The Asian Connection
One of the questions I get over and over is about my favorite herbs and spices. As you know if you followed my nutrition column for the decade plus in PL USA magazine, that I am a big fan of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). While ginger is not super popular in the western world, it's very popular in India and Asia for spicing up recipes and also for tea. Ginger is also special in TCM for numerous ailments. Raw ginger's name in Chinese Pin Yin is Sheng Jiang. For close to 5,000 years ginger played an important role in TCM. In TCM both raw ginger and dried ginger are used for different conditions. In fact if you ever go to a grocery store in China Town you will see several different forms of ginger tea, but also dried ginger slices, and even ginger candy in numerous varieties. But what might interest you is all the new scientific based evidence on the many health benefits of ginger. What I wanted to do with this article series is give you some of the main reasons why ginger should be part of your health and wellness plan. I want to convince you to take advantage of all the benefits it offers your training and longevity regiment.
Ginger is as Good as Gold
Ginger's botanical name is Zingiber Officinale. Zingiber is derived from the Sanskrit word meaning “Horn Shaped”. It was originally found in China but then soon spread to cultivation in many other parts of the world. It's been around in the western world for about 2,000 years. In terms of production Jamaica takes the lead, and in my opinion is the best on the planet. Hey Mon, don't worry...be Happy! It is also produced in large quantities in India and China as well. I always
loved ginger beer as a child and really enjoyed the spicy kick it gave. Its an acquired taste as some find it too spicy. But after years of consuming large amounts of ginger in different forms, I can handle quite a bit. In fact I consume ginger daily and is something I don't go without. It simply has way too many benefits for me to avoid and by the time I am done this series on ginger you will understand how amazing it really is. If you are suffering with any health ailments or are taking medications for any issue, always consult with your doctor or health care practitioner to check for contraindications before supplementing with ginger extracts or in its raw form.
#1 Digestive Benefits
The first reason why I love ginger is the many benefits it has on the digestive system. For those of you who have undergone any form of digestive distress whether it is heartburn, GERD, Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), Diverticulitis, or Celiac issues, you all know how bad this can be. Even those that have suffered with your run of the mill bloating, gas, and nausea understand that the digestive system is very delicate. If it goes off on a tangent then it will affect every part of your life. It can affect your work, your ability to eat and digest food in comfort, and totally destroy your training as well. Its hard to tighten your Lever Belt when your stomach is a gassy bloated mess, that's for sure! Not to mention coming up from the bottom of a squat with 600 pounds on your back is not going to feel so good. So as you can see your digestive health is of paramount importance when it comes your ability to train and recover from your intense training sessions.
This is why I wanted to start the series with this first due to the fact that it is so comprehensive. So enough babbling from me - let's take a look at what ginger can do for some different digestive issues and how you can implement it in your life.
Ginger has several different gastrointestinal benefits that all lifters can take advantage of in their quest for better health and a bigger total
Ginger has been shown to have positive effects on motion sickness and sea sickness. It is so powerful that in one study it was actually put up against the most popular motion sickness medication to see how it would compare to a powerful pharmaceutical drug.
Lo and behold ginger was found to be more effective at reducing symptoms. You see mother nature has some very good remedies without having to drug yourself up.
Another study in the medical journal Lancet, was conducted on ginger and its anti-nausea benefits. It consisted of 36 people who have suffered from motion sickness issues.
The subjects were broken down into three separate groups. The first group was given 2 capsules of powdered ginger, the second group was given an anti-nausea medication, and the third was given a placebo.
They were given their dose of the ginger, drug, or placebo and then twenty minutes later they were spun around on a motorized chair. Now I know this sounds a little crazy but hold on, the info gets good.
The group that was given the ginger delayed the onset of motion sickness by twice as long as the drug group. In fact the study also showed that 50% of the subjects who consumed the ginger capsules lasted the full 6 minutes on the bucking bronco motorized chair. None from the medication or placebo group could endure the full time span on the chair without falling apart.
What should be noted is that ginger not only helps with the nausea associated with motion sickness but also dizziness, vomiting, and even cold sweats that are known to occur for those that suffer from this condition.
Danish scientists have also taken interest in all the ginger hype that has been of late. They took 80 naval cadets that were heavily prone to sea sickness. This study showed that those sailors that were given even such a low dose of just one gram of ginger powder, endured less nausea in a four hour period than other subjects who were just given a placebo.
Ginger has also shown some promise for those that suffer from postoperative nausea as well. Some medications used during surgery can cause an upset stomach once you are awake. Ginger can help in this regard and should be discussed with your doctor in advance.
Ginger has been shown to have a positive effect on eliminating stomach gas. A cup of ginger tea when you are feeling like you are contributing to global warming with your excessive flatulence can make a huge difference. Plus I am sure your wife and kids will appreciate not having to walk by your “Cloud of Death” and feel like they just got smacked in the face with the remnants of your last protein shake.
The next time you go your local “All You Can Eat” buffet and decide to go on a rampage think of this article. In fact ginger can not only help reduce gas and bloating, but it can also help reduce stomach cramps.
Believe me I am not condoning eating like a gluttonous slob but at the same time I know the mentality of powerlifters and doing this a couple times a week is what can help you.
This is why when you were a kid more times than not if you had an upset stomach your mother would either make you a cup of ginger tea or would tell you to have a glass of ginger ale. While the latter is not a health conscious choice nor does it contain a decent amount of the healing compounds found in ginger, it still was considered a “Mom's Remedy” when your little tummy wasn't feeling so good.
One of ginger's other blessings is that it helps stimulate digestion and absorption. In meathead terms this means that it will help you break down your foods more efficiently so your body will utilize more of the nutrients. You are not what you eat as many say, but in fact you are what you absorb. This is why overburdening your stomach and liver during buffet bonanzas so many of you like will not help in this process.
Ginger can help stimulate bile production, increase saliva production, and subside gastrointestinal irritation. Scientists believe this is due to the phenolic compounds that are contained in ginger. This is why many feel relief by consuming ginger when they are suffering from diarrhea.
Another benefit of ginger is helping deal with acid reflux. Like I mentioned earlier many powerlifters load up on greasy and fatty foods only to find themselves burping up their meal for the next few hours. Ginger can help ease acid reflux and help calm your stomach after eating more bean burritos than a Guadalajara food festival.
Now for those Power Vixens out there who may be thinking of getting pregnant listen up.
A prominent study in the Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology showed that consuming small amounts of ginger can actually reduce or even eliminate the symptoms of nausea and vomiting in pregnant women.
We all know how bad morning sickness can be for some women and this little nutrition tip can make a world of difference for those that are more prone to this in their first trimester.
There is another fact to show how powerful ginger is for morning sickness. Women that suffer from a severe form known as Hyperemesis Gravidum are usually hospitalized. Even in this severe form, ginger still came through and worked its magic.
Another benefit of ginger is that it can stimulate the appetite. There are times when a lifter may want to go up a weight class and is looking to put on some new found muscle as well.
We all know that just loading in junk foods are not going to do anything in terms of packing on quality muscle tissue and will only work against you in the long run in terms of both your health and performance.
For those that are having a hard time getting in some of their meals due to a lack of appetite which does happen from time to time or those needing to increase the portion size of their meals, ginger is the answer.
Ginger can stimulate your appetite and kick start your digestive juices so that you are more likely to get your entire meal in, making sure you are hitting your daily macronutrient requirements. This is due to its ability to stimulate gastric and pancreatic enzymes.
Another benefit of ginger is that it cant improve your breath. Many don't know this but its not just a dirty bacteria laden mouth that can give you bad breathe, but also what goes on in your digestive tract.
In Japanese culture eating pickled ginger helps to cleanse the palate between eating different types of sushi.
Ginger can help your mouth feel fresh and clean this is why many will chew on a small piece of ginger at the end of a meal.
There was a time when ulcers were thought of to be caused by greasy foods, stress, and alcohol consumption. But research has shown that the Heliobacter Pylori bacteria seems to be the main culprit. A derivative of ginger has been shown to inhibit his nasty bacteria.
In fact a new study that was published in EvidenceBased Complementary and Alternative Medicine has some really interesting points.
They found that ginger protects the gastric mucosa from stress induced mucosal lesions
Ginger was also found to inhibit gastric acid secretions
This was due to its ability to inhibit the growth of Heliobacter Pylori bacteria and its potent antioxidant protection it offers against gastric damage.
This is without a doubt some amazing new info in regards to ulcer protection and the harmful bacteria that is responsible for these issues.
For those that suffer from Dyspepsia or what is known as “Chronic Indigestion”, ginger may provide some hope as well.
Some doctors believe that when the emptying of the stomach becomes delayed it is one of the main culprits in this condition.
What makes ginger so special in this regards is that it has been shown to increase the rate in which the stomach empties.
One study consisting of 24 healthy test subjects found when given 1.2 grams of ginger powder prior to consuming a meal, an increased emptying of the stomach occurred.
So as you can see ginger has a ton of benefits for the digestive system. There are a lot of powerlifters that take different medications like proton pump inhibitors to help deal with things like acid reflux and GERD. The problem is these drugs were not created for long term use and their side effects when used for a decade or more at a time are still unknown. Like I have mentioned time and time again, the large majority of illness that many lifters suffer from is due to their current nutritional practices and lifestyle choices. This is why I continue to bring new and innovative ideas to the table for lifters to improve their health and well being. In the next installment I will touch base on some of the other reasons why I love ginger and how it can help
you in more ways than you can imagine.