Ginger for Gastrointestinal Discomfort
By Dr. Kate Dudek
One of the more unpleasant side effects of chemotherapy can be gastrointestinal problems, including nausea and vomiting. The prevalence and extent of these side effects depends predominantly on the treatment regimen, with some drug combinations (cyclophosphamide and cisplatin) causing nausea and vomiting in over 90% of patients.
To date, efforts to control these side effects with antiemetic medications have not been very successful. For this reason, patients have looked elsewhere for symptomatic relief, often considering the use of complementary and alternative medicines.
One option is ginger, also known as the rhizome of zingiber officinale. This has been used as an herbal medicine in parts of Asia and the Far East for thousands of years, for a wide range of ailments, including gastrointestinal complaints such as constipation, diarrhoea, bloating, indigestion, nausea and vomiting. The extent and longevity of its use has prompted scientists to explore the medicinal capabilities in more detail. Whilst anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and ant-tumour properties are cited, the results are conflicting, due to the unstable nature of the most active ingredients (gingerols). Gingerols are readily oxidised, potentially generating unwanted free radicals.
Precisely how ginger helps to suppress nausea and vomiting is unclear, although it is thought to increase gastric tone and motility and enhance gastric emptying. What is clear, however, is the symptomatic relief ginger provides for pregnant women. Up to 80% of women experience nausea and vomiting during pregnancy and as little as 1 gram ginger per day has been shown to reduce these unpleasant effects in a significant number of women. It has been well studied for the past three decades and is now accepted as a suitable remedy for pregnancy-induced nausea and vomiting by both the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), and the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE), who consider it an effective, safe treatment option.
The success in treating this form of nausea and vomiting with ginger, led to the idea of using ginger for other gastrointestinal disorders, including chemotherapy-induced sickness. Results have been a little inconsistent, probably due in part to the differences in preparations of ginger; however, most studies have shown that ginger does alleviate some of the acute nausea which occurs within 24 hours of chemotherapy. It is less effective at alleviating delayed nausea which occurs 24 hours to five days after chemotherapy.
Finding ways to incorporate ginger into your diet might be difficult, particularly if eating is difficult or painful. Sometimes chemotherapy can also cause painful mouth sores. One way of ensuring you consume a small quantity is to use a toothpaste that includes ginger in its ingredient list, for example the Ozalys Essential Care Refreshing Toothpaste with Ginger. Admittedly, the overall intake will be small, but the ginger should provide soothing freshness and, as another of the medicinal properties of ginger is in the management of toothache, it is an ideal addition to any toothpaste. Maintaining good oral hygiene is important during chemotherapy as it is a time when you are particularly vulnerable to uncomfortable infections.
Ozalys’ products have been designed with women who have been affected by cancer in mind. Ozalys allows women to continue to care for themselves every day using products that innovate through their formulas, optimal absorption and packaging. Ozalys’ specially-formulated solutions are catered for physiological conditions that cause dermal sensitivity, or for the side effects of certain treatments that may result in olfactory and dermal ultra-sensitivity.
Ozalys’ personal hygiene, face and body care products have all been developed with the utmost care, minimising preservatives and excluding all substances suspected of being harmful to the body. Their highly soothing, moisturising and protective properties, as well as their delicate application and scent, turn daily beauty routines into moments of well-being and comfort.
- Giacosa, A, et al. “Can Nausea and Vomiting Be Treated with Ginger Extract?” European Review for Medical and Pharmocological Sciences, vol. 19, no. 7, Apr. 2015, pp. 1291–1296.
- Lete, I, and J Allué. “The Effectiveness of Ginger in the Prevention of Nausea and Vomiting during Pregnancy and Chemotherapy.” Integrative Medicine Insights, vol. 11, 31 Mar. 2016, pp. 11–17., doi:10.4137/IMI.S36273.
- Nikkhah Bodagh, M, et al. “Ginger in Gastrointestinal Disorders: A Systematic Review of Clinical Trials.” Food Science & Nutrition, vol. 7, no. 1, 5 Nov. 2018, pp. 96–108., doi:10.1002/fsn3.807.