Ginger and IBS

Irritable bowel syndrome, or IBS, is responsible for 20 percent to 50 percent of all visits to gastroenterologists in the United States, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. While there is no known cure for IBS, the symptoms may be managed through stress reduction, diet modification and medications. If you plan on using ginger as part of a treatment plan, consult your doctor first, particularly if you are already taking medication.

Ginger roots for sale at a market. (Image: Marcio Silva/iStock/Getty Images)

IBS Facts

The cause of IBS is unclear, according to PubMed Health, but it sometimes starts after an infection in the intestines. The typical symptoms of IBS are pain, bloating, gas and diarrhea or constipation. Other symptoms can include mucus in your stool and pain relief after a bowel movement. You might also have the sensation of incomplete emptying after a bowel movement. IBS symptoms occur when muscles in your large intestine contract more quickly or more slowly than normal. IBS typically starts in the teen years or early adulthood, but it can begin at any age. Twice as many women than men suffer from IBS, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center.

Ginger Root

Fresh ginger root, referred to as sheng jiang in traditional Chinese medicine, has been used for more than 2,000 years as a medicinal in Chinese, Indian and Arabic traditions. It is commonly used in herbal formulas that treat digestive disorders, coughs, vomiting and nausea. It also serves as an antibacterial for other herbs. Modern research has found ginger may be beneficial for those suffering from motion sickness, nausea and some forms of inflammation, although studies have shown mixed results for nausea and inflammation.

Ginger and IBS

Research based on the effects of ginger on IBS is practically nonexistent, but the University of Maryland Medical Center reports that a study in which participants took a Chinese herbal formula that included ginger did find a reduction in the participants' IBS symptoms. According to David Rakel, author of "Integrative Medicine," ginger contains serotonin antagonists that both improve gastric mobility and have an antispasmodic effect on the intestines, which may indicate ginger can offer relief from IBS by relaxing the intestines during an attack.

Proper Treatment

Ginger is safe for most people, according to Medline Plus, but in high doses it may cause symptoms similar to those of IBS, such as nausea, diarrhea and cramping. Taking ginger in pills or with food may help reduce side-effects. The University of Maryland Medical Center recommends taking no more than 4 grams a day of ginger. If you are planning on taking ginger as a medicine for IBS, consult your doctor first to get the proper dosage and discuss any potential risks.

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