12 Benefits of Ginger for Digestion and Inflammation

12 Benefits of Ginger for Digestion and Inflammation

Ginger for digestion may not be the first thing that comes to mind when you feel a belly ache, but you may want to keep it on hand at all times when you learn about its amazing health benefits. You could find yourself free from digestive discomfort and other ailments with this simple and healthy food!

Read on to find out if ginger is right for you, how to use ginger in food, and doses of ginger supplements you can use. You can also download this article as FREE PDF of this post here.

 

What is Ginger?

Ginger (Zingiber officinale) is a flavorful root, or rhizome, that has been used in food and medicine for around 5000 years.  Originating in China and India, this spice is in the same family of plants as turmeric and cardamom as well as galangal.  

Interesting fact: In the 13th-14th centuries, one pound of ginger was equivalent in price to a whole sheep [R].

You can find ginger in so many forms, from fresh ginger to dried ginger, ginger supplements to pickled ginger, ginger teas, candied ginger, ground ginger, and in ginger spice mixes. 

It is very inexpensive too. 

Ginger is good for just about any recipe, including sweet drinks, cocktails, savory dishes, curries, baked desserts, breads, and used to add to sushi, and more. 

Resurgence in Medicine

Herbs and use of roots like ginger in Western societies used to be considered alternative medicine.  Now, ginger is being used in conventional medicine, even in hospital care.  

This is because ginger for digestion benefits has much research to back it up.

Ginger has been used as a natural treatment for many diseases since the dawn of time in recorded history.

History of ginger use for digestion goes way back to thousands of years ago.  The digestive tract finds ginger to be very friendly.  It is the FIRST tool I use if digestion is acting up, both for me and my clients.

Ginger Characteristics

The overall sensation of ginger in the body is warming.

Ginger’s spicy aroma and taste is due to a ketone called gingerol [R].

At least 100 compounds give ginger its oomph for health [R].

These compounds can help:

  • Reduce inflammation
  • Provide antioxidants
  • Increase nutrient absorption
  • Reduce pain

A substance in ginger called zingerone binds to pain receptors in the body.  As ginger binds to pain receptors, it reduces digestive discomfort and more.

Does ginger form matter for reducing digestive symptoms in research?

Most research data uses ginger capsules to treat digestive discomfort. 

My personal experience with ginger is that it is most helpful after a meal, as tea, or eaten as part of the meal.

Digestion Basics

The digestive tract is probably the most complex system in the body. It is no wonder it is difficult to figure out why our belly hurts or why we have heartburn, gas, bloating, and more. Digestive concerns are often misdiagnosed for this reason.

For example, many people who think they have heartburn truly have indigestion.

In fact, recent research shows that 80% of people taking heartburn medications don’t need the drugs they are taking [R]. These drugs can do more harm than good in some people.

Good digestive health requires:

  • Proper muscle movement
  • Enzyme production
  • Mucus secretion to protect the digestive lining
  • Both acid and base production
  • Bacteria buddies
  • Strong barrier role of the digestive lining
  • Hormonal balance
  • Proper chewing/swallowing
  • Fiber
  • Optimal nutrients

It is no wonder why adding a heartburn drug often simply serves to mask an underlying imbalance, and can even make it worse.

You will soon learn why ginger helps with all of these good digestion factors.

1. Ginger and Nutrients

In order for your body to digest well, it needs a good amount of nutrients and antioxidants for repairing digestive cells. 

Usually people don’t eat ginger in large amounts, so the nutrients you get from ginger are mostly from its beneficial antioxidants.   Antioxidants are super concentrated in ginger. 

You do get nutrition from ginger, including small amounts of fiber, vitamins, and trace minerals from ginger. These nutrients include vitamin B-6, magnesium, calcium, and potassium

There is more to the story: ginger shines for nutrients.

Unlike drugs for indigestion and heartburn, ginger is likely beneficial to help your body absorb nutrients from the food you eat.  It even likely helps you digest your food.

Ginger enhances your nutrient absorption, including iron, zinc, and calcium [R].

 

2. Supplies Enzymes for Digestion

Not only does ginger help your body absorb nutrients, it has natural enzymes that support digestive processes as well.  

Enzymes help the body break down protein, fats, and carbohydrates so that your body can absorb the nutrients from these foods. 

Ginger contains Zinzibain, which is an enzyme that breaks down protein, including casein [R]. 

A traditional ginger food called Jiangzhinai contains hot milk and ginger juice. This Chinese style cheese has been eaten for a long time in China.  

Interesting fact: Ginger tenderizes meats and helps with meat digestion because if its rich enzyme content. 

3. Ginger Reduces Nausea and Vomiting

Ginger and digestion are partners for feeling better.  Ginger works rapidly to reduce symptoms of nausea.

This has been proven in many clinical studies.

Here are some of those studies for your review.

Nausea in pregnancy

Ginger is very effective for helping to treat morning sickness.

A review of 15 research studies found that ginger supplements, given as capsules, are effective in reducing nausea during pregnancy.  

Importantly, ginger is safe for both the mother and baby [R].

The effective dose of ginger was 1 gram per day and it was effective quickly in this study.

Chemotherapy-induced nausea

One big issue for patients undergoing cancer treatment is nausea and digestive issues.  

Ginger for digestion in cancer patients holds a lot of promise.  Here is the research that we have so far.

  • A large study of cancer patients receiving chemotherapy received ginger for nausea symptoms.  The ginger taken 3 times daily helped reduce symptoms of nausea severity [R].
    • The biggest reductions in nausea occurred between 0.5 to 1 gram of ginger root capsules per day.
  • Another recent trial found that dried ginger is safe and effective at treating the nausea associated with chemotherapy and resulted in no negative side effects [R].

Bonus: ginger was also associated with better quality of life and reduced chemotherapy-related fatigue.

Nausea from surgery

Surgical procedures and anesthesia can lead to a lot of nausea and vomiting.  Does ginger for digestion help in this setting?  

Research says that it likely does.

In a study of people receiving gallbladder surgery, ginger reduced post-operative nausea and vomiting  when receiving 500 mg of ginger per day compared to placebo [R].

Motion sickness

Research about ginger root for motion sickness is mixed.  One study found that ginger doesn’t perform as well as standard medication for motion sickness [R].

However, this study didn’t measure nausea.

Another study did, and they found a reduced rate of nausea among people undergoing a motion test.  The symptoms that people enjoyed from ginger were a delay of nausea symptoms, decreased hyper-movement of the stomach, and quicker recovery from motion sickness [R].

 

4. Ginger Reduces Indigestion

Ginger is a good choice for stomach discomfort, indigestion, and heartburn.

Dyspepsia, or indigestion, is discomfort in the upper abdomen. It is often mistaken for heartburn.

Functional dyspepsia is  chronic or recurrent upper abdominal pain or discomfort in the absence of underlying organic disease that can explain the symptoms.

In functional dyspepsia patients, ginger improves stomach emptying and lower stomach muscle contractions compared to placebo [R].

Another clinical trial of 127 patients with functional dyspepsia also found that ginger and artichoke extract protect against symptoms of functional dyspepsia.

These include:

  • nausea
  • fullness
  • pain
  • bloating

All symptoms were better than placebo [R].

1 gram of ginger relaxed the lower stomach and also reduced the speed of esophageal velocity, which may reduce symptoms of gas [R].

Ginger powder increased stomach movement in patients with functional dyspepsia [R].

In animal studies, ginger reduced muscle spasms, which can cause pain, in the gut [R].

5.  Helps Your Stomach Empty

People have used ginger for millennia to help with digestive problems.  A cup of ginger tea for digestive was common practice in history.

We know that part of the reason ginger helps your digestive tract is that it helps your stomach muscle movement and emptying. 

In healthy volunteers, use of 3 ginger capsules sped up gastric emptying time after a meal [R]. 

Ginger for digestion health benefits infographic by The Healthy RD

6. Repair Leaky Gut? 

Can we use ginger for leaky gut?  Leaky gut is often triggered by inflammation, lack of nutrients, and improper acid-base balance,  which causes increased intestinal permeability.  

Ginger may reduce inflammation in the digestive tract, which may in turn reduce symptoms of heartburn [R].

By enhancing digestive processes and reducing inflammation, ginger may be supportive of healing a leaky gut

7. May Reduce Stomach Ulcer Risk

Ginger helps digestion by supporting the stomach lining as well. 

Extract of ginger as essential oil improved stomach ulcers by reducing erosion, cell death, and bleeding of the stomach wall in a rat study [R].

Ginger also protects the stomach lining, reduces growth of H. Pylori, and reduced stomach acid production in rats with stomach ulcer [R].

8. May Reduce Cancer Risk

Although research is still early, ginger may reduce risk of digestive cancers, including stomach, liver, colon and pancreatic cancer [R].

Use of ginger extract reduced both cancer growth and the spread of breast cancer in a mouse study and in human cells [R].  

Ginger extract also reduced metastasis to the brain. 

Ginger benefits for men may include a reduction in prostate cancer risk too. Both cell and animal studies find that ginger may reduce growth and metastasis of prostate cancer cells [R].  

Use of ginger for cancer is considered preliminary, but it can safely be eaten as a food to support feeling well. 

9. Reduces Constipation and Diarrhea

Many people swear by ginger and regularity. 

This statement is based on traditional use, but is not yet vetted out in research.

Ginger may reduce infectious growth of intestinal bacteria and viruses, which in turn, may reduce diarrhea symptoms [R].

I have known many people who find ginger helpful for improving the frequency of bowel movements.

Based on ginger’s ability to increase your digestive muscle movements, reducing harmful bacteria, and reducing spasms, ginger is certainly worth a try to help with bowel regularity [R]. 

10. Infections

Ginger and gut health may go hand in hand because ginger may support a healthy microbiome. 

In probiotic milk, ginger is able to increase the growth of probiotic bacteria [R]. Healthy probiotics may help the body ward off digestive tract infections. 

Stomach infections like H.pylori, as previously mentioned may benefit from ginger.  This is because ginger preferentially destroys harmful bacteria like

Ginger also may reduce the risk of periodontitis. 

Cell studies show that ginger may help fight E coli, Salmonella typhi and Bacillus subtilis, which are pathogenic bacteria [R]. 

All in all, it appears that ginger supports healthy bacteria while fighting harmful bacteria in the body. 

While research is still early, ginger is likely supportive of your immune system in this regard. For this reason, ginger likely also helps reduce or prevent upper respiratory infections, lung disease, and more. 

Tip: A common folk treatment for colds is a ginger tea with honey.  It almost always serves to soothe symptoms of colds. 

 

11. Ginger for Pain

Multiple kinds of pain are reduced by the use of ginger. 

This is because ginger has analgesic and anti-inflammatory effects in the body. 

Arthritic pain

Both rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis pain may be reduced with the use of ginger.

  • In patients with non-responsive to NSAID-type of osteoarthritis, a combination of ginger and echinacea significantly reduced knee pain symptoms [R].
  • Use of ginger as a compress or patch also reduced pain symptoms in people with arthritis [R]. 
  • Ginger’s anti-inflammatory properties may also help people suffering from rheumatoid arthritis too [R].
  • Ginger even dampened down genes that control inflammation in this study. One of these genes is called FoxP3.

Exercise-induced pain

Both raw ginger and cooked ginger reduce muscle pain after exercise, according to a study of people doing eccentric exercise [R]. 

Muscle pain was reduced at 24 hours after exercise, and resulted in moderate to large reductions in pain. 

Menstrual pain

Menstrual pain treatment options are limited and often have side effects.

This is why the use of ginger for period pain is so appealing. 

In a review study of research, ginger is as helpful for menstrual pain as NSAIDs like ibuprofen, but without the long-term risks of NSAIDs [R]. 

Migraines 

People for a long time have claimed that ginger may help reduce their migraine symptoms.  A new study is helping to prove this benefit.

Here is what the study found: 

Adding ginger to NSAIDS significantly reduced pain compared to use of NSAIDS alone in people suffering from migraines [R]. 

 

12. Metabolic Support

Ginger’s rich antioxidant effects and nutrition-boosting properties make it no stranger to helping support your heart and brain health too. 

As you can imagine, ginger helps boost a healthy metabolism, cholesterol, blood pressure, and more. 

Early studies show that ginger helps reduce cholesterol, provides blood glucose support for people with diabetes, and even may help memory and brain function [R]. 

 

Ginger Doses

Ginger eaten as a food or as a ginger tea can be eaten liberally. 

Supplements can safely be used as well, but make sure to find high quality brands with third party testing.  These brands will include GMP certification on their labels. 

People safely use up to 4 grams of ginger daily. 

Ginger can be used freely in cooking and in making ginger tea.

Ginger Side Effects

Ginger has no known major side effects and it is generally recognized as safe. 

However, discuss with your doctor if you are taking blood-thinning medication. Studies have mixed findings of whether or not ginger affects platelet aggregation [R].

Doses greater than 5 grams a day are more likely to have side effects.

Large doses of ginger may reduce blood glucose levels and blood pressure.  

This can be good.  However, discuss with your doctor as well if you are taking medications for these issues.

Ginger may stimulate the flow of bile, so there is some concern that if you have gallstones, you should also avoid eating large amounts of ginger. 

 

How to Use Ginger

Most people love the warm, spicy flavor of ginger.  If you do not like ginger’s spicy bite, you have options. 

  • A ginger capsule with dried, ginger powder might be for you. 
  • Mix in some honey to mellow out the spice.
  • Add a tablespoon of cream or nut milk to your ginger tea
  • Stir in ginger into your main dishes. 

Great ways to eat ginger in your diet:

  • Ginger tea made from slices of fresh ginger
  • Ginger candies or crystallized ginger
  • Ginger beer (no, it doesn’t have alcohol)
  • Ginger ale, although be certain it has a good amount of ginger; many common brands do not
  • Ginger powder– for cooking and baking
  • Ginger smoothies– adds brightness to any smoothie, stir fry, and more.
  • Pickled ginger-as a condiment for sushi and more
  • Ground ginger– you can use fresh or pre-made
  • Ginger kombucha tea-a great way to get probiotics and support gut health

 

Ginger Products

So many ginger products are available as beverages, candies, supplements, and more.  Here are some ginger products I like. You can include these in your daily routine as well. 

Fresh ginger, capsules, and extracts

  • Fresh ginger-it’s hard to beat fresh ginger-keep in mind, it will have a short shelf life so you can store it in the freezer for long-term use. 
  • Ginger extract– this ginger extract is handy to keep on your desk or in your purse for when you are eating out. 
  • Ginger capsules Now brand is GMP certified and so is Pure Encapsulations
  • Ginger People Organic Minced ginger– a friend of mine told me about this great product and it’s so much easier than fresh ginger for when you are in a big hurry. 

Ginger teas

Powders and Treats

  • Organic Ginger Root Powder by Naturevibe Botanicals– this will last you a very long time at 5 pounds.  Here is another organic ginger powder called Anthony’s Organic Ground Ginger Root. This is a smaller quantity for those new to trying ginger. 
  • Crystallized GingerNext Organics crystallized ginger-this is a great candy ginger for digestion problems. 
  • Ginger Beer- Cock n Bull Ginger Beer Soda-for best effects on health, skip adding the alcohol. Keep in mind, this has a lot of sugar so should be used as an occasional treat or for recovering from a stomach bug. 

Essential Oil

Ginger essential oil: I like Doterra brand and you can find that here. Use only Certified Pure Therapeutic Grade (CPTG) high quality.

    • Rub diluted ginger essential oil with coconut oil on abdomen
    • Add 1-2 ginger essential oil drops to a tea or smoothie
    • Add 1-2 drops to water
    • Add to your favorite dressing or soup

 

Ginger Tea Recipe

Ginger tea with fresh ginger slices in clear tea mugs by The Healthy RD

Slice ginger thinly, about 1 teaspoon.  Steep in 1 cup hot water along with honey for at least 10 minutes.   Add cider. You can serve iced by adding cold cider, spritzer water to taste, and garnish as desired.

Summary

Ginger holds many health benefits and when you eat it, your digestive tract stands to benefit.  Like most spices, a little goes a long way; a teaspoon is a great boon to your body.  You may have improved indigestion, reduced nausea, less pain and inflammation, and more energy from gingers nutrition boost.

As with anything make sure to check with your doctor before making any changes in your healthcare routine.

The information on this website has not been evaluated by the Food & Drug Administration or any other medical body and is shared for educational purposes only. Consult your doctor or healthcare provider before making changes to your supplement regimen or lifestyle.

All rights reserved by The Healthy RD, LLC

 

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