood samples of participants were collected. Results showed that:
Reduction of delayed onset of muscle soreness by a novel curcumin delivery system: https://jissn.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/1550-2783-11-31
Curcumin effects on inflammation and performance recovery following eccentric exercise-induced muscle damage: https://physiology.org/doi/full/10.1152/ajpregu.00858.2006
Effective timing of curcumin ingestion to attenuate eccentric exercise-induced muscle soreness in men: https://www.jstage.jst.go.jp/article/jnsv/65/1/65_82/_pdf/-char/en
Curcumin supplementation likely attenuates delayed onset muscle soreness: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25795285
Reduced inflammation and muscle damage biomarkers following oral supplementation with bioavailable curcumin: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4802396/
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Dr. Nafeesa Imteyaz of First Eat Right clinic, is the Best Dietitian Nutritionist in Bangalore. Best Dietitian Nutritionist in Pune. Best Dietitian Nutritionist in Hyderabad. Best Dietitian Nutritionist in Chennai. Best Dietitian Nutritionist in Mumbai. Best Dietitian Nutritionist in Delhi. Best Dietitian Nutritionist in Kolkata.