Turmeric-A Dermatologist’s Perspective

Turmeric is the spice commonly used in Indian cuisine that gives curry its yellow color. Curcumin, one of the active compounds of turmeric, has anti inflammatory, antioxidant and anti-cancer properties. Curcumin is poorly absorbed into the bloodstream but absorption can be greatly enhanced by adding black pepper which contains a substance, piperine, that increases curcumin absorption by 2000 percent. Turmeric can aid in digestion, reduce obesity and reduce inflammation in the skin and the GI tract.

Turmeric is anti-inflammatory, can help the body fight foreign invaders and can help repair damage from inflammation. Acute, short-term inflammation is beneficial but can become a major problem when it becomes chronic and inappropriately attacks your body’s own tissues. Chronic low level inflammation plays a major role in cancer, auto-immune disease, metabolic disease and even Alzheimer’s disease . Turmeric is also an antioxidant that helps to protect the body from free radicals that are highly reactive molecules with unpaired electrons. Free radicals react with proteins, DNA and fatty acids that can increase risk of cancer and metabolic disease. Curcumin has been shown to play a role in type 2 diabetes control by reducing lipid levels, in metabolic syndrome by increasing insulin sensitivity and production and in heart disease by lowering C reactive protein.

All of these findings make curcumin a viable candidate for treating skin conditions that are characterized by an increased inflammatory response. Atopic dermatitis or eczema is a chronic itchy skin disease without a cure. In a four week trial where 150 patients with AD were given a cream containing tumeric, all symptoms of redness, scaling and itching were significantly improved. In a study of psoriasis, a 1% curcumin gel improved psoriasis by decreasing phosphorylase kinase activity similar to the effect of topical vitamin D3 cream. Curcumin also blocks the enzyme, elastase, that attacks the skin’s ability to produce elastin, a substance that gives your skin structure. By increasing elastin, curcumin could also be considered a potent anti-wrinkle agent. By Dr. Hurwitz

Here’s a warm winter dish to stimulate your immune system. Enjoy, Dr. Weintraub

Kitchen-Prescription Recipe: Spiced Rice with Chickpeas and Spinach

One cup Basmati Rice, rinsed, and soaked in water for at least 15 minutes, preferably overnight, and then drained
One 15 ounce can of Chickpeas, drained and rinsed
2 tablespoons of expeller-pressed grape seed oil
One onion, minced
1 clove of garlic, minced
1 Tablespoon of ginger, minced
1 Tablespoon of turmeric
½ teaspoon of black pepper
2 teaspoons of kosher salt
2 teaspoons of cumin
1 head of fresh spinach, chopped, or 5 ounces of baby spinach

Heat the grape seed oil in a large Dutch oven, over medium heat. Sauté the onion and ginger for 5 minutes, or until the onion is translucent. Add the garlic, turmeric, cumin, black pepper, and continue to cook for another minute. Stir in the drained rice, chickpeas, and salt. Stir to coat the rice and beans with the onion mixture. Add 2 cups of water. Increase the heat, and bring to a boil. Cover the pan, and lower the heat. Cook for 30 minutes, or until the water has been absorbed. Stir in the chopped spinach until wilted, and serve hot.

K-P Food is Medicine Cooking Tips

Rice is gluten free and an inexpensive stable.  Basmati rice from California, India and Pakistan and Thai Jasmine rice are good choices for rice as they have one-third of the inorganic arsenic compared to brown rice from other regions.  Arsenic exposure is associated with lung, skin and bladder cancer.  Arsenic can naturally end up in soil or water from materials on the earth’s crust, from pesticides banned in the 1980s and from animal feed and fertilizers made from poultry.  Whether rice is grown organically or conventionally both have arsenic and organic rice does not have less arsenic.  Soaking rice overnight,  cooking rice with excess water or rinsing rice in a fine strainer until water running through it looks clear can all reduce arsenic levels by 50-60 percent. 

BPA or Bisphenol and phthalates are found in cans, water bottles, plastic dinnerware and thermal receipts or paper sales receipts. Metal food and beverage cans are lined with epoxy resin coating from a family of chemicals called bisphenols.  They disrupt our body’s hormones and are linked to fertility problems in both women and men.  These endocrine disruptors can lead to brain and behavior disorders in infants and children and are also associated with increased rates of diabetes, heart disease, cancer and obesity in adults.  Of note during the COVID pandemic, using hand sanitizer increases bisphenol absorption ten times after handling thermal paper receipts. Bottom line, look for BPA free cans and avoid those thermal paper receipts.

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