Ginger Cuts Chemo-Induced Nausea
Small daily dose may stem common side effect of cancer treatment
(HealthDay News) -- Ginger has made food taste better and people feel better for thousands of years. And researchers now say it can help people with cancer who are battling nausea from chemotherapy.
The finding could improve the quality of life for many people, according to researcher Julie Ryan, an assistant professor of dermatology and radiation oncology at the James P. Wilmot Cancer Center at the University of Rochester in New York, who co-authored a study on the medical benefits of the rhizome.
Most people who undergo chemotherapy suffer from nausea and vomiting. And despite the use of anti-vomiting drugs, experts say, the symptoms still make an estimated seven of 10 people miserable.
Ryan says that the first day of chemotherapy, which is a treatment that kills cancer cells, spurs the most severe nausea and vomiting, but if the nausea can be suppressed during that time, it is less likely to come at all.
The study found that "ginger at a daily dose of 0.5 to 1 gram [1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon of ground ginger] significantly aids in the reduction of chemotherapy-related nausea on the first day of chemotherapy," Ryan told HealthDay.
The researchers, supported by the U.S. National Cancer Institute, had enrolled 644 cancer patients -- mostly women with breast cancer -- who had experienced nausea after chemotherapy and were taking anti-nausea drugs. All of the study participants were facing at least three more rounds of chemo.
The anti-nausea benefit for chemo patients adds to ginger's long medical history.
According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, ginger has been used medicinally in Asian, Indian and Arabic herbal traditions. In China, for instance, ginger has been used to aid digestion and treat stomach upset, diarrhea and nausea for more than 2,000 years.
Ginger, however, is not the only non-drug means of preventing chemotherapy-induced nausea. The U.S. National Cancer Institute also suggests that people try:
Consuming bland and easy-to-digest foods and drinks that do not upset the stomach. These include plain crackers, toast and gelatin.
Eating a light meal or snack before chemotherapy. This helps some people. Others, though, feel better when they have chemotherapy on an empty stomach (nothing to eat or drink for two to three hours before treatment). After treatment, wait at least one hour before eating or drinking.
Eating five or six small meals and snacks a day. Do not drink a lot before or during meals, and don't lie down right after eating.
Staying away from foods and drinks with strong smells. This includes coffee, fish, onions, garlic and foods that are cooking.
Taking small bites of popsicles or fruit ices. Sucking on ice chips sometimes helps, too.
Sucking on sugar-free mints or tart candies. Anyone with mouth or throat sores, though, should not use tart candies.
Relaxing before treatment. Meditate, do deep breathing exercises or imagine scenes or experiences that make you feel peaceful.
On the Web
To learn more about the side effects of chemotherapy, visit the U.S. National Cancer Institute.
SOURCES: Julie Ryan, Ph.D., assistant professor, dermatology and radiation oncology, University of Rochester; University of Maryland Medical Center (www.umm.edu); U.S. National Cancer Institute (www.cancer.gov)
Author: Dennis Thompson
Publication Date: May 31, 2010
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