Ginger contains powerful phytochemicals, which are plant compounds that have health promoting qualities. The American Institute for Cancer Research, among other respected organizations, promotes consumption of popular phytochemicals, such as resveratrol and lycopene, for cancer survivors. In ginger, these lesser known naturally occurring nutrients include gingerols and shogaols. Shogaols have been of interest in medical research for their anticancer and anti-inflammatory benefits, and promising studies have examined effects on colon cancer, gastric cancer and breast cancer.

  Ginger supplements appear to lower some indicators of inflammation in the colon, a new study shows.

The study, published in Cancer Prevention Research, is an early step toward finding out whether compounds found in ginger root might prevent colon cancer.

“Many studies in cell culture have shown that ginger is an anti-inflammatory,” says study researcher Suzanna M. Zick, ND, a research assistant professor at the University of Michigan Medical School, Ann Arbor.

Other studies in mice and rats have shown that ginger may help prevent the formation of tumors when it’s fed to the animals exposed to a chemical that causes colon cancer.

Zick and her team wanted to see whether those findings might translate to humans.

Testing the Effects of Ginger on the Colon

For the study, researchers randomly assigned 30 healthy adults to take capsules containing either 2 grams of powered ginger root or a placebo powder every day for four weeks.

“It’s equivalent to about 2 tablespoons of ground-up ginger root,” Zick says. “It’s probably not what an average American would want to do every day. But certainly in India and China and Japan, they eat that amount on a daily basis,” she says, noting that those countries have lower rates of colorectal cancer.

But Asian diets may be protective for other reasons, too. Asian diets tend to include more vegetables and fiber and less red meat, for example.

“It probably all contributes together,” she says.

People in the study were asked to take the capsules at mealtimes. They weren’t allowed to use any other kind of medications, including aspirin or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) immediately before or during the study, because those are known to have anti-inflammatory effects.

The main side effects of taking ginger were minor stomach upset, heartburn, and gas.

Before and after the study, tissue samples were taken from the lining of the colon. Researchers tested these samples for chemicals called eicosanoids that increase inflammation in the gut.

“The ginger was able to decrease the level of inflammatory markers in the gut tissue,” compared to the placebo. “It decreases inflammation. We know that increased inflammation, chronic inflammation in the gut tissue is highly associated with developing precancerous lesions, or cancerous polyps.”

A laboratory study conducted in 2010 investigated the precise mechanism by which the phytochemicals in ginger may influence breast cancer, and the researchers concluded that shogaols target and impair an important pathway in cancer development, known as Nf-κB.      Nf-κB  is currently thought to promote tumor development and progression in at least the following ways:

  1. Nf-κB activates and maintains inflammation, which cancer cells need to thrive.
  2. Nf-κB stimulates cancer cell reproduction and prevents apoptosis (death) of cancerous cells.
  3. Nf-κB is involved in the process of forming new blood vessels in tumors.
  4. And finally , Nf-κB promotes the metastasis ( spread to distant locations) of cancer.

Given the potential harms of Nf-κB , it is compelling for those with and without a history of breast cancer to include ginger in the diet. Additionally, unlike many other natural remedies, ginger is generally regarded as safe to consume during conventional cancer treatments, (although, I always encourage speaking with your physician before making major dietary changes).

Ginger is incredibly easy to incorporate in the diet. A simple ginger tea can be made from adding a small piece of peeled ginger root or a ¼ teaspoon of The Ginger People’s Organic Minced Ginger or Organic Ginger Juice to a cup of boiling water.@cancerqueries

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