Category Archives: ginger

Ginger may benefit asthma sufferers

Asthma sufferers may benefit from the addition of ginger to their usual medications, a new study suggests.

Asthma is a condition that affects the bronchial tubes which carry air to and from the lungs. In asthma sufferers, the bronchial tubes can become irritated and begin to constrict, making it difficult to breathe. Asthma triggers (such as environmental pollutants) can also create inflammation, causing a build up of mucous in the bronchial tubes. The numbers of asthma sufferers in the UK appears to be on the increase, and worryingly the UK has the highest prevalence of childhood asthma worldwide.

Despite the growing number of asthma sufferers in the UK, there have been few new treatment agents approved for asthma symptoms. Normally, medicines called beta-agonists are used, which work by relaxing the airways, opening them up and helping patients to breathe. In the recent study, however, scientists from Columba University found that certain compounds in ginger help to relax muscle in the airways, increasing the effectiveness of these prescribed medications.

The link between diet and asthma has a solid evidence base, and indeed dietary factors could explain the rising incidence of asthma in the UK. Previous population studies have suggested beneficial effects linked with fresh fruit and vegetables (2), oily fish (3) and full fat dairy products (4). Foods such as margarine and salt, on the other hand, have been linked with an increased risk of asthma and allergy (5-6). Alongside prescribed medications, it would certainly seem sensible for asthma sufferers to consider an anti-inflammatory diet as a supportive health measure.

There is a direct link between ginger and asthma
The link between diet and asthma has a solid evidence base

This particular study, conducted by researchers at Columbia University, tested the effects of ginger on human tissue samples from the airways. The researchers caused the tissue samples to constrict by exposing them to acetylcholine, a compound known to cause constriction in the airways. They then tested the effects of asthma medication isoproterenol alone, and then together with three components of ginger – 6-gingerol, 8-ginerol and 6-shogoal. The tissue responses were then recorded and compared.

The results showed that combining ginger with the isoproterenol rendered the treatment significantly more effective than using isoproterenol alone. Lead author Elizabeth Townsend, PhD, concluded that the ginger compounds “act synergistically with the beta-agonist in relaxing (the airways), indicating that these compounds may provide additional relief of asthma symptoms when used in combination with beta-agonists.”

Although this study shows promise, it is likely to be some time before ginger is approved as an agent in the treatment of asthma. Nevertheless, ginger is a great addition to the diet, and is often used for nausea and digestive support, as well as its anti-inflammatory benefits. Incorporating ginger tea is an easy way of adding this spice into your daily diet. Fresh ginger root works well in stir-fries and vegetable soups. It also freezes well for later use – simply store it in the freezer and grate it from frozen.

References

1. Townsend AE et al (2013) Active Constituents Of Ginger Potentiate β-Agonist-Induced Relaxation Of Airway Smooth Muscle. ATS International Conference. May 2013.

2. Farchi S, Forastiere F, Agabiti N. et al Dietary factors associated with wheezing and allergic rhinitis in children. Eur Respir J 2003. 22772–780.780

3. Hodge L, Salome C, Peat J. et al Consumption of oily fish and childhood asthma risk. Med J Aust 1996. 164137–140.140

4. Wijga A H, Smit H A, Kerkhof M. et al Association of consumption of products containing milk fat with reduced asthma risk in pre‐school children: the PIAMA birth cohort study. Thorax 2003. 58567–572.572.

5. Bolte G, Frye C, Hoelscher B. et al Margarine consumption and allergy in children. Am J Respir Crit Care Med 2001. 163277–279.279.

6. Pistelli R, Forastiere F, Corbo G. et al Respiratory symptoms and bronchial responsiveness are related to dietary salt intake and urinary potassium excretion in male children. Eur Respir J 1993. 6517–522.522.

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Can ginger ease muscle pain?

Ginger is something I generally regard as being useful to reduce nausea, however recent evidence (1) suggests that ginger, either raw or heated (as happens when cooking with ginger), can ease the muscle pain associated with exercise.

The authors of this small study (1) note that ginger has been shown in laboratory studies to have anti-inflammatory effects but that the action on human muscle pain was not certain.  They set out to see if 11 days of ginger supplementation could reduce post-exercise muscle pain.  They studied ginger in two forms, raw and heat-treated.  Participants consumed 2g of either raw of heat treated ginger or an inactive placebo for 11 consecutive days.  The participants were asked to perform specific arm exercises known to induce pain and inflammation.  Pain intensity, perceived effort, blood levels of specific inflammatory markers (prostaglandin E2), range of motion and a test for strength were assessed prior to and for 3 days after exercise. 

Both raw and heat-treated ginger resulted in similar muscle pain reductions 24 hours after exercise compared to placebo.  The authors write (1)This study demonstrates that daily consumption of raw and heat-treated ginger resulted in moderate-to-large reductions in muscle pain following exercise-induced muscle injury. Our findings agree with those showing hypoalgesic effects of ginger in osteoarthritis patients and further demonstrate ginger’s effectiveness as a pain reliever”.

The ginger supplements were seen to reduce exercise induced pain by up to 25% compared to placebo.  The study was only small and further trials would be needed to confirm the results prior to making any recommendations for ginger supplementation for prevention or treatment of post-exercise pain.  Many people find that they suffer with exercise-induced muscle pain, it is a common kind of injury related to sports and recreation.  A non pharmaceutical aid to pain relief is bound to be very much welcomed by many people and I look forward to seeing further evidence emerge over the coming years.  Seeing more and more research being conducted with regards nutrition and herbal remedies is very positive to witness.  A more toward a more integrative medical system would be embraced by many individuals.

 
(1)Black CD et al.  2010. Ginger (Zingiber officinale) Reduces Muscle Pain Caused by Eccentric Exercise.  26 April 2010.  The Journal of Pain .  DOI: 10.1016/j.jpain.2009.12.013

Written by Ani Kowal

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Natural ideas for tackling festive indigestion

I do hope you all had a fabulous Christmas?  Plenty of food has been consumed in my household and, with New Years Eve fast approaching, there may be plenty more tasty treats in the planning.  Indigestion is possibly on the menu in many homes, however there are natural ways to prevent and overcome this uncomfortable problem.



Indigestion, sometimes referred to as dyspepsia, is a general term for impaired stomach/digestive functioning occurring 1-2 hours after eating.  Symptoms may include:
Abdominal Pain centred in the upper abdomen
Rumbling noises
Excessive wind
A feeling of fullness or bloating



Indigestion commonly occurs after eating a large meal, or rich, fried or spicy food.  Alcohol, coffee, cigarette smoking and some pharmaceutical drugs such as aspirin and ibuprofen can also irritate the digestive system and cause indigestion.  During stressful situations or stressful periods of time we are also more susceptible to this complaint.



Our bodies are far more adept at digesting small, regular quantities of food rather than single huge meals.  However, if you are going to be consuming a large meal there are a few things you can do to minimise discomfort.  Chewing is a simple, yet highly effective, strategy for indigestion avoidance.  Our saliva contains enzymes that start digesting food within the mouth, even before it hits the stomach.  Chewing food properly enables these enzymes to mix thoroughly with our food.  Chewing also physically breaks food up into smaller pieces which make it easier to be further broken down by our stomach acid.  Taking the time to chew food until it becomes almost creamy in consistency before swallowing is an effective method of preventing indigestion and also allows us to enjoy what we are eating, really taste the flavours and savour them.  Taking time over a meal increases the enjoyment value, usually helps us not to overeat (as it is easier to know when we are full) and can help prevent indigestion.



Whilst eating try not to drink a lot of fluid.  Excess liquid with a meal can dilute stomach acid and enzymes which digest food making the process a little less efficient.  Carbonated, fizzy, drinks seem to be the worst culprits. 



Prebiotics and Probiotics
Studies (1,2) are beginning to show that probiotics and prebiotics can aid healthy digestion and prevent indigestion.  Taking a supplement containing prebiotics and probiotics regularly can prevent symptoms such as pain, bloating and flatulence within as little as 2 weeks



A probiotic is a supplement containing live friendly bacteria which aim to improve intestinal bacteria balance.  Probiotics are available as yoghurts, fermented milks, fortified fruit juices and freeze dried capsules/powders.   


A prebiotic is a food that stimulates the growth of the beneficial bacteria already present in the colon.  Fructooligosaccharides (FOS) which can be bought as powders are the most common prebiotics available.  Natural prebiotics can be found in asparagus, onion, chicory
and garlic. 



Digestive enzymes
Many people will reach for antacids in the hope that they will aid their indigestion.  However, antacids are used to damp-down the stomach’s acid (hydrochloric acid) production and in many instances indigestion is actually linked to insufficient acid production in the stomach.  Taking an antacid could exacerbate the underlying cause of indigestion.  If, after a large meal, you feel uncomfortable with indigestion it may be helpful to take a supplement containing a mixture of natural digestive enzymes such as amylases, which digest carbohydrates, lipases, which digest fats, and proteolytic enzymes which digest proteins.  This will help your body to digest the food within your system.  I don’t suggest these supplements need to be used long term but they may well be helpful after a large meal if indigestion starts to make you feel uncomfortable.



Digestive enzyme use should be avoided in cases of gastritis, inflammation of the stomach lining, and/or ulceration as they will exacerbate the condition. 



Artichoke leaf extract
Studies (3,4) show that artichoke leaf extract supplements are useful for individuals who commonly suffer with indigestion.  It appears that after taking the supplement for six weeks individuals report their symptoms are improved and they feel more comfortable in general.  



Finish off the meal with some peppermint or ginger tea
A review published of studies and papers was published this year (5) which indicates that peppermint oil can be effective in reducing abdominal pain, flatulence and diarrhoea.  It seems to work by reducing spasms in the digestive system.  Peppermint tea contains peppermint essential oil and it may be worth sipping on some peppermint tea after a meal – it could aid in minimizing indigestion problems. 



Another recent review paper (6) indicates that ginger may well be helpful in easing indigestion.  Ginger does contain many compounds that seem to have various effects in the body and is particularly useful in relieving feelings of nausea.  Drinking some ginger tea after a meal could be worth a try!


 


Please see a doctor if your indigestion persists over several days, is experienced after every meal, becomes worse over time, if you vomit, you lose your appetite, or if you start to lose weight. These symptoms may indicate an underlying gastric disorder.  Apart from poor digestion or a large meal, another common cause of indigestion is an ulcer in the stomach or upper intestines and I hope to write about digestive ulcers in 2009.



Take the time to really enjoy your New Year celebrations!



(1)Kocian J.  1994.  [Lactobacilli in the treatment of dyspepsia due to dysmicrobia of various causes][Article in Czech].  Vnitr Lek.  40(2):79-83
(2)Bittner AC et al.  2007.  Prescript-assist probiotic-prebiotic treatment for irritable bowel syndrome: an open-label, partially controlled, 1-year extension of a previously published controlled clinical trial.  Clin Ther.  29:1153-1160
(3) Marakis G et al.2002.  Artichoke leaf extract reduces mild dyspepsia in an open study.  Phytomedicine.  9(8):694-699.
(4)Holtmann G et al.  2003.  Efficacy of artichoke leaf extract in the treatment of patients with functional dyspepsia: a six-week placebo-controlled, double-blind, multicentre trial.  Aliment Pharmacol Ther.  18(11-12):1099-1105.
(5) Herbal remedies for dyspepsia: peppermint seems effective.  2008.  Prescrire Int.  17:121-123
(6)Ali BH et al.  2008.  Some phytochemical, pharmacological and toxicological properties of giner (Zingiber officinal Roscoe): a review of recent research.  Food Chem Toxicol.  46:409-420


Written by Ani Kowal

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Planes, trains and automobiles – Is there a natural aid for travel sickness?

For many people the summer months mean holiday travel by airplane, trains, boats or cars.  The destination may be exciting and alluring but if you suffer from travel (motion) sickness then you may well be dreading the journey?! 



Travel sickness is believed to be caused by movement and vibration disturbing the organs of the inner ear which govern our balance.  Some people find that looking at the horizon helps to control the nausea and sickness brought on by travel.  This may well help by restoring orientation and equilibrium to the disturbed sense of balance.



However, the majority of individuals rely on some kind of prescription or over-the-counter medication to prevent and alleviate their uncomfortable symptoms.  There is a natural alternative that is worth considering, and that is ginger.



Traditionally ginger has been used for many years to prevent and treat the nausea and vomiting that characterises travel sickness.  In the past ginger root was chewed or made into a tea and sipped, these methods are equally as valuable now though may prove distasteful or bothersome.  Today, ginger is available in capsules and is very effective in this supplemental form.



A study(1) which looked at seasickness in 80 individuals found that 1g of powdered ginger root taken prior to travel reduced the tendency to vomiting (by 72%) and cold sweating when compared to the placebo.  Fewer symptoms of nausea and dizziness were also reported by those who took the ginger supplement.  Another trial(2) showed that ginger probably works by preventing the development of abnormal rhythms/contractions in the stomach (known as tachygastria) and also by reducing the amount of a type of hormone in the blood, vasopressin.  Elevation of this hormone is associated with sickness. 



500mg of ginger taken up to three times in the day may well help to prevent and treat travel sickness symptoms.  It may be worth taking 500mg two hours or so before travel and then another 500mg at the onset of travel.  Another dose could be taken at the mid-point of the journey.



What you eat while you travel (and probably just before hand) may well influence the degree to which you suffer from travel sickness symptoms.  A study(3) looked at diet and airsickness in a population of novice civilian pilots.  Findings of the study indicated that eating salty foods such as cheese, crisps and preserved meats was associated with increased incidence of airsickness.  Salty foods may well have their effect via disruption of bodily hydration and water balance.  The hormone I mentioned earlier, vasopressin, is also a hormone which is important in maintaining bodily water balance.  It may be worth staying away from salty processed foods on the day you will be travelling – Staying away from such foods in general is advisable for good health!!  Keeping well hydrated by sipping water during travel may help to keep the stomach settled and the body well hydrated.



Hopefully these tips may help your journeying to be a little more enjoyable!



(1)Grontved A et al.  1988.  Ginger root against seasickness.  A controlled trial on the open sea.  Acta Otolaryngol.  105:45-49
(2)Lien HC et al.  2003.  Effects of ginger on motion sickness and gastric slow-wave dysrhythmias induced by circular vection.  Am J Physiol Gastrointest Liver Physiol.  284:G481-489
(3)Lindseth G & Lindseth PD.  1995.  The relationshop of diet to airsickness.  Aviat Space Environ Med.  66:537-541



Written by Ani Kowal

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