Ginger ale has long been a popular home remedy for diarrhea and stomach discomfort. It is not the carbonation that fights stomach pain, though — it's the ginger.
Research increasingly points to the value of ginger as a natural diarrhea remedy. Herbal practitioners have long used ginger to prevent muscle spasms. This property of ginger can reduce the frequency of urges to have a bowel movement, and can ease the pain of diarrhea.
Western medical practitioners are now interested in the role ginger can play in preventing gastrointestinal problems, including morning sickness, diarrhea, bloating, gas, and nausea.
Fast facts on ginger for diarrhea:
Ginger is rich in a variety of beneficial plant chemicals called phytochemicals.
Ginger may also relieve other gastrointestinal problems, such as food poisoning.
Ginger is unlikely to cause serious side effects.
The relationship between ginger and diarrhea
Ginger has long been popular as a natural treatment for a range of ailments.
The anti-diarrhea benefits of ginger likely come from phytochemicals.
Researchers, holistic practitioners, and various doctors have suggested some ways ginger might help with diarrhea. Those include:
Changing muscle spasms in the lower digestive tract to help the body flush ou
t the source of diarrhea.
Preventing chills due to illness.
Changing the behavior of specific neurotransmitters, which are chemicals that help the body send nerve signals.
Fighting infections associated with diarrhea.
Treating chronic causes of diarrhea and stomach pain, such as ulcers and acid reflux.
Research on ginger dosage
A 2017 study attempted to assess at what dosage ginger becomes toxic to rabbits and rats. The highest dose the animals received was 5,000 milligrams per kilogram (mg/kg) of body weight, but none of the animals died or experienced serious side effects.
While research on animals is not always applicable to humans, this study offers preliminary evidence that ginger may be safe.
How much ginger to eat per day
The best way to take in ginger is in its natural form. Taking processed ginger supplements may pose a danger as some supplements may be contaminated, inconsistent, or of poor quality.
The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) do not approve ginger supplements, and there is no widely accepted daily recommended intake.
However, most sources recommend people consume no more than 4 grams (g) of ginger per day. Pregnant or breast-feeding women should consult a doctor before supplementing their diets with ginger.
Try starting with 1 g or less per day, then gradually raising the dose. Carefully monitor symptoms and check for side effects. As with any supplement, the safest option is to use the lowest effective dose.
So if diarrhea disappears with 0.5 g of ginger, there is no need to increase the dose.
Research on ginger and diarrhea
Various studies have found that ginger may help to treat diarrhea.
Sudden, severe diarrhea may be due to bacteriacalled Escherichia coli (E. coli). Other infections, such as listeria, may also cause diarrhea. A limited body of research suggests that ginger might be a natural remedy for these infections.
A 2015 study assessed the ability of ginger and garlic to fight listeria and E. coli in a petri dish. Both spices slowed the growth of these bacterial infections.
A 2007 study on mice found that ginger reduced the severity of diarrhea caused by E. coli.
A 2011 study of guinea pigs suggests that ginger may change the behavior of neurotransmitters and other chemicals linked to gastrointestinal distress, including nausea and vomiting.
Research published in 2012 found that ginger could prevent or reduce diarrhea in pigs.
Other gastrointestinal benefits of ginger
Ginger may do more than just relieve diarrhea. Studies have found that ginger can address gastrointestinal problems including:
motion sickness and sea sickness
nausea and vomiting due to chemotherapy
nausea after surgery
Should you eat ginger for diarrhea or IBS?
Ginger is safe and well tolerated, which means there are few risks associated with using it for stomach pain or diarrhea. Even studies that do not support the use of ginger to treat stomach pain find few or no adverse effects.
Research does not support the use of ginger to treat IBS. However, a 2014 study of ginger for IBS noted more negative side effects with a placebo than with ginger.
When not to use ginger for diarrhea
As with all natural remedies, ginger is not a cure-all for gastrointestinal problems and is not a substitute for medical treatment. Severe diarrhea can cause dehydration. Severe diarrhea may signal an untreated medical condition and can be fatal in children.
People who experience severe diarrhea that lasts longer than a few days should seek medical care.
Fresh ginger or prepared ginger?
Ginger smoothies can be made using ginger powder.
Ginger can be prepared in a variety of ways, including being powdered and juiced. It is possible that the results of some of the studies differed because the researchers used different preparations of ginger. For example, one research group used ginger blended with other substances, such as honey.
Because researchers have not carried out studies in which they all use the same ginger preparations, there is no evidence supporting one type of ginger over another.
Anybody considering ginger as a treatment for diarrhea should try different preparations to find one that works. Ginger can be ground up in a smoothie, used sparingly as a seasoning, or even consumed alone. It has a strong taste, which some people may find overpowering, so it may be more palatable when mixed with something else.
The sugar and other ingredients in ginger snaps may irritate the stomach and elevate blood sugar. So avoid using ginger snaps as a source of ginger.
Some people report a burning sensation in the mouth or nose. Ginger can irritate the mucous membranes, so wash hands after preparing ginger and before touching the face.
People with a history of food allergies, pregnant and breast-feeding women and those with compromised immune systems should consult a doctor before trying ginger or ginger supplements.
Ginger is a safe home remedy that is unlikely to cause serious side effects. It has been used in traditional medicine for thousands of years, often in conjunction with other things, such as honey or garlic.
A doctor skilled in herbal medicine may be helpful in determining the right dose of ginger. A physician can also help with understanding the cause of diarrhea, and decide whether it needs medical treatment.
If ginger makes symptoms worse or diarrhea lasts more than a few days, seek medical care.
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