benefits of ginger

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The alarm went off in what seemed like the middle of the night. I kicked the blanket off pausing a moment for a stretch. I was the same person but everything was different. A tiny life was slowly growing inside me. Once sleep started fading, I dangled one leg off the bed then another, finally making my way on to my feet. I felt it move through me starting at the top of my head pushing against my skin, pulsing. Wave after wave of nausea shattered the last bit of sleep. And there it was - an official sign that I was pregnant. 

It was the start of what would be a grueling 7 weeks of all day, relentless sickness. I was used to morning sickness as this was my second pregnancy but this took it to a whole other level. I can't quite recall how I got through most days. The room was spinning all day every day, akin to a never-ending hangover. 

Eating was barely tolerable. Almost everything I used to love turned my stomach. I distinctly recall one night when my (at the time 2 year old) son asked why I wasn't eating my peas. My face nearly the color of them. And so it went...

But there was one food that got me through that period and it was ginger. Ginger is a pregnant woman's best friend. I had an arsenal of products near by at all times. Ginger tea, candied ginger, ginger water with lemon and fresh ginger that I would sometimes just suck on. But more than its use for nausea during pregnancy, ginger is a powerful food/medicine.

It's traced back to Southeast Asia and has been used in ancient Chinese and Indian medicine for thousands of years. It's used fresh, as a root or dried. While fresh does last well in the refrigerator, I always have dried on hand.. 

Ginger uses

  1. Curry - Ginger is my favorite spices, with turmeric coming in as a close second. flavors food in ways that no other spice can and it's a staple in all my curry recipes
  2. Marinades - You can take a boring piece of chicken, make a quick marinade and dramatically improve its flavor with ginger.
  3. Baking - Ginger adds flavor and depth to cookies, cakes and more. 
  4. Soup - I use ginger in most of the soups I make. I like adding it to everything from roasted carrot and ginger soup to vegetable soup to coconut cilantro sweet potato soup.
  5. Golden milk - Besides turmeric, ginger is the other antioxidant rich component in golden milk.
  6. Ginger tea - This was basically what I survived on early in my pregnancy. It did make a big difference and sliced down on some of the nausea. I made my own and also bought it in bulk
  7. Warm water with lemon and ginger - This is something I drink almost every day. A few slices of ginger, a few slices of lemon and warm water. 
  8. Ginger turmeric shots - Easy to make. Just combine 1/2 tsp ground ginger, 1 tsp ground tumeric, 1 tsp lemon juice, 1/2 tsp honey, 1/4 tsp pepper in a little cup or bow. 

While Eastern cultures have intuitively known about the health benefits of ginger, science has also gotten behind this incredible root to validate what's been a staple in Chinese medicine and Ayurveda. Here are some of the benefits of ginger:

Benefits of ginger

  1. Anti nausea - Ginger has been widely studied as being a powerful anti-nausea and anti-vomiting agent. This review, looked at several large scale studies that found ginger to be more effective than placebo or vitamin B6 (commonly prescribed for nausea in pregnancy). "The best available evidence demonstrates that ginger is an effective and inexpensive treatment for nausea and vomiting and is safe." 
    When it comes to using ginger during pregnancy, it's regarded as generally safe, however, large doses of ginger could potentially stimulate uterine contractions. Before supplementing with capsules, it's important to check with your doctor about safety. 
  2. Anti-inflammatory - One of ginger's biggest health benefits has been attributed to its ability to reduce swelling, pain and reduce inflammation.  It's been used in the treatment of PMS, headaches, muscular pain, diabetes and even cancer. "Ginger has been purported to exert a variety of powerful therapeutic and preventive effects and has been used for thousands of years for the treatment of hundreds of ailments from colds to cancer."
  3. Improved digestion - Since most of us consume a diet that can sometimes be less than desirable, many of us suffer from a slew of digestive issues. A lot of these stem from food not properly moving through the digestive tract fast enough due to lack of digestive enzymes and juices in the stomach. Ginger speeds up gastric emptying and accelerates motility. This is very important for a healthy functioning digestive system. 
  4. Pain reliever - Ginger has always been used in traditional medicine as a pain reliever. Research in this area supports these findings. This review of 7 published studies concludes that ginger can in fact act as a pain reliever. Another study looked at the effects of ginger in exercise induced muscle pain. "Daily consumption of raw and heat-treated ginger resulted in moderate-to-large reductions in muscle pain following exercise-induced muscle injury"
  5. High in Antioxidants - I've talked about the importance of antioxidants in several posts. The role of antioxidants is to neutralize free radicals and oxidative stress. Ginger contains several antioxidant compounds with gingnerol being the main bioactive compound, responsible for ginger's numerous health benefits. 
  6. Anti-bacterial - With our increased antibiotics use, obsession with antibacterial soaps and sanitizers, bacteria is becoming increasingly more resistant to antibiotics. Ginger has been extensively studies for its antibacterial properties and some studies have looked at ginger as one agent for bacteria resistant pathogens. This study concludes that ginger in conjunction with garlic can inhibit the growth of E. Coli.
  7. Lowered blood sugar - Type 2 Diabetes is one of the most common chronic diseases in our country. An area of great interest is the relationship between ginger and lowered blood sugar levels. This double blind, placebo controlled study shows the effect that ginger supplementation has on fasting blood sugar in Type 2 Diabetes patients concluding that ginger can be beneficial in stabilizing blood sugar levels. Additionally ginger supplementation can lower the risk of cardiovascular complications related to Type 2 Diabetes 

So research aside, ginger is amazing. If you're someone who has never tried it before, start slow, maybe add a little bit to your cooking or go straight for the ginger shots!