Oh Snap… Check Out Ginger!

Thanksgiving brings thoughts of pumpkin pie, the spice and everything nice around the holiday. Many recipes include cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger to bring tradition together. It hasn’t been until this past year that I’ve uncovered the lesser known benefits to ginger. You know, that herb first discovered in southeast Asia thousands of years ago and used in many of today’s western cuisines. Before I share this knowledge, I’d like to point out that the following is not intended to provide any medical advice. This information is solely for informational purposes, based on my own research and how it has been of benefit to my own condition. So without further ado… let’s dig in! Ginger contains a bioactive compound called gingerol, which is a relative of capsaicin. [1] Most people have heard about capsaicin due to the burning sensation chilli peppers provide. Since both are closely related, both have been shown to provide unique natural anti-inflammatory effects. As I’ve mentioned in previous articles, controlling inflammation can go a long way in improving overall quality of life. Natural anti-inflammatories have been suggested to help reduce risk for disease and assist with pain management. Disease is rooted in chronic inflammation in the body. Diabetes, arthritis, and even cancer is now being linked to chronic inflammation. [2, 3] While it’s true that some inflammation is a good thing, like after an injury, it’s the long-term that can cause damaging effects. [4] Keep in mind refined carbs like white flour and sugar, have been found to increase inflammation too. Dr. Alejandro Junger, author of Clean: The Revolutionary Program to Restore the Body’s Natural Ability to Heal Itself, wrote an excellent book discussing the elimination of pro-inflammatory foods from our diet.

Ginger helps control chronic inflammation by partially inhibiting two important enzymes within the body — cyclooxygenase (COX) and 5-lipoxygenase (LOX). While over the counter NSAIDs block COX, they don’t affect LOX at all. A small amount of COX is also good for the body as it helps to protect the stomach lining and digestive tract. It has been suggested that ginger effects both COX and LOX, for a milder and broader range in controlling inflammation. [5, 6, 7] Since it doesn’t shut down the inflammatory process entirely, ginger seems like a better option to manage muscular discomfort and pain.

Ginger, a natural alternative and powerful super food. In 2009 there was a clinical trial published comparing the effects of ginger, mefenamic acid, and ibuprofen on women with severe menstrual pain. The results indicated that ginger (250mg capsules) is as effective as the NSAIDs mefenamic acid (250mg) and ibuprofen (400mg) in relieving symptoms. [8] Ginger was also tested against the NSAID diclofenac. Two groups of osteoarthritis patients took either ginger extract (340mg) or diclofenac (100mg) for four weeks. Both treatments were equally as effective, but the NSAID group experienced undesirable side effects of digestive pain and degeneration of their stomach mucosa. [9, 10] So here’s the silver lining, ginger does not cause stomach ulcers with frequent and continued use such as an NSAID might. In fact, quite the opposite. Ginger is very soothing. Thus, ginger ale is commonly use as a home remedy to alleviate indigestion by influencing gastric motility. [11]

Speaking of ginger ale, have you ever noticed that leading soft drink manufacturers claim they use real ginger in their product? I suppose that could fall into the category of “natural flavors”, but why promote something only to leave it out in a side panel list of ingredients? Eww, the indigestion of that thought just doesn’t sit well with me. So let’s re-solve to come up with a practical solution. If we look closely at the studies above, the sweet spot appears to be at least one gram daily. Capsules are convenient, but if you are like me and already take a kaleidoscope of colored pills, consider it’s original form by making your own ginger tea. Take 2-3 handfuls of ginger root, peel it and slice it into several pieces. Peeling can be occasionally problematic for myself, in which case I’ll cut more. It just makes for a stronger end product. Afterwards, bring four cups of water to a boil in a saucepan. Once it is boiling, add in the ginger. Cover it and reduce to a simmer for 20-30 minutes. Strain the tea, it will be pungent. Add sweeteners of choice if desired. Obviously this is a less than scientific approach. I believe for those that prefer tea to coffee and drink four or more cups a day, this method should get you in the ballpark. I find a cup or two in the evening is quite nice.

I also use ground ginger as well. Using a food scale, I measure out a 1/4 – 1/2 gram and throw into my Ultra Peptide 2.0 shakes. The Cinnamon Roll flavor makes for an excellent pairing. Go one step further. Sprinkle in nutmeg and instantly it becomes Pumpkin Pie. Now, where’s the almond flour to make those crusts? …Oh the possibilities a culinary mind with some healthy resolve can achieve!

 
 
References:
 
1.  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gingerol
2. Strzelecka M, Bzowska M, Koziel J, et al. Anti-inflammatory effects of extracts from some traditional Mediterranean diet plants. J Physiol Pharmacol. 2005 Mar; 56 Suppl 1:139-56.
3. Ramos- Nino ME. The role of chronic inflammation in obesity-associated cancers. ISRN Oncol. 2013 May 30:697521.
4. Tabas I, Glass CK. Anti-inflammatory therapy in chronic disease: challenges and opportunities. Science. 2013 Jan 11:339(6116):166-72.
5. Grzanna R, Lindmark L, Frondoza CG. Ginger – an herbal medicinal product with broad anti-inflammatory actions. J Med Food. 2005 Summer; 8(2):125-32.
6. Burnett BP, Levy RM. 5- Lipoxygenase metabolic contributions to NSAID-induced organ toxicity. Adv Ther. 2012 Feb;29(2):79-98.
7. Kiuchi F, Iwakami S, Shibuya M, Hanaoka F, Sankawa U. Inhibition of prostaglandin and leukotriene biosynthesis by gingerols and diarylheptanoids. Chem Pharm Bull (Tokyo). 1992;40(2):387–91.
8. Ozgoli, Goli, Moattar. Comparison of effects of ginger, mefenamic acid, and ibuprofen on pain in women with primary dysmenorrhea. J Altern Complement Med. 2009 Feb;15(2):129-32.
9. Drozdov VN, Kim VA, Tkachenko EV, Varvanina GG. Influence of a specific ginger combination on gastropathy conditions in patients with osteoarthritis of the knee or hip. J Altern Complement Med. 2012 Jun;18(6):583-8.
10. Graham DY, Opekun AR, Willingham FF, Qureshi WA. Visible small-intestinal mucosal injury in chronic NSAID users. Clin Gastroenterol Hepatol. 2005 Jan;3(1):55-9.
11. Hu ML, Rayner CK, Wu KL, Chuah SK, Tai WC, Chou YP, Chiu YC, Chiu KW, Hu TH. Effect of ginger on gastric motility and symptoms of functional dyspepsia. World J Gastroenterol. 2011 Jan 7;17(1):105-10.
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