A highly effective, cheap, easy-to-use, safer treatment for heavy periods

Ginger is most famous for its role in preventing and alleviating nausea and vomiting. There are now so many studies that there are reviews of reviews. Just a half teaspoon of powdered ginger “is associated with a 5-fold likelihood of improvement” in morning sickness in early pregnancy. (See my video Natural Treatments for Morning Sickness for more on this.) Ginger has also been shown to help with motion sickness, improve postoperative nausea and vomiting, prevent antiretroviral-induced nausea and vomiting during HIV treatment, and was said to be a “miracle” against chemotherapy-induced vomiting.

In a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial of ginger for breast cancer chemotherapy, chemo-induced vomiting was relieved in all phases—the acute phase within 24 hours of the chemo, two to three days after, and even before chemo sessions with what’s known as anticipatory vomiting. (After a few chemo treatments, the body knows what’s coming and starts throwing up at just the thought of the next session.) Anticipatory nausea can’t seem to be controlled by drugs, even the fancy new ones that can cost 10,000 times more than ginger, which comes in at about two pennies per dose and may work even better in some ways.

Ginger can also help with pain. One-eighth of a teaspoon of powdered ginger, which costs just one penny, was found to work as well as the migraine headache drug Imitrex, without the side effects. (See my video Ginger for Migraines for more.)

Speaking of pain, my video Ginger for Nausea, Menstrual Cramps, and Irritable Bowel Syndrome discusses that it may also be as effective as ibuprofen for alleviating menstrual cramps. Painful periods are exceedingly common and can sometimes cause severe suffering yet have been “virtually ignored” by pain management researchers and practitioners. Four randomized controlled trials, however, have been published on ginger for menstrual pain, and all four showed significant benefit when ginger was taken during the first few days of periods. Effective doses ranged from about a third of a teaspoon a day to a full teaspoon a day, but because they all seemed to work, one might as well start out with the penny-a-day dose.

As a side benefit, ginger can dramatically reduce heavy flow, which is one of the most common gynecological problems for young women. We know there are pro-inflammatory foods that may contribute to heavy menstrual bleeding, so how about trying an anti-inflammatory food like ginger? Heavy menstrual bleeding is defined as more than a third of a cup (80 milliliters), but all the study subjects started out much higher than that. Just an eighth teaspoon of powdered ginger three times a day starting the day before their period cut their flow in half, and it seemed to work better each month they tried it, providing a highly effective, cheap, easy-to-use, safer treatment for menstrual blood loss and pain.

So, ginger works for migraines and menstrual cramps, but just because it may be effective for many types of pain doesn’t mean it’s necessarily efficacious for all pain. For example, what about intestinal cramps? Is ginger effective for the treatment of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)? The answer is yes, dropping IBS severity by more than 25 percent. But, so did the placebo. So, the real answer is no—it is not effective for the treatment of IBS, yet “[g]inger is one of the most commonly used herbal medicines for irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).” Silly people, don’t they know it doesn’t work any better than a sugar pill? Or, from another perspective, are they smart for using something that offers relief 53 percent of the time and doesn’t risk the adverse effects of some of the drugs with which doctors may harm one person for every three they help?


If placebos are so safe and effective, should doctors prescribe them? I discuss the pros and cons in The Lie That Heals: Should Doctors Give Placebos?.

What does work for IBS? See my videos:

What else can women do to make their periods more tolerable? See:

For more on ginger, check out:

In health,
Michael Greger, M.D.

PS: If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to my free videos here and watch my live, year-in-review presentations:

Best Diet for Diabetic Neuropathy

Neuropathy, or damage to the nerves, is a debilitating disorder, and diabetes is by far the most common cause. Up to 50 percent of people with diabetes will eventually develop neuropathy during the course of their disease. It can be “very painful, and the pain is frequently resistant to conventional treatments.” In fact, currently, there is no effective treatment for diabetic neuropathy. Clinicians rely on steroids, opiates, and antidepressants to try to mediate the suffering.

But, as I discuss in my video Curing Painful Diabetic Neuropathy, a remarkable study was published 20 years ago on the regression of diabetic neuropathy with a plant-based diet. There are two types of diabetic neuropathy: a “relatively painless type characterized by numbness, tingling and pins-and-needles sensations” and a second form, which “is painful with burning or aching sensations to the point of excruciating, lancinating [or stabbing] pain.” This study concentrated on the painful type of diabetic neuropathy.

Twenty-one diabetics suffering with moderate or worse symptomatic painful neuropathy for up to ten years were placed on a whole food, plant-based diet along with a half-hour walk every day. Years and years of suffering and then complete relief of the pain in 17 out of the 21 patients within days.

Years and years of suffering and then complete relief of the pain in 17 out of the 21 patients within days.

Numbness noticeably improved, too, and the side effects were all good. They lost ten pounds, blood sugars got better, and insulin needs dropped in half. And, in five of the patients, not only was their painful neuropathy apparently cured, so was their diabetes. Their blood sugars were normal, and they were off all medications. Their triglycerides and cholesterol also improved, as did high blood pressure. In fact, it was gone in about half the hypertensives—an 80 percent drop overall in need for high blood pressure medications within three weeks.

Now, this was a live-in program, where patients’ meals were provided. What happened after they were sent home? The 17 folks were followed for years, and the relief from the painful neuropathy continued or improved even further for all except one person. How did they get that kind of compliance? According to the researchers, “Pain and ill health are strong motivating factors.”

Diabetic neuropathy is one of the most painful and frustrating conditions to treat in all of medicine, and 75 percent of patients were cured within days with a natural, nontoxic, and, in fact, beneficial treatment: a diet composed of whole, plant foods.

How could nerve damage be reversed so suddenly? It wasn’t necessarily the improvement in blood sugar control, since it took about ten days for the diet to control the diabetes, whereas the pain was gone in as few as four days. “There are several mechanisms by which the [‘total vegetarian diet’]…works to alleviate the problem of diabetic neuropathy as well as the diabetic condition itself.” The researchers’ most interesting speculation was that it could be the trans fats naturally found in meat, dairy, and refined vegetable oils that could be causing an inflammatory response. They found a significant percentage of the fat found under the skin of those who ate meat or dairy consisted of trans fats, whereas those on a strictly whole food, plant-based diet had none.

The researchers stuck needles in the buttocks of people eating different diets and found that nine months or more on a strict plant-based diet appeared to remove the trans fat from their bodies (or at least their butts). Their pain, however, didn’t take nine months to get better—it got better in days.

More likely, it was due to an improvement in blood flow. “[N]erve biopsies in diabetics with severe progressive neuropathy…have shown small vessel disease within the nerve.” There are blood vessels within our nerves that can get clogged up too. The oxygen levels in the nerves of diabetics were found to be lower than even the levels of de-oxygenated blood. This lack of oxygen within the nerves may arise from blockages within the blood vessels depriving the nerves of oxygen, presumably leading them to cry out in pain.

Within days, though, improvements in blood “rheology,” or the ease of blood flow, on a plant-based diet may play a prominent role in the reversal of diabetic neuropathy. Plant-based diets may also lower the level of IGF-1 inside the eyeballs of diabetics and decrease the risk of retinopathy (diabetic vision loss) as well. But, “the most efficient way to avoid diabetic complications is to eliminate the diabetes, and this is often feasible for those type 2 patients who make an abiding commitment to daily exercise and low-fat, whole-food vegan diet.” 

Why didn’t we learn about this in medical school? The “neglect of this important work by the broader medical community is little short of unconscionable.”


What about reversing diabetic vision loss? See my video Can Diabetic Retinopathy Be Reversed?.

Did you think trans fats were only in partially hydrogenated junk food? See Trans Fat in Meat and Dairy. Ideally, we’d reduce our intake as low as possible, which I discuss in Trans Fat, Saturated Fat, and Cholesterol: Tolerable Upper Intake of Zero.

The best way to prevent diabetic complications is to prevent the diabetes in the first place:

And then to reverse it:

In health,
Michael Greger, M.D.

PS: If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to my free videos here and watch my live, year-in-review presentations:

How to Treat Infant Colic

Colic, characterized by prolonged periods of inconsolable crying, affects up to 40 percent of young infants. The condition is often dismissed as trivial by the medical profession, but should be treated seriously, as I discuss in my video, Treating Infant Colic by Changing Mom’s Diet. It can contribute to postpartum depression, interfere with breastfeeding, and even lead to the death of the infant at the hands of a parent from shaken baby syndrome.

They’re not just crybabies. Colic is pain.

The medical profession has a scandalous history, not just denying pain relief to infants, but routinely performing surgery on infants with minimal or no anesthesia into the 1980s. One famous case in 1985 was little Jeffrey Lawson, who underwent open heart surgery fully awake and conscious. He had been given a drug to paralyze him so he wouldn’t squirm, but, like in a horror movie, the baby couldn’t move yet could feel everything. This wasn’t some rogue surgeon. Torturing babies was standard operating procedure in the 80s. Not the 1880s, mind you, but the 1980s.

“The liaison between the [American Academy of Pediatrics] AAP and the Society of Anesthesiologists commented that the use of paralyzing agents was a standard and time-honored technique…” The profession has a history of infant pain denial. They didn’t even think babies could feel pain. Even today, most physicians don’t use painkillers or even local anesthesia for circumcisions, a procedure so traumatic the babies show stronger pain responses to vaccinations even months later.

The pain of colic is thought to be caused by gastrointestinal discomfort, like intestinal cramping. In my Peppermint Oil for Irritable Bowel Syndrome and What to Take Before a Colonoscopy videos, I explored the role of peppermint oil in reducing intestinal spasms. Might it help with colic? A few drops of a peppermint leaf solution appeared to cut in half the number of colicky episodes and reduced daily crying from three hours to two hours, working just as well as simethicone, a leading over-the-counter drug for colic. The problem is that simethicone has been shown to have no benefit for colic. So, saying peppermint is as good as something shown to be useless isn’t exactly a ringing endorsement. And the American Academy of Pediatrics warns about the use of peppermint oil in infants.

One study found an herbal tea preparation to be helpful, but parents have been cautioned not to use it. Not only might tea interfere with breastfeeding continuity, but there is a lack of adequate industry regulation. For example, star anise tea is commonly used for colic. Chinese star anise is regarded as safe and nontoxic, but Japanese star anise is poisonous. They look identical, but Japanese star anise contains a potent neurotoxin, and it has been found contaminating star anise tea in the United States. So, we shouldn’t give it to kids.

There is even a report of toxicity from a supposed homeopathic dose of belladonna, also known as deadly nightshade, that evidently wasn’t homeopathic enough. Another report found the same. Just because it’s homeopathic doesn’t necessarily mean it’s safe.

It’s no better when doctors prescribe it, though. The drugs used for colic are made from belladonna, too. The drugs may work, but they should not be used because of their serious side effects.

What about just good old fashioned burping? After all, “[b]urping after feeding is commonly advised by paediatricians, nurses and parenting websites to promote expulsion of gases that accumulate during feeding with aim of decreasing discomfort and crying episodes.” Scientific evidence for the efficacy of burping was lacking until a 2014 randomized controlled trial for the prevention of colic and regurgitation (also known as spitting up) in healthy infants. What did they find? Burping is useless for colic and made the regurgitation worse. Burped babies spit up twice as many times as unburped babies!

So, what’s an effective treatment? The elimination of cow’s milk protein, since colic appears be some sort of allergic response. Decades ago, it was shown that infants fed cow’s milk developed antibody responses to the bovine proteins, which may explain why colic can improve after changing from a cow’s milk formula to either a hypoallergenic hydrolyzed protein formula or a soy-based formula.

Breast-fed infants have similar rates of colic as formula-fed infants, but that might be because breast milk from cow’s-milk-drinking mothers contains cow’s milk proteins. We know cow’s milk proteins can pass through breast milk and cause certain serious allergic reactions, but what about colic? Based on studies of formula-fed infants, colic was already a well-known symptom of intolerance to cow’s-milk protein back in the 1970s. So, thinking colic in breast-fed infants may be caused by cow’s-milk proteins transmitted from mother to infant via breast milk, researchers tried a dairy-free diet for breast-feeding mothers whose infants had colic. Of 19 infants, the colic disappeared promptly from 13 babies, and they were able to show they could bring back the colic in 12 of those 13 by challenging the mothers with a little dairy. For example, a baby boy develops colic that almost completely disappears within a day of his mom eliminating cow’s milk, and then the colic promptly comes back when mom goes back on dairy. The researchers conclude that the treatment for infantile colic in breast-fed infants is a diet free of cows’ milk for the mother—a recommendation that continues to this day.


Isn’t that horrifying about little Jeffrey Lawson’s open heart surgery? I’ve grown more and more cynical over the years, but it still shocks me how terribly wrong the medical profession can be in the face of overwhelming evidence and basic common sense. Now that more women are becoming physicians and graduating medical school classes are approximately 50:50 women and men, hopefully things will change for the better.

More on dairy in infancy and childhood:

More on healthy pregnancies:

In health,
Michael Greger, M.D.

PS: If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to my free videos here and watch my live, year-in-review presentations: