Ginger for Digestion: Nine Amazing Benefits

Ginger for Digestion: Nine Amazing Benefits

I’m calling ginger amazing.  This is because, in my clinical nutrition practice, it is.  New (old) ways of thinking in medicine make it so I can finally say things like this. Ginger for digestion benefits really works.  Read on to find out how to get the best digestive gains from ginger.

First, I want to give you some history of medicine that may surprise you.

The History and Follies of Modern Medicine

The pendulum swings again, and I hope it does so with vigor in medicine.

Since the dawn of time, disease was treated purely from a doctor’s clinical assessments, traditions, and experience. These time-honored practices of tradition in herbs that carried on for thousands of years became largely abolished in the last several decades.

Medicine moved to clinical trials, which really crowded out traditional medicine practices. This almost occurred overnight in the early 20th century.

The first randomized, placebo-controlled trial took place in the year 1943, a shy 65 years ago [R].

Clinical trials have been revered since I began practicing in the 1990’s.  However, clinical trials crowded out all other data from clinical judgement, from experience, to case reports, and risk-benefit analysis.

The history of clinical trials is important to know because this is how all herbs and plants got sidelined by the drug industry.

Ginger is no exception.

Using Actionable Research To Make Health Decisions

Dr. Frieden recently stated in the New England Journal of Medicine that we need actionable data. This is a breath of fresh air.  We can have data that can be put to use. I will present actionable data for ginger here for you today.

You may not realize, but most research on plants gets filed away into obscurity almost right after it is published for the following reasons.

The words out of almost every research project and news headline will say “We need more data.”  Really? Is a plant safe?  Is it most likely effective?  These are the only questions we really need to answer when looking at a particular health remedy.

“Waiting for more data is often an implicit decision not to act or to act on the basis of past practice rather than best available evidence” said Dr. Frieden [R].

This really resonated with me, my clinical practice, my own life, and how I approach health. This is how I approach ginger for this blog and many of my other blogs.

As an advocate for prevention and foods and herbs first, this was very heartening.

The Rise of Medicinal Plants

Now, both herbs and plants are getting their time to shine again, as healthcare is realizing that expensive clinical trials, mostly funded by food or drug companies, have distinct limitations as well.

This brings to mind a topic that I have had a lot of personal and clinical experience with; ginger.

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

This is especially true when it comes to the benefits for ginger on the digestive tract.  It is the FIRST tool I use if digestion is acting up.  Here are 9 reasons why.

What is Ginger?

Ginger is a flavorful root, or rhizome, that has been used in food and medicine for thousands of years.  It has a warming characteristic.

Ginger’s spicy aroma and taste is due to a ketone called gingerol [R]. At least 14 compounds give ginger its oomph for health.

A substance in ginger called zingerone binds to pain receptors, which in turn, reduces digestive discomfort and is thought to reduce nausea and more.

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.

Another note about digestion:  many people who think they have heartburn truly have indigestion.  In fact, recent data 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.

This is where ginger becomes fascinating.  It not only helps people feel better, it actually enhances your health.  While this blog focuses on digestive health, ginger does so much more; it may even help reduce excess body weight, help with immunity and more.

1. Ginger Reduces Nausea and Vomiting in Pregnancy

Ginger works rapidly to reduce symptoms of nausea in pregnancy and in general.

A review of 15 research studies found ginger, given as capsules, effective in reducing nausea during pregnancy.  Importantly, ginger is safe for both the mother and fetus [R].

The effective dose was 1 gram per day and it was effective quickly.

2. Ginger Reduces Nausea from Chemotherapy and Improves Quality of Life and Fatigue

A large study of chemotherapy patients received either ginger capsules or placebo.  Ginger taken 3 times daily helped reduce symptoms of nausea severity [R].

The biggest reductions in nausea occurred between 0.5 to 1 gram per day.

Another recent trial found that ginger is safe and effective at treating the nausea associated with chemotherapy and resulted in no negative side effects [R].

Ginger was also associated with better quality of life and reduced chemotherapy-related fatigue.

3. Ginger Reduces Indigestion (Heartburn), Gas, Bloating, and Dyspepsia

Ginger is my first, and almost always effective, choice for stomach discomfort and heartburn.  When I eat a food that I suspect will cause me distress, I always eat some ginger with it. It almost never fails me.

Dyspepsia is pain or discomfort in the upper abdomen, 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].

A clinical trial of 127 patients with functional dyspepsia found that ginger and artichoke extract reduced symptoms of functional dyspepsia.

This includes:

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

In animal models, ginger reduced spasm, which can cause pain, in the gut [R].

4. Ginger Reduces Nausea and Vomiting from Surgery

Ginger also reduce post-operative nausea and vomiting for gallbladder removal surgery at 0.5 grams per day compared to placebo [R].

5. Ginger May Reduce Gut Inflammation

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

6. Ginger May Reduce Stomach Ulcers

Ginger essential oil improved stomach ulcers by reducing erosion, cell death and bleeding of the stomach wall in 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].

7. Ginger May Reduce Cancer Risk

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

8. Ginger May Increase Your Nutrients

Unlike drugs for heartburn, ginger is likely beneficial to your body’s nutrients and foods that you eat. Ginger may enhance nutrient absorption, including iron, zinc, and calcium [R].

9. Ginger May Help Constipation and Diarrhea

This statement is based on traditional use, but is not well 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 its activities in increasing digestive muscle movements, reducing harmful bacteria, and reducing spasms, ginger certainly is worth a try.

Ginger Side Effects

Ginger has no known major side effects.

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.

How to Use Ginger

There is a form of ginger for everyone.

If you do not like it’s spicy bite, a ginger capsule with powdered ginger might be for you. I try to keep some fresh ginger and crystallized ginger around at all times and everywhere I go. It is very portable.

Other great ways to get ginger in your diet:

  • Ginger tea made from slices of fresh ginger
  • Ginger candies or crystallized ginger
  • Ginger essential oil (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 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 adds brightness to any smoothie, stir fry, and more.
  • Pickled ginger
  • Ground ginger
  • Ginger kombucha tea

Ginger Cider Spritzer Recipe

  • Fresh ginger slices, 1 teaspoon
  • Honey, 1-2 teaspoons
  • Spritzer water to taste
  • 1/4 cup cider
  • Garnish with mint and lime, if desired

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

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.

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