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Ginger reduces serious vomiting in gastroenteritis and 'could save lives', finds clinical trial

Root could help prevent dehydration from acute gastroenteritis, which causes 1.34 million child deaths every year

Alex Matthews-King
Health Correspondent
Thursday 10 May 2018 23:38 BST
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What is acute gastroenteritis and how it effects children

Ginger could help save lives after scientists found it works as a powerful treatment against vomiting bugs that are a cause of dehydration and death in the developing world.

The findings of a clinical trial into the root and store cupboard stalwart’s antiemetic effects in children with serious gastroenteritis found ginger could lower both the severity and frequency of vomiting.

The researchers found that children between one and 10 years old with serious gastroenteritis cut their number of vomiting episodes by 20 per cent, when compared with a placebo supplement.

Among those in school, they found the number of children having sick days off was 28 per cent lower in the group receiving ginger.

Dr Roberto Berni Canani, associate professor of paediatrics from the University of Napoli, Italy who led the research said the findings could “potentially save lives” across the globe, as well as lower the pressure on health systems.

Gastroenteritis is an inflammation of the stomach and intestines caused by highly infectious bacteria, including salmonella and rotavirus in food and water; viruses, such as the norovirus vomiting bug; or parasite species.

Vomiting and diarrhoea make it impossible for patients to absorb or keep down food, drink or oral medication to treat their infection.

This can be serious in already vulnerable patients, such as young children or frail older people.

Globally, acute gastroenteritis kills 1.34 million children each year, which equates to approximately 15 per cent of all childhood deaths.

“Acute gastroenteritis is still one of the biggest causes of death in children living in developing countries,” Dr Berni Canani told The Independent, and dehydration is its “most frequent and dangerous complication”.

While dehydration can be managed with rehydration drinks, vomiting limits the use of this strategy. “Ginger could be very helpful in this,” Dr Berni Canani added.

“We anticipate that the results will have a great impact on future clinical practice and the advice given to parents in the treatment of acute gastroenteritis and could potentially save lives across Europe and the globe.”

In Europe, mortality rates are low, but it causes 87,000 hospital admissions a year and 700,000 outpatient visits – norovirus in the UK also adds to the NHS bed shortages because affected wards have to be closed for cleaning.

Ginger is known to have anti-inflammatory properties and it may be this that is producing the antiemetic effect.

Dr Berni Canani said his team’s next steps would be to look at whether ginger can be effective in children without acute gastroenteritis, where home remedies treatment could also lower the need for a GP visit.

The findings are being presented at the annual meeting of the European Society of Paediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition (ESPGHAN) and have yet to be published in a peer-reviewed journal.

The clinical trial included 140 children from Naples and was run “double blind”, with neither patients nor doctors aware of whether the children were receiving ginger or a placebo.

They were given the ginger extract in drops, though there was no taste difference, but Dr Berni Canani told The Independent: “Fresh root or dried ginger could contain the same active ingredients [and] can be used to flavour foods and drinks.”

Previous studies in pregnant women with morning sickness or patients undergoing chemotherapy have also found evidence of ginger’s ability to reduce vomiting.

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