In the last five years, Gwynne Berry, 39, of Waterbury, Vt., has avoided serious bouts of constipation by sipping a soothing home brew. When irregularity looms, she puts a few slices of peeled fresh ginger into a mug of hot water, steeps it for five minutes, and adds honey. “It tastes great and works like a charm,” Berry says. She sees results in about three hours, sans the diarrhea many conventional laxatives cause.
For centuries, ginger has been the go-to root for a wide range of GI distresses. Researchers believe its compounds stimulate digestive secretions, improve intestinal muscle tone, and help move food through the gastrointestinal tract.
Its also safe to take ginger in small doses (less than 1,000 milligrams) for a short period of time during pregnancy, says Joyce Frye, a doctor of osteopathy and clinical assistant professor at the Center for Integrative Medicine at the University of Maryland School of Medicine in Baltimore. Berry used it during both her pregnancies and had little morning sickness.
Make ginger work for you: Fresh ginger—sipped in tea or eaten straight-up—is best, says Sari Greaves, RD, of New York Presbyterian Hospital–Weill Cornell Medical Center in New York City. But ginger in other forms (dried, powdered, cooked) can be effective too. A tea to try: Yogi Lemon Ginger Tea and Traditional Medicinals Organic Ginger Aid ($4 to $5; grocery stores). Ginger ale? Most brands have little or no real ginger and lots of high-fructose corn syrup.