Most of us give very little thought to our digestive health until indigestion, gas, bloating, diarrhea or constipation forces us to take notice. While it may be tempting to reach for a bottle of bubblegum-pink liquid that promises to ease our discomfort, there is a far better, more natural, way to deal with our stomach woes. Dating back thousands of years, ginger has been one of the most powerful foods associated with alleviating gastrointestinal distress, such as bloating, nausea or even motion sickness. In herbal medicine, ginger is known as a carminative; a substance that promotes the elimination of intestinal gas. It also functions as an intestinal spasmolytic, a substance that relaxes and soothes the intestinal tract.
With so many anti-nausea medications on the market, you may be wondering why bother with ginger? For starters, many medications have negative side effects and only serve to mask symptoms instead of resolve them. Ginger on the other hand, has no negative side effects and even has some added pluses. Ginger contains a compound called gingerol. This compound acts as a potent anti-inflammatory which serves to reduce inflammation that can cause aches and pains throughout the body. As for other benefits, for pregnant women who suffer from morning sickness ginger not only soothes nausea, but also serves as a source of folic acid, a key vitamin in preventing birth defects.
Still not sold on ginger as the solution for you digestive discomfort? A study done by the European Journal of Gastroenterology and Hepatology found that ginger stimulates the movement of food through your stomach into your small intestine. By assisting with the muscle contractions associated digestion. Ginger also stimulates the proper enzymes to break down food so nutrients can be easily absorbed.
Perhaps you are scoffing at this article, proud that your “iron gut” rarely leaves you with discomfort. However, you just might be one of the 40% of people who suffers from motion sickness and surprise…ginger can help with that too! In a recent study, ginger was shown to be more effective than Dramamine, a commonly used over the counter drug for motion sickness. Gear up for your next road trip with some ginger tea or even ginger candies.
How to select ginger:
Ginger is available year round! Buy fresh ginger rather than the dried form of the spice when possible. Pure ginger contains higher levels of gingerol, the compound that gives ginger many of its medicinal properties. Look out for firmness, smoothness and no mold. Fresh ginger can be stored in your fridge for up to three weeks if it is unpeeled. If you haven’t cooked with ginger before, keep in mind that adding ginger in the beginning of the cooking process will subtly add flavor while adding it at the end will result in a very strong, evident taste. Ginger can be found raw, dried, in juice, tea, candied and even pickled.
Juice recipe that emphasizes ginger:
Ginger Lemon Juice
1 Lemon – rind, seeds, and all!
3 cups Pineapple – remove the skin because most juicers cannot handle such course skin
1/2 Cucumber – unpeeled
1/2″ Fresh Ginger
Ginger Apple Juice
4 Apples – skin core and all!
1/2 Lemon – with rind
1/2″ Fresh Ginger
In addition to having ginger in these recipes, you have plenty of other fruits! These juices are extremely hydrating and contain many antioxidants. Great to drink after a work out!