Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), consisting of ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease, affects an estimated 1.6 million Americans. Its painful symptoms are often hard to treat, and in some cases, the medications can come with just as many side effects as benefits. That’s why it is important for researchers to develop new medications and therapies that provide the most benefit while doing the least amount of harm.
One of the newest potential methods of delivering medication to IBD patients is nanotechnology, which utilizes the functions of a given product at an infinitesimal scale. This makes the product smaller, more readily available, and targeted to the specific cell that it needs to treat. Researchers theorize that this will provide better treatments in IBD, with fewer side effects.
Ginger and its consumption has been studied and shown to be beneficial for digestion, nausea, pain, and inflammation. The Institute for Biomedical Sciences at Georgia State University studied the use of ginger in its nanoparticle form. The study, “Edible ginger-derived nanoparticles: A novel therapeutic approach for the prevention and treatment of inflammatory bowel disease and colitis-associated cancer,” (a mouthful in itself!) used mouse models to see how these ginger nanoparticles would work in the gastrointestinal tract.
Researchers found that ginger nanoparticles given to mice with IBD reduced acute colitis and prevented chronic colitis and colitis-associated cancers. The mechanism in play seems to be that the nanoparticle ginger actually encouraged the survival and proliferation of cells in the lining of the colon, lowered inflammatory proteins and raised inflammation-fighting proteins.
The treatment was also shown to be non-toxic and relatively inexpensive.
Having a new treatment for IBD that works in a targeted way without producing serious side effects or costing an arm and a leg is big news for the IBD community. However, more studies are needed to determine if the effects seen in the mouse models will also work in human IBD patients. In the meantime, it couldn’t hurt to add some ginger into your diet, as long as you can tolerate it. One of the best ways is to simply grate fresh organic ginger into some of your meals. It pairs beautifully with things like chicken, stir fry, and Indian dishes. For more information on using fresh ginger, check out this list of ideas!
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Jennifer has a bachelor's degree in dietetics as well as graduate work in public health and nutrition. She has worked with families dealing with digestive disease, asthma and food allergies for the past 12 years. Jennifer also serves on the Board of Directors for Pediatric Adolescent Gastroesophageal Reflux Association (PAGER).