Turmeric, the golden spice is an inevitable part of the Indian kitchen. Its medicinal value is recognized and is being used in cooking and home remedies for thousands of years. But, turmeric during pregnancy – is it safe?
Known as “golden spice” and “Indian saffron”, owing to its bright yellow color and potential therapeutic properties, turmeric makes way in most Indian dishes. Turmeric is available as a dried root, as powdered form, as extracts, and as capsules and pill forms
However, when it comes to pregnancy, even the healthiest spice can cause trouble. In this article, we discuss everything you need to know about turmeric during pregnancy.
Nutritional And Medicinal Value Of Turmeric
Turmeric contains certain bio-active compounds like Curcumin. This component of turmeric gives turmeric anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, anti-cancer, and antimicrobial properties.
Its medicinal value is long recognized and been used in ayurvedic and Unani medicines for ages. Its nutritional and medicinal value makes turmeric an unavoidable ingredient in foodstuff, cosmetics, and medicine, especially in South Asian countries.
It has n number of medicinal value (Source). Turmeric is used in treating rheumatic arthritis, UTI, applied as antiseptic for wounds and burns. It is also used to improve digestion, relieve gas, to treat mild infections like cold and cough.
It is rich in magnesium. It is enriched with vitamins like Vitamin B6 and Vitamin C. It also contains a significant amount of minerals like manganese, potassium, and iron. Besides, it is low in fat and high in dietary fiber
Is Turmeric During Pregnancy Safe?
Curcumin, the key compound of turmeric, is a double-edged sword. Many medicinal values of turmeric are due to this ingredient. On the other hand overconsumption of Curcumin can cause many health issues.
It is safe to take turmeric every day if consumed in minimal quantity as we usually do in our regular diet. A dried or powdered form of turmeric is used for cooking purposes. The Curcumin content will not be high in these forms of turmeric.
Regular intake of small amounts of turmeric during pregnancy will not cause any harm. Therefore, you can enjoy Indian curries without any concerns. As a cooking ingredient turmeric can be included in the diet. It contains lower amounts of Curcumin than supplements.
However, prolonged use of turmeric in large amounts may trigger gastrointestinal problems. Also, turmeric during pregnancy is not safe if it is taken in large doses as in capsules and supplements.
In that case, the level of Curcumin will be high and can potentially bring about several pregnancy complications. Therefore, pregnant women should avoid taking medicinal quantities of turmeric.
Curcumin mimics the properties of estrogen. Therefore if the intake of Curcumin crosses the limit, it could alter the estrogen level considerably. This can trigger uterine contraction and bleeding. This can bring about miscarriage or premature delivery.
Potential Benefits Of Turmeric During Pregnancy
If taken in limited quantity, it is not only safe to take turmeric every day, but it is also advantageous during pregnancy. Here are some potential benefits of turmeric during pregnancy:
1. Helps to relieve heartburn
GERD symptoms are common during pregnancy. Pregnancy is the time many women experience the ill effect of heartburn. The strong anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties of turmeric help to relieve heartburn during pregnancy.
2. Improves oral health
Oral health can be affected during pregnancy. The surge of pregnancy hormone progesterone between the 2nd and 8th month of pregnancy make the expecting women prone to pregnancy gingivitis.
The anti-inflammatory, anti-plague, and antimicrobial properties of turmeric helps to soothe bleeding gums. Using turmeric water as a mouthwash helps to prevent plaque and gingivitis.
3. Helps to prevent preeclampsia
Preeclampsia is a serious and fatal condition (if not detected and treated at the right time) that a woman contracts only during her pregnancy time. It appears after the 20th week of pregnancy. Preeclampsia is characterized by high protein levels in the urine, high blood pressure, and issues with internal organs like the kidney and liver.
Studies show, Curcumin, the key compound in turmeric can reduce the inflammatory factors that trigger preeclampsia. Even though more research is needed to propose turmeric for preeclampsia prevention, many researchers believe that strong anti-inflammatory activity could potentially prevent preeclampsia.
4. Boosts brain development in the fetus
A high level of inflammation during pregnancy can adversely affect the development of the fetus. Studies have shown that babies of mothers with high levels of inflammation during pregnancy are at an increased risk for developing issues with brain organization and cognitive abilities during their early childhood.
These babies are more at risk of developing disorders, such as autism spectrum and attention deficit hyperactivity. Even though more research and studies are needed to confirm this, the strong anti-inflammatory property of turmeric might helps to bring down these risk factors to an extent.
5. Turmeric during pregnancy can have skin benefits
Turmeric helps to fight off many common skin issues during pregnancy. Regular application of turmeric and curd paste over the stomach 15 minutes prior to the bath helps to get rid of stretch marks.
You can reduce the intensive pigmentation issue by applying the paste of turmeric and juices of cucumber and lemon regularly on the affected area. The antiseptic property of turmeric helps to treat pregnancy acne.
5. Brings down the cholesterol level
The cholesterol level tends to increase during pregnancy. The anti-lipidemic properties of turmeric help to control the rising cholesterol levels.
Potential Risks Of Turmeric During Pregnancy
No studies prove normal consumption of turmeric during pregnancy is unsafe. However, if taken in large doses as a supplement, it can bring about some side effects which pose some risks during pregnancy. Here are some potential risks of turmeric during pregnancy:
1. Turmeric interacts with medications
Large doses of turmeric can interfere with medications for blood thinning and anti-platelet drugs like aspirin, anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). As it increases the blood-thinning effect, it increases the risk of bleeding.
Turmeric has a tendency to reduce the blood sugar level. Therefore, increased intake of turmeric along with diabetic drugs increases the risk of blood sugar level going down dangerously.
High dosage of turmeric can bring down blood pressure. Therefore, it will increase the effect of medication that lowers blood pressure. Blood pressure falling too low is dangerous during pregnancy.
The absorption of some medicines is controlled by some ‘pumps’ in the cell. Increased Intake of turmeric can affect this mechanism and increase the amount of medicines that get absorbed. This increases the intensity of the side effects of those medications.
Intake of turmeric along with the medications for acidity is found to increase the acidity issue. Intake of turmeric along with medicines that breaks down by the liver increases the side effects of that medicine. This is because the herb can potentially slow down the breaking of these medicines.
2. Turmeric can cause allergy
Like any other herbs, turmeric can also trigger an allergic reaction in those who are sensitive to its key constituent – Curcumin.As turmeric belongs to the ginger family, those who are having ginger allergies can be allergic to turmeric as well. The signs of turmeric allergy include headaches, hives, rashes, etc
3. Can cause nausea and vomiting
If you already suffer from pregnancy nausea, then perhaps turmeric is not the best option for you. Increased intake of turmeric can irritate the gastrointestinal tract. This can bring about vomiting and allergy. It can also bring about heartburn and indigestion.
4. Increases the risk of bleeding
Too much turmeric increases the risk of bleeding. It is found that intake of turmeric supplements results in early spotting after consumption. Never consume turmeric supplements towards the end of pregnancy, as it can increase the risk of postpartum bleeding.
5. Can increase the risk of birth defects
Curcumin, a major ingredient in turmeric, if consumed in large doses can bring about fetal defects and get in the way of fetal development. This increases the risk of birth defects.
Can I Drink Turmeric Milk During Pregnancy?
Even though turmeric should not be taken as an oral supplement during pregnancy, it can be beneficial if you take it along with milk. Haldi milk or turmeric milk is also called golden milk owing to its benefits.
Drinking turmeric milk might also help in resolving many common pregnancy issues. Milk is a major source of dietary calcium. Calcium is a high demand mineral during pregnancy. Turmeric is loaded with antioxidants and anti-inflammatory components.
Therefore, turmeric milk during pregnancy offers double benefits. However, make sure that you use a moderate amount of turmeric to make turmeric milk during pregnancy. Too much turmeric in milk can have adverse effects on pregnancy. Here are some benefits of turmeric milk during pregnancy:
- The anti-inflammatory property of turmeric milk helps to relieve joint pain
- Drinking turmeric milk improves your complexion. You can attain pregnancy glow very fast if you include turmeric milk in your diet.
- Haldi milk helps to relieve constipation during pregnancy.
- Turmeric milk can regulate blood flow and improve blood circulation during pregnancy.
- Drinking turmeric milk helps to increase immunity.
- According to Ayurvedic concepts, turmeric milk helps to relieve cold and cough.
Curcumin in turmeric is a highly concentrated form that can trigger uterine contraction and bleeding as it mimics estrogen hormone. The uterine contractions in the early stages of pregnancy can bring about a miscarriage.
However, regular use of turmeric in your curries will not cause miscarriage. But any kind of turmeric supplements should be avoided during pregnancy as it contains highly concentrated Curcumin.
Researches show that Curcumin in turmeric can adversely affect fertility. This active ingredient in turmeric brings down the growth of endometrial cells that lines the uterine wall.
It is this property of turmeric makes it to use in the treatment of endometriosis. This property of turmeric hinders pregnancy. Thinning of the uterus wall prevents the implantation of a fertilized egg, thereby affecting fertility.
Therefore, if you are trying to get pregnant you should avoid excess intake of turmeric.
However, this anti-fertility outcome of Curcumin can be reversed once you stop the intake of the turmeric supplement. At the same time, turmeric and menstrual bleeding are interconnected. Emmenagogue (stimulate blood flow in the pelvic area) property of turmeric helps to enhance the menstrual flow.
As a result, the stagnant blood inside the uterus will flow out thereby purifying the uterus. Thus, Curcumin can be considered as a double-edged sword. However, to get this advantage of turmeric you have to consume it in moderation.
Turmeric and ovulation are associated in a healthy way. It will not stop the ovulation. On the other hand, turmeric is believed to restore the hormonal balance in females. Therefore, it can have a positive effect on ovulation.
Consuming 3mg of turmeric powder/kilogram of body weight is considered safe. Anyway when you add it to cooking many adverse properties of Curcumin will be diminished considerably.
However, turmeric supplements cross this limit and hence not safe to consume during pregnancy. Ayurveda also insists to limit the intake of turmeric during pregnancy.