Doc: Turmeric works for pain, but has side effects

Keith Roach
To Your Health

Dear Dr. Roach: I was having lots of arthritis pain in my neck and feet. Someone recommended turmeric supplements to help. I started taking 600 mg twice a day. The pain slowly subsided. I took it for about a month, then I started getting minor stomach cramping and diarrhea. I stopped taking the supplements, and the diarrhea stopped right away. I tried the supplement again, but lowered the dosage to a single 600-mg capsule a day. The cramping and diarrhea came back right away. Now the pain is back, especially in my feet. Is there a form of turmeric that does not cause this side effect?


Dear R.S.J.: Turmeric does not cause side effects in most people, but when it does, stomach upset, nausea and diarrhea are the most common.

Curcumin is the active chemical, which can be extracted from the spice turmeric. You can try taking curcumin itself, which might help. The dose you are taking is fine for either turmeric or curcumin.

Dear Dr. Roach: What I want to see is a chart of bone density results for a 70-year-old white woman, to gauge where my results are in comparison.


Dear V.W.: There are three ways that bone density results are reported. One is the absolute bone density, and it is given in grams per square centimeter. This number varies depending on the machine, and one machine cannot be compared against another. The two other numbers are designed for easy comparison.

The first is called the T-score, and that is the one that compares you against a healthy 30-year-old woman (men get compared against healthy young men). Bone loss does go down with age, so a 70-year-old woman is expected to have a negative T-score, meaning that she has less bone density than a 30-year-old. The definition of osteoporosis can be made by T-score, with a result below -2.5 putting a woman at high risk for fracture.

The second score is the Z-score, and it is less known, but that’s the one that compares you against other people of your age and gender. If you have a Z-score of zero, that means your bone loss is as predicted for your age.

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