Crazy Cancer Cures: Curry!

You guys! It’s time again for another in my series on Crazy Cancer Cures, where we discuss the many dumb ideas I’ve heard about alternative ways to cure my cancer. Today we’re going to talk about eating curry, or, more specifically, eating curry made with turmeric.

Confession: I’m not a huge fan of Indian food. I’m a white girl who grew up eating white people food, like potato salad and corned beef hash and other things with potatoes and fat in them (mmmmmm potato skins), and we all know I was a horrifically picky eater as a kid. It took me a looooooong time to develop a taste for anything remotely adventurous, and I still haven’t been able to wrap my brain around the incredibly complex flavors of Indian cuisine. I’m trying, because The Hubs loves Indian food, but he’ll tell you it’s still not my fave. He usually gets it when I’m out of town or out with friends.

So, I suppose some may take my dismissal of turmeric as a cure for cancer as proof of my food biases, but let me nip that in the bud: I hereby order you all to eat as much curry as you want. Right now. Go on, I’ll wait here until you’re done.

Back? Good. Now let’s talk about how that meal, though delicious, didn’t prevent you from getting cancer and didn’t cure your cancer if you already have it.

If you google turmeric and cancer, you’ll find a ton of articles claiming turmeric will cure or prevent cancer. Most of them come from natural foods websites, and are based on our old friend, the tiny bit of lab science that doesn’t have a relationship to actual dietary oncology. Cancer Research UK has a good rundown of the evidence, but let me sum up. 

If you put turmeric into cancer cells in a Petri dish, hey look, it slows the cancer’s growth! You know what else does that? Urine. Gonna drink some pee to try to prevent or treat your cancer? I thought not. There was also a mouse study 8 years ago that showed a slow in spread of cancer cells for mice given turmeric. Know how many mouse things work great on mice but not on humans? A fuckton. 

Here’s where the science gets in the way of the health food trend: what the science seems to have shown in human trials is that when you eat turmeric, hardly any of it makes it to your blood stream. So, if your cancer is limited to your gastric tract, then maybe the turmeric is being delivered to your cancer–although we have no studies showing that eating a lot of it will cure you. But to have enough turmeric reach your blood stream to have any hope of it attacking cancer cells anywhere else in your body, I mean, you’d have to just be injecting it like heroin or something. Now, scientists ARE currently experimenting with finding a way to deliver turmeric to your tumor. But “eating a lot of curry” is not one of those ways.

Compounding this turmeric “cure” craziness is that if you want to buy supplements with high levels of turmeric to bypass the scientists and their pesky science in hopes of curing your own cancer, you may run across supplements that contain all kinds of seriously harmful shit in them, because the supplement industry isn’t regulated. And now I quote from Cancer Research UK:

“The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) has issued a warning about the turmeric based food supplement Fortodol (also sold as Miradin). Fortodol has been found to contain the strong anti inflammatory drug nimesulide. Nimesulide can cause serious damage to the liver and is not licensed as a medicine in the UK. The Food Standards Agency in the USA states that taking products that contain unknown amounts of nimesulide could be very harmful. Fortodol and Miradin are sold in the UK and on the internet as food supplements. The FSA advises anyone taking these products to stop doing so immediately, and contact their doctor if they have any signs of liver disease. The signs include jaundice, dark urine, nausea, vomiting, unusual tiredness, stomach or abdominal pain, or loss of appetite.”

Look, I get it: we all want a simple solution to our cancer problems, and we figure taking a few supplements can’t hurt. Except when they cause goddamn liver disease. If I wanted to get liver disease, I’d have started drinking a shitload more whiskey, thatnkyouverymuch.

You may also have heard a testimonial or two about how someone cured their cancer with turmeric. I’ve yet to read one that wasn’t on a wackadoodle health food site selling those liver-killing supplements, or that didn’t say “I added turmeric to my chemo regimen and my cancer was cured, yay turmeric!” So, the chemo had nothing to do with it, it was just turmeric? Riiiiigggghhhhhttt.

Is turmeric bad for you? Hell no! If that’s a flavor you like, then by all means, eat it to your heart’s content. Just don’t be surprised when it doesn’t cure your cancer.