Tuesday, October 3, 2023

Ginger in diabetes and blood glucose control

Ginger helps control blood glucose through many mechanisms. It also helps prevent diabetic complications.

Executive Summary

Ginger reduces carbohydrate digestion in the intestines. It increases insulin secretion and mimics some actions of insulin. It lowers insulin resistance. These help keep the blood glucose levels low, protecting against type 2 diabetes.
Ginger is also protective against diabetic complications.

Take four grams of fresh ginger or one gram of dry ginger powder a day, divided over two or three meals.

Ginger has been used for thousands of years as a spice in many cultures. It derives most of its benefits from compounds called gingerols.

In traditional medicine, ginger has been used for indigestion, nausea, vomiting, pain, cold–induced syndromes, and inflammatory issues. More recently, it was reported that ginger also possesses anti–cancer, anti–clotting, diabetes-protective, anti–inflammatory, and anti–oxidative characteristics.

Diabetes-Related Benefits of Ginger

There are many ways ginger helps prevent or control diabetes. It can even protect against diabetes related complications.

Caution: Make sure you don’t stop your diabetes medicines. Ginger is not a treatment for diabetes. You can take it along with your medications, but discuss that with your doctor first. If you consume both, it is possible that your blood glucose may dip even below the normal levels, leading to a possible life-threatening condition called hypoglycemia or low blood glucose levels.

Ginger Reduces Carbohydrate Digestion

Ginger blocks the enzymes that help us digest carbohydrates and fats. When we eat carbs and fats, certain enzymes break them down into smaller pieces that are easier to absorb. By inhibiting the actions of such enzymes, ginger reduces the amount of glucose that can be absorbed. The net effect is the same as eating less carbohydrates. A wonderful benefit for type 2 diabetics, and even to those who want to lose weight!

Ginger Increases Insulin Secretion

A hormone named serotonin is called a ‘feel-good’ hormone. Its levels rise in the body after we eat a high-carbohydrate meal. Higher serotonin levels increase insulin release in the blood after a meal.

In diabetic patients, the serotonin receptors—the proteins to which serotonin attaches and becomes active—don’t function properly. This keeps insulin secretion low. Since insulin helps body cells in utilising blood glucose, its low levels cause high blood sugar.

Ginger interacts with such serotonin receptors and increases insulin secretion.

Ginger Lowers Insulin Resistance

Insulin resistance is considered the main cause of developing type 2 diabetes. In a normal body, insulin helps blood glucose get inside the cells, which then use it as a fuel for their functioning. If the cells become resistant to the actions of insulin, they cannot get enough blood glucose. This raises its levels in the blood—a typical scenario in type 2 diabetes. Ginger can reduce insulin resistance and lower fasting blood sugar levels in people with type 2 diabetes.

Ginger Mimics Insulin Action

Insulin is not essential for our body cells to use blood glucose; it is required only for helping blood glucose penetrate the outer covers (membranes) of the cells to enter them. In type 2 diabetes, that mechanism is hampered. Interestingly, ginger can help blood glucose to get into muscle cells independent of the presence of insulin. In a normal body, this does not matter as there is an adequate amount of insulin present; but in a type 2 diabetic body, such an action of ginger is helpful.

Ginger Lowers Blood Glucose

The research findings above are interesting but then, does ginger really help reduce blood glucose?

It was found that consuming three grams of ginger powder a day for eight weeks reduced fasting blood glucose and glycated haemoglobin (HbA1c) in type 2 diabetics. In fact, multiple trials have shown the same.

Ginger Prevents Diabetes–Induced Medical Complications

The high blood glucose levels in uncontrolled diabetes can damage various body organs over a period of time. This gives rise to what are called diabetes-induced medical complications. Ginger is found to be protective against their development. Ginger

Ginger in Other Medical Disorders

Ginger has many antioxidant compounds and so, has anti–inflammatory properties. Plus, it has no gastrointestinal side effects when consumed in normal amounts. So, it is helpful in reducing pain and swelling in many conditions, such as joint pain (arthritis) and muscle pain. In this aspect, it is almost as good as a non–steroidal anti–inflammatory drug (NSAID).

Ginger is also useful in bronchitis, acidity, upper respiratory tract infection, menstrual pain, and digestive problems.

How Much Ginger to Consume

Most of the diabetes-related benefits of ginger were found between 1,600 and 3,000 mg of dried ginger powder. But exceeding 1,500 mg (one and a half gram) a day is likely to cause digestive system issues such as acidity (heartburn), gastric reflux and diarrhea. So it is better to consume a maximum of one gram of dried powder a day.

The results in the trials were seen over eight to twelve weeks with those higher dosages; but they were conducted under medical supervision. One is better off taking lesser, safer dose over a longer period consistently. Take with meals, in two divided doses, if possible.

If you prefer to consume fresh ginger instead, consume about four grams of it. Fresh ginger is 79% water by weight and dry ginger powder is 4% water by weight. So one gram of dried ginger powder equals four grams (two teaspoons) of fresh ginger. Take with meals.

Most of the information in this article is taken from my upcoming book to be published by Macmillan Publishers in Nov 2023. The book discusses a thousand such preventive health tidbits. It covers twenty superfoods, their nutrients, health benefits, recommended amounts and excess levels. It also explains how to select and store and who should avoid them. Some of the superfoods are tomatoes, coconut, capsicum (Shimla mirch), drumsticks, amla (Indian gooseberry), jamun (Java plum), turmeric, cinnamon, flax seeds, asafoetida (hing), and sabja (sweet basil seeds).

For More Reading

First published on: 22nd July, 2019
Image credit: WebTechExperts from Pixabay
Last update on: 4th January, 2023


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