Ginger Improves Digestion: Benefits for Type 2 Diabetics
Ginger root (Zingiber officinale) may help improve abnormal digestive function induced by elevated blood sugar, reports The Journal of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics (2003;307:1098–103). The potential implication of this finding is that people with adult-onset diabetes (type 2 or non-insulin-dependent diabetes) may experience fewer of the gastrointestinal complications that often occur with that disease.
In the new study, 22 healthy adults between the ages of 19 and 49 years underwent four different electrogastrographic (EGG) studies. (An EGG measures the rhythm of stomach contractions by placing electrodes over the abdomen.) Following ingestion of 1,000 mg of ginger root, the first EGG was performed after administration of intravenous glucose (to reach blood levels of 250 to 290 mg/dl) and the second after taking misoprostol (a substance known to disrupt the normal rhythm of the stomach). For the third and fourth EGGs, participants were given a placebo followed by the same administration of first glucose and then misoprostal. Each of the four EGG studies was recorded and analyzed for changes in normal stomach rhythm and rate of stomach emptying.
Ginger root significantly reduced the disruptive effect of elevated blood sugar on stomach rhythm and helped maintain a normal rate of stomach emptying, while the stomach rhythm and contractions were increased following taking a placebo. Similar results were observed after taking misoprostol; however, these results were not statistically significant. These findings suggest ginger root helps prevent abnormalities in stomach rhythm and emptying that could lead to constipation, heartburn, and ulceration in some individuals.
Although the current study was performed on healthy adults, the effects of ginger root may be useful in treating those with adult-onset diabetes. High blood sugar levels are known to disrupt the normal function of the stomach, and people with uncontrolled diabetes may have blood sugar levels that exceed those reached in the current study. Diabetics with stomach problems also tend to respond favorably to medications that normalize stomach rhythm and correct delayed emptying. Although controlling blood sugar is the most important thing diabetics can do to prevent complications associated with diabetes, ginger may help provide symptomatic improvement while they work on bringing their blood sugar down.
Since the study did not specifically examine those with adult-onset diabetes, it is unknown whether ginger would provide the same benefits in improving stomach function. Nonetheless, ginger is generally safe and may be worth trying for people with diabetes-related stomach disorders.
Darin Ingels, ND, MT (ASCP), received his bachelor’s degree from Purdue University and his Doctorate of Naturopathic Medicine from Bastyr University in Kenmore, WA. Dr. Ingels is the author of The Natural Pharmacist: Lowering Cholesterol (Prima, 1999) and Natural Treatments for High Cholesterol (Prima, 2000). He currently is in private practice at New England Family Health Associates located in Southport, CT, where he specializes in environmental medicine and allergies. Dr. Ingels is a regular contributor to Healthnotes and Healthnotes Newswire.
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