Many patients report that ginger helps them with upset stomachs due to its calming effects, but some researchers suggest that it may also help stabilize your blood sugar.
In fact, they claim that adding ginger to your diet may also help reduce your A1C, which is a measure of your average blood sugar levels over two or three months.
I think this is remarkable, but as always, I dug deeper into various research projects and found both benefits and risks of ginger for Type 2 Diabetes.
Ginger is a popular herb with an intense, spicy flavor and nice warm smell. Besides adding a “kick” to your meals, it has a history of being used for medicinal purposes dating back many centuries in many cultures around the world.
But can it help you have better control of your Diabetes? Let’s take a look at the Benefits and Risks of Ginger for Type 2 Diabetes
➡ Ginger is a natural antioxidant and anti-inflammatory substance
➡ It has shown potential health benefits for certain conditions, including some types of cancer, according to a study published in the International Journal of Preventive Medicine.
➡ We also know, as mentioned earlier, that ginger is commonly used to help relieve nausea, vomiting, or an upset stomach.
➡ There is some evidence it may reduce menstrual pain morning sickness in pregnant women, and even arthritis pain in joints according to Rahaf Al Bochi, RD, a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
The benefits and risks of ginger for Type 2 Diabetes, however, remains unclear, as the research is in its early stages. But so far, the results suggest promise for including the herb in a Diabetes treatment plan.
A review published in March 2015 in the Journal of Ethnic Foods suggested that taking ginger supplements may help reduce A1C levels and fasting blood glucose levels in people with Type 2 diabetes.
Sounds great, right? But not so fast: Ms. Bochi notes the review was not flawless. She states:
“All of the sample groups were really small, they were done over a few weeks of time, and they were all homogenous — based out of one or two countries.”
As a result, the studies analyzed did not provide enough information for health experts to conclusively recommend ginger as an effective treatment for Type 2 Diabetes.
And yet, other research seems to support the possible benefit of ginger in a Diabetes diet.
One study published in June 2015 in the Journal of Complementary and Integrative Medicine, suggested that, compared with the placebo group, ginger powder helped improve glycemic control in Iranian adults with Type 2 Diabetes who were not on insulin, after supplementing their diets for three months.
Although this study was short, lasting only three months, it was double-blind, (an experimental procedure in which neither the subjects nor the experimenters know which subjects are in the test, and controlled (a group of subjects that do not get the treatment being studied in the study.
➡ The experimental group does get the treatment, and then the two groups are compared to see if the treatment had an effect), which suggests a potential link between ginger and blood sugar control.
Yet another review published in November 2012 in the journal Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine shed some light on the potential blood-sugar-controlling mechanism of ginger.
➡ After analyzing lab and clinical studies, the authors concluded that ginger restricts enzymes that affect how carbs are metabolized as well as insulin sensitivity as a whole, thereby leading to greater glucose absorption in the muscles (where it’s needed).
➡ Researchers added in their review that ginger also has the potential to help reduce the risk for diabetes complications due to its lipid (fat)-lowering effects.
Possible Health Risks of Including Ginger in Your Diabetes Diet
➡ While whole ginger and ginger powder appears to be safe, Al Boshi recommends that anyone with the condition speak to their physician or endocrinologist before adding ginger supplements to their diet. That is especially true for people who are taking diabetes medication.
She says: “We know that ginger can affect your insulin levels … so it can interact with certain diabetes medications. If you’re taking ginger supplements and you’re also on diabetes medication, it can cause low blood sugar or hypoglycemia.”
➡ The risk of drug interactions increases for people with Type 2 Diabetes who are also taking medication for other conditions. Not only does ginger have potential drug interactions with diabetes medication, it also has interactions with anticoagulant drugs and medication for blood pressure.
How to Incorporate Ginger in Your Diabetes Meal Plan
But the inconclusive research on ginger doesn’t mean you have to avoid the herb completely if you’re managing Type 2 Diabetes — with your healthcare provider’s okay, of course.
After all, the spice is still a healthy way to add a boost of flavor to many dishes and beverages — and it’s certainly a better option than additives like salt, which can increase the risk for high blood pressure when used in excess.
People with diabetes are twice as likely to die of heart disease than someone without the condition. High blood pressure, or hypertension, is a risk factor for heart disease.
So, how can you enjoy ginger in your diabetes diet?
First, keep in mind that you want to stick to the spice itself.
➡ That means processed drinks, like ginger ale and ginger beer, which contain loads of added sugar, are off limits. These options have the opposite of the desired effect, potentially sending blood sugar levels soaring.
➡ Al Boshi suggests enjoying ginger whole in your favorite type of tea, as well as in marinades and stir-fries.
Note: Ginger powder doesn’t carry the same possible health risks as ginger supplements, which are more concentrated.
While future studies may very well lead to more conclusive findings regarding the relationship between Type 2 Diabetes and ginger, for now, I’d recommend that people with Type 2 Diabetes keep the ginger in the kitchen versus their medicine cabinet.
As with any supplement to your diet, if you’re considering using ginger supplements talk to your physician or endocrinologist first. It’s best to avoid a situation where you could end up with low blood sugar — that could affect your health. However, if you’re using it in your everyday cooking, there’s no problem.