Ginger supplements may be the natural substance researchers have been searching for in the prevention and treatment of common inflammatory bowel diseases.
Research published in Complementary Therapies in Medicine indicates that ginger, or Zingiber officinale root, may be of therapeutic value in the treatment of ulcerative colitis, a disease exacerbated by oxidative stress.
While further research is needed to assess the appropriate dosage of ginger amongst ulcerative colitis patients, the antioxidant effects of ginger in improving the quality of life even among ulcerative colitis patients have been clearly demonstrated.
What Is Ulcerative Colitis?
Ulcerative colitis (UC) is a chronic inflammatory disease that affects the colon and lower digestive tract and is thought to be triggered by a loss of intestinal flora and negatively impacted by oxidative stress. Conventional medications used to combat ulcerative colitis include aminosalicylates (to control inflammation), corticosteroids (steroids), and cyclosporine (immune suppressor), while alternative and more natural therapies include probiotics and fish oil.
In extreme cases, UC patients may need a colectomy if they do not respond to treatment. Most UC patients are between 15 and 30 years old, and present with a variety of symptoms ranging in severity, including intermittent rectal bleeding, mild to severe diarrhea, anemia, mild to severe cramps, bloating, constipation, fever, and rapid weight loss (in severe cases).
While the exact cause of UC is unknown, factors that have been linked to the development of the disease include:
Diet: A typical western diet, characterized by high intake of sugar and unhealthy fat and decreased intake of dietary fiber, can cause changes in the gut microbiome. This damages immune function and is linked to an increased risk of UC.
Oxidative stress: Oxidative stress is known to exacerbate symptoms and increase occurrences of relapse in UC patients.
Medication use: Antibiotics often have devastating effects on the gut microbiome and patients taking high amounts of antibiotics experience an increased risk of developing inflammatory bowel diseases.
Ulcerative colitis, the most common form of inflammatory bowel disease worldwide, affects 1.4 million people in the United States, and the number of cases is growing. Unfortunately, many of the medications used to treat UC cause adverse effects to the bones, gastrointestinal tract, liver, eyes, pancreas, and immune system.
Because of the prevalence of UC cases in North America and Europe, researchers are eager to determine if natural remedies might prove as beneficial as more conventional treatments while presenting fewer side effects.
Effects of Ginger on Ulcerative Colitis
Ginger has known positive effects on many gastrointestinal diseases, including nausea and vomiting, and due to its antioxidant properties researchers have long speculated that ginger could improve UC symptoms and reduce recurrence rates by lowering oxidative stress.
In the Complementary Therapies in Medicine study, researchers tested the effects of daily ginger supplements (2 grams per day) on participants with mild to moderate ulcerative colitis over a period of 12 weeks. The results showed an improvement in oxidative stress and disease activity through a reduction in malondialdehyde, a marker for oxidative stress, in a dose-dependent manner.
However, researchers believe higher dosage amounts are necessary to induce significant improvements. As this was the first clinical trial to study the effects of dried ginger capsules on oxidative stress in UC patients, further research is warranted, but the results are promising for those suffering from this uncomfortable and sometimes debilitating disease.
Additional Benefits of Ginger
In addition to its antioxidant properties, ginger has several well-researched properties including anti-inflammatory, anti-diabetic, effective pain management, may lower cholesterol, anti-cancer properties, protects against age-related brain decline, and antibacterial.
Other Remedies for Ulcerative Colitis
In addition to ginger, there are several natural remedies that have been studied for their efficacy in treating and preventing ulcerative colitis.
Barley grass: Germinated barley grass, a prebiotic, reduced the clinical activity of UC after only four weeks of oral consumption.
For additional research related to ulcerative colitis and a complete list of all-natural remedies shown to improve ulcerative colitis symptoms, visit GreenMedInfo.com’s Ulcerative Colitis Dashboard.
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