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Ginger And Breastfeeding: Safety, Benefits And Ways To Include It

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Ginger or ginger root is one of the most commonly consumed condiments known for its intense flavor, fragrance, and medicinal properties. In natural medicine, it is used to treat and manage ailments, such as colds, nausea, constipation, and migraines (1).

Ginger is also used in dietary and herbal supplement tablets, liquid extracts, candies, and teas. Several breastfeeding mothers consider adding it to their diet due to ginger’s purported galactagogue properties.

Read this post to know more about the consumption of ginger while breastfeeding, its possible health benefits, and side effects when breastfeeding.

Is Ginger Safe When Breastfeeding?

According to the US Food And Drug Administration (USFDA), using ginger as a spice is “generally regarded as safe (GRAS)” for breastfeeding mothers (2).

The consumption of ginger as a spice is usually safe. Those with a sensitive digestive system may experience mild gastrointestinal issues, such as abdominal discomfort, heartburn, diarrhea, and gas (3). Breastfeeding mothers with sensitive digestive systems may consider consuming small quantities of ginger only as a spice.

Does Ginger Increase Breast Milk Supply?

The use of ginger as a lactogenic food is prevalent in traditional medicine. However, there is mixed scientific evidence about its lactogenic effects (2)(4). According to research, ginger may work as a galactagogue for some breastfeeding women but may show no effect on others. If you wish to use ginger as a dietary supplement for lactation-related purposes, consult a lactation consultant.

Does Ginger Affect The Flavor Of Breast Milk?

Research studies show that maternal consumption of strongly flavored foods and spices may affect the flavor of breast milk within hours after ingestion (5). The chances of ginger affecting the breast milk’s flavor are likely, although the clinical evidence to support this assumption is sparse.

Different babies have varying degrees of tolerance to changes in breast milk’s flavor. A few infants can be sensitive and may act fussy and refuse to breastfeed. If your infant becomes fussy while breastfeeding, feeds less than usual, or refuses to feed after you consumed ginger, discontinue ginger use and see if the situation improves. If the problem persists, consult a lactation expert or a pediatrician.

Possible Health Benefits Of Ginger For Nursing Mothers

Chemical analysis of ginger shows that it has over 400 different compounds, including terpenes, phenolics, and phytosterols (6), that may provide the following health benefits to a nursing mother in the long run.

  1. Reduce nausea: Some mothers may experience nausea during the first few days after delivery. Research shows that ginger may relieve nausea and vomiting in such cases (1)(7).
  1. Support digestion: Clinical studies show that ginger can reduce intestinal cramping and prevent bloating and flatulence (6). It may also help improve the overall gastrointestinal motility.
  1. Reduce oxidative stress: Ginger contains high amounts of total antioxidants and bio active compounds. These can help reduce oxidative stress and maintain overall health in the long run(8)(9).
  1. Alleviate pain:The anti-inflammatory effects of ginger may help in conditions of chronic pain, such as dysmenorrhea (menstrual cramps)(1)(10). The pain-relieving property of ginger is attributed to its bio active compounds.
  1. Boost immunity: Fresh ginger has shown effectiveness against the human respiratory syncytial virus (HRSV), which causes respiratory issues, such as the common cold (11). Other studies indicate ginger’s antioxidant, antimicrobial, anti-fungal, and antiviral properties (8)(12) that may boost immunity in the long run.
  1. Alleviate allergy symptoms: The use of ginger in treating and managing allergies is prevalent in traditional medicine. Research studies note that ginger may help manage the symptoms of some forms of allergy, such as allergic rhinitis (13).

Ginger is also considered to have hepato protective, cardio protective, and anticancer effects (1)(14). However, many of these effects are still under research and need significant clinical validation.

Possible Side Effects Of Ginger When Breastfeeding

The consumption of small doses of fresh or dried ginger seldom causes any side effects.  However, in some cases, ginger may cause the following side effects.

  1. Drug interaction: Ginger may interact and interfere with the effects of a few drugs, like those for blood thinning and diabetes (15)(16).If you are on any medication, consult a doctor before adding ginger to your diet.
  1. Gallstone: Some experts believe that ginger may increase the flow of bile(3). Those with gallstone disease or gall bladder complications should consult a doctor before consuming ginger.
  1. Allergic reactions: In rare cases, ginger may trigger an allergic reaction in genetically predisposed individuals (17). If you have a family history of Zingiberaceae allergy (turmeric, cardamom, and alligator pepper), consult a doctor before adding ginger to your diet, especially if you never had ginger before.

Consuming ginger in small doses as a spice may not lead to side effects. However, if you have it in the form of ginger supplements or medicinal herbs, you might end up taking it in higher amounts, leading to some problems.Do not take ginger supplements while breast feeding without consulting a doctor.

How To Consume Ginger When Breastfeeding?

Here are some of the common ways to consume ginger while breastfeeding.

  1. Ginger root: You can use fresh and dried ginger root as a condiment in dishes and drinks. Add grated, minced, or chopped ginger root to curries, soups, salad dressings, puddings, and beverages, like lemonade and vegetable juice.
  1. Ginger ale:The refreshing caffeine-free beverage can be made at home with ginger and added sweeteners, like brown sugar or honey. You may also use ginger ale ready-mix available over-the-counter. Check the ingredients if you pick ready-mix or ready-to-drink versions since some of them have artificial ginger flavoring or may contain alcohol.
  1. Ginger tea: Ginger tea is made from fresh or dried ginger and can relax the body. You can prepare this tea at home with fresh ingredients. If you are buying packaged herbal ginger tea, check the ingredients thoroughly.

How To Make Ginger Tea?

Here are simple steps to make warm and soothing ginger tea at home.

  • Boil water in a teapot on medium flame.
  • Cut a few slices of ginger and add them to the boiling water.
  • Remove the teapot from the stove and keep it aside for five minutes.
  • After five minutes, remove ginger slices, pour it into the cup, and the tea is ready.
  • You could also add a few drops of fresh lemon juice to add a citrus flavor to the tea.

Ginger is a useful condiment that can be added to a variety of foods and beverages. You can add fresh and dried ginger to curries, soups, salad dressings, or beverages, like tea, as a flavoring agent. Its intake in moderation as a part of a healthy diet could benefit breastfeeding mothers over time.

References:

1. Chapter 7 The Amazing and Mighty Ginger; Herbal Medicine: Bio molecular and Clinical Aspects. 2nd edition.; NCBI
2. Ginger; Drugs and Lactation Database; NCBI
3. Ginger; NCCIH; US Department of Health And Human Services
4. PanwaraParitakul et al.; The Effect of Ginger on Breast Milk Volume in the Early Postpartum Period: A Randomized, Double-Blind Controlled Trial; NCBI
5. Joanne M Spahn et al.; Influence of maternal diet on flavor transfer to amniotic fluid and breast milk and children’s responses: a systematic review; NCBI
6. MehrnazNikkhahBodagh et al.; Ginger in gastrointestinal disorders: A systematic review of clinical trials;NCBI
7. Neeru Bhatt et al.; Ginger: A functional herb; Research gate
8. Qian-Qian Mao et al.; Bioactive Compounds and Bioactivities of Ginger (Zingiberofficinale Roscoe); NCBI
9. Tessa Therkleson; Topical Ginger Treatment With a Compress or Patch for Osteoarthritis Symptoms; NCBI
10. ParvinRahnama et al.; Effect of Zingiberofficinale R. rhizomes (ginger) on pain relief in primary dysmenorrhea: a placebo randomized trial; NCBI
11. An Inside Scoop on the Science Behind Chicken Soup and the Common Cold; UCLA
12. PonmuruganKaruppiah and ShyamkumarRajaram; Antibacterial effect of Allium sativum cloves and Zingiberofficinale rhizomes against multiple-drug resistant clinical pathogens; NCBI
13. Yoshiyuki Kawamoto et al.; Prevention of allergic rhinitis by ginger and the molecular basis of immunosuppression by 6-gingerol through T cell inactivation; NCBI
14. Ginger – A potent root; Pennington Biomedical Research Center
15. Julie L. Ryan and Gary R. Morrow; Ginger; NCBI
16. Can everyday spices make you healthier?; Harvard Health Publishing
17. Allergy to ginger with cysteine proteinase GP-I as the relevant allergen; Annals of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology

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