Turmeric and Ginger: 5 Benefits for Gut Health

Kelsey Moore, BSc. RD

Written by: Kelsey Moore, BSc. RD

Updated: May 22nd, 2024

Turmeric and ginger are known for their supposed wide-spread health benefits from treating cancers to reducing symptoms of ulcerative colitis. But is the hype worth the squeeze or are these old wives tales that need to lay to rest once and for all?

Keep reading to learn more!

What are Turmeric and Ginger?

Turmeric and ginger are spices from the same family of tropical flowering plants. They are typically grown in tropical southwestern areas of Asia. Since they are from the same family, they also share relatively similar health properties. 

The active ingredient of turmeric is known as curcumin, and gingerol is the active ingredient in ginger. These active components are what give turmeric and ginger their beneficial health properties and are often the forms found in turmeric and ginger supplements.

Turmeric

Absorption 

Curcumin is poorly absorbed on its own. Thus, it’s best to pair with a fat source or piperine, the active ingredient in black pepper, to increase absorption. In fact, pairing curcumin with piperine may improve its absorption by up to 2000% (1).

Dosing 

The recommended dose for curcumin varies widely from 300 mg to 4000 mg, depending on the specific condition you aim to treat. Typically, 1-7g of curcumin is extracted from 100g of turmeric root (2,3).

turmeric and ginger

Turmeric Supplements vs. Food Sources

If you are looking to use curcumin for a specific therapeutic effect, the concentrated form found in supplements is more well-researched. Further, when consuming whole turmeric, some benefits may be lost due to heat when cooking

However, healthcare professionals often recommend a food-first approach when tackling various digestive health concerns, as there are many other benefits to consuming food in its whole form like the addition of extra fibre for gut health support.

Please note that there are instances where your primary healthcare provider will and should recommend medical treatments as the first line of treatment when treating digestive health concerns. We always recommend following the advice of your healthcare provider.

Ginger

Ginger Absorption 

When it comes to ginger absorption, more research is needed. However, for any potential therapeutic benefits following standard dosing is recommended.

Ginger Dosing 

Typically, 1-3 grams of ginger is recommended to reap possible health benefits. The following dosing equivalents are other ways of consuming similar amounts of ginger (4).

Dosing Equivalents 

Ginger Supplements vs. Food Sources 

There are similar benefits to consuming whole ginger versus supplements when taken in the proper dose.

Traditional Significance Turmeric and Ginger 

Both turmeric and ginger play an important role culturally in many cuisines from countries such as:

Specifically, turmeric and ginger have been used traditionally for centuries in China and India for their medicinal properties and continue to be used to help treat several illnesses (5). 

Always check with your healthcare provider if you are looking to use turmeric and ginger to help treat an illness, particularly when using supplements, as there may be interactions with other medications you need to be aware of.

Medication Interactions with Turmeric and Ginger?

Typically, when consuming their whole forms and moderate portions, turmeric and ginger have a minimal risk of medication interactions.

However, supplements pack a much more concentrated source of the active ingredients curcumin and gingerol and thus have a higher risk of potential medication interactions.

Here are some possible medication interactions to be aware of when consuming turmeric and ginger supplements (i.e. curcumin and gingerol).

Always speak to your pharmacist about any potential medication interactions.

What are the Health Benefits of Turmeric and Ginger for Gut Health?

While curcumin and gingerol may be used synergistically to help support a variety of gut health needs, they have been more well-researched when taken separately.

Reduce Inflammation 

Current research indicates that curcumin has shown some improvements in inflammatory diseases. As it pertains to digestive health, some promising research is being conducted on using curcumin to help treat ulcerative colitis and Chron’s disease.

For example, one pilot study indicated curcumin may help alleviate Chron’s and ulcerative colitis symptoms. However, the sample size was small and thus, more research is needed to investigate these findings further (6). 

Regarding gingerol and inflammation, research is limited but there may be a small reduction in pain symptoms in patients with osteoarthritis. However, using gingerol to treat inflammation is considered less effective than ibuprofen in treating pain (7).

Decrease Nausea

Research on using ginger to help treat nausea is overwhelmingly positive and indicates ginger can play a role in helping to reduce nausea symptoms in certain cases.

Specifically, a dose of 1-3g is recommended as a prevention treatment for nausea in those with motion sickness or those experiencing morning sickness in pregnancy (8). There may also be some improvement in nausea symptoms for chemotherapy-induced nausea, but the research is less robust (9). 

Ginger candy for nausea can be a great way to consume due to its simple delivery method. If you are prone to motion sickness, try keeping some ginger candy for nausea in your vehicle and use them at the beginning of your trip.

On the other hand, curcumin in high doses has been reported to potentially increase nausea symptoms, particularly in cancer patients (10). Research in this area is dated; however, until further research is done, it is not recommended to use curcumin to help reduce nausea.

Decrease Risk of Certain Types of Cancer

Curcumin supplementation may help reduce the risk of developing colorectal cancer in higher-risk individuals. Further, curcumin may also improve the general health of individuals living with colon cancer (11, 12). 

One study found that a daily curcumin supplement of 1440 mg in those with prostate cancer appeared to help lower PSA (Prostate Specific Antigen) levels; however more research needs to be done to confirm these preliminary findings (13).

Regarding ginger, one study found that 2 g of daily ginger root may decrease eicosanoids, inflammatory markers associated with cancer, found in the colon (14).

Overall, the research on turmeric and ginger for cancer prevention or treatment is very limited, and they are not recommended to replace pharmacological cancer treatment methods. Further, consuming adequate amounts of fruits and vegetables (aim for half your plate) and reducing red meat consumption has a much greater overall effect on cancer prevention.

Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD)

There is some promising research exploring curcumin supplementation in NAFLD patients. Specifically, some research has indicated a small reduction in liver enzymes of overweight and obese patients in those with elevated liver enzymes (15, 16).

Thus, depending on your healthcare provider’s recommendations, a daily curcumin supplement may be used as an additional treatment option for some NAFLD patients. However, switching to a whole foods plant-dominant diet is the best diet-related intervention when treating NAFLD.

Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD)

Some older research demonstrated that ginger appeared to stimulate physical digestion in patients with functional dyspepsia, but there was no impact on gastrointestinal symptoms (17). 

Moreover, only a single dose of ginger was provided over 90 mins of gastric emptying which is likely not adequate to treat GERD. However, there were no negative impacts so trialling ginger for GERD at least does not appear harmful. 

How to Use Turmeric and Ginger

Now that we’ve discussed some of the health benefits of turmeric and ginger, let’s explore how to include them in your diet.

Turmeric and ginger are often used to add colour and flavour to dishes. They pair well with other ingredients like:

They can also work well in sweet or savoury dishes and drinks. Here are some turmeric and ginger recipe ideas:

Need some specific ideas? Check our Yummy’s top turmeric and ginger recipes!

Final Thoughts 

While regular turmeric and ginger consumption, or their extracts curcumin and gingerol, won’t be curing any diseases. They can both be useful tools in treating certain digestive diseases when used appropriately.

For general gut health support, we recommend including turmeric and ginger from food sources regularly in your diet. However, if you are looking for a more targeted approach to help support a specific digestive concern, work with your healthcare provider to see if a turmeric or ginger supplement is best for your specific needs.

References

  1. G, S., D, J., T, J., M, M., R, R., & Ps, S. (1998, May 1). Influence of Piperine on the Pharmacokinetics of Curcumin in Animals and Human Volunteers. Planta Medica. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/9619120/
  2. Tabrizi, R., Vakili, S., Akbari, M., Mirhosseini, N., Lankarani, K. B., Rahimi, M., Mobini, M., Jafarnejad, S., Vahedpoor, Z., & Asemi, Z. (2019). The effects of curcumin-containing supplements on biomarkers of inflammation and oxidative stress: A systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Phytotherapy Research: PTR, 33(2), 253–262. https://doi.org/10.1002/ptr.6226
  3. El-Saadony, M. T., Yang, T., Korma, S. A., Sitohy, M., Abd El-Mageed, T. A., Selim, S., Al Jaouni, S. K., Salem, H. M., Mahmmod, Y., Soliman, S. M., Mo’men, S. A. A., Mosa, W. F. A., El-Wafai, N. A., Abou-Aly, H. E., Sitohy, B., Abd El-Hack, M. E., El-Tarabily, K. A., & Saad, A. M. (2023). Impacts of turmeric and its principal bioactive curcumin on human health: Pharmaceutical, medicinal, and food applications: A comprehensive review. Frontiers in Nutrition, 9. https://doi.org/10.3389/fnut.2022.1040259
  4. Bryer, E. (2005). A Literature Review of the Effectiveness of Ginger in Alleviating Mild-to-Moderate Nausea and Vomiting of Pregnancy. Journal of Midwifery & Women’s Health, 50(1), e1–e3. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jmwh.2004.08.023
  5. Kocaadam, B., & Şanlier, N. (2017). Curcumin, an active component of turmeric (Curcuma longa), and its effects on health. Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition, 57(13), 2889–2895. https://doi.org/10.1080/10408398.2015.1077195
  6. Holt, P. R., Katz, S., & Kirshoff, R. (2005). Curcumin therapy in inflammatory bowel disease: a pilot study. Digestive Diseases and Sciences, 50(11), 2191–2193. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10620-005-3032-8
  7. Bliddal, H., Rosetzsky, A., Schlichting, P., Weidner, M. S., Andersen, L. A., Ibfelt, H.-H., Christensen, K., Jensen, O. N., & Barslev, J. (2000). A randomized, placebo-controlled, cross-over study of ginger extracts and Ibuprofen in osteoarthritis. Osteoarthritis and Cartilage, 8(1), 9–12. https://doi.org/10.1053/joca.1999.0264
  8. Ernst, E., & Pittler, M. H. (2000). Efficacy of ginger for nausea and vomiting: a systematic review of randomized clinical trials. British Journal of Anaesthesia, 84(3), 367–371. https://doi.org/10.1093/oxfordjournals.bja.a013442
  9. Pillai, A. K., Sharma, K. K., Gupta, Y. K., & Bakhshi, S. (2010). Anti-emetic effect of ginger powder versus placebo as an add-on therapy in children and young adults receiving high emetogenic chemotherapy. Pediatric Blood & Cancer, 56(2), 234–238. https://doi.org/10.1002/pbc.22778
  10. Sharma, R. A. (2004). Phase I Clinical Trial of Oral Curcumin: Biomarkers of Systemic Activity and Compliance. Clinical Cancer Research, 10(20), 6847–6854. https://doi.org/10.1158/1078-0432.ccr-04-0744
  11. He, Z.-Y., Shi, C.-B., Wen, H., Li, F.-L., Wang, B.-L., & Wang, J. (2011). Upregulation of p53 expression in patients with colorectal cancer by administration of curcumin. Cancer Investigation, 29(3), 208–213. https://doi.org/10.3109/07357907.2010.550592
  12. Carroll, R. E., Benya, R. V., Turgeon, D. K., Vareed, S., Neuman, M., Rodriguez, L., Kakarala, M., Carpenter, P. M., McLaren, C., Meyskens, F. L., & Brenner, D. E. (2011). Phase IIa Clinical Trial of Curcumin for the Prevention of Colorectal Neoplasia. Cancer Prevention Research, 4(3), 354–364. https://doi.org/10.1158/1940-6207.capr-10-0098
  13. Choi, Y. H., Han, D. H., Kim, S., Kim, M., Sung, H. H., Jeon, H. G., Jeong, B. C., Seo, S. I., Jeon, S. S., Lee, H. M., & Choi, H. Y. (2019). A randomized, double‐blind, placebo‐controlled trial to evaluate the role of curcumin in prostate cancer patients with intermittent androgen deprivation. The Prostate, 79(6), 614–621. https://doi.org/10.1002/pros.23766
  14. Zick, S. M., Turgeon, D. K., Vareed, S. K., Ruffin, M. T., Litzinger, A. J., Wright, B. D., Alrawi, S., Normolle, D. P., Djuric, Z., & Brenner, D. E. (2011). Phase II study of the effects of ginger root extract on eicosanoids in colon mucosa in people at normal risk for colorectal cancer. Cancer Prevention Research (Philadelphia, Pa.), 4(11), 1929–1937. https://doi.org/10.1158/1940-6207.CAPR-11-0224
  15. Jazayeri-Tehrani, S. A., Rezayat, S. M., Mansouri, S., Qorbani, M., Alavian, S. M., Daneshi-Maskooni, M., & Hosseinzadeh-Attar, M.-J. (2019). Nano-curcumin improves glucose indices, lipids, inflammation, and Nesfatin in overweight and obese patients with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD): a double-blind randomized placebo-controlled clinical trial. Nutrition & Metabolism, 16(1). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12986-019-0331-1
  16. Saeede Saadati, Hatami, B., Zahra Yari, Mohammad Amin Shahrbaf, Sareh Eghtesad, Mansour, A., Hossein Poustchi, Hedayati, M., Morteza Aghajanpoor-pasha, Sadeghi, A., & Azita Hekmatdoost. (2019). The effects of curcumin supplementation on liver enzymes, lipid profile, glucose homeostasis, and hepatic steatosis and fibrosis in patients with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 73(3), 441–449. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41430-018-0382-9
  17. Hu, M.-L., Rayner, C. K., Wu, K.-L., Chuah, S.-K., Tai, W.-C., Chou, Y.-P., Chiu, Y.-C., Chiu, K.-W., & Hu, T.-H. (2011). Effect of ginger on gastric motility and symptoms of functional dyspepsia. World Journal of Gastroenterology, 17(1), 105–110. https://doi.org/10.3748/wjg.v17.i1.105

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