For those who have entered a health food store, you may have noticed rows of Aloe Vera products on the shelves and asked yourself if they are worth the investment.
Aloe is derived from the Arabic word alloeh meaning ‘bitter and shiny substance’. it is marketed to be beneficial for skin as a topical solution. However there are also juice versions which are marketed as beneficial for the gut. This post aims to help you to make a decision about whether to take aloe vera juice for your gut health.
We are going to focus on the effects of Aloe Vera on the gut in this article.
How Is Aloe Vera Juice Prepared?
There are two ways to make Aloe Vera Juice.
Inner leaf processing - the rind and latex are stripped away and the inner gel is processed into a liquid. sometimes it is decolourised; meaning it is carbon filtered for purity.
Whole leaf processing - the entire aloe vera leaf is ground up and filtered using activated carbon to remove aloin
Commercially available aloe vera products that people ingest are not permitted to contain more than 0.1 parts per million (ppm) of aloin.
Aloe Vera may be around 98.5% water; however it contains several vitamins and minerals including Vitamins A, C ,E, B12, Folic acid. It also contains choline, calcium, chromium, copper, selenium, magnesium, potassium, sodium, zinc and manganese.
Is It Beneficial For My Gut?
People may use aloe vera juice to treat the symptoms associated with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), such as constipation due to its natural laxative effects, however some people also use it for managing diarrhoea.
The ‘anti-inflammatory properties’ of aloe vera are thought to help reduce gastrointestinal inflammation, which in turn are believed to potentially contribute to IBS symptoms. However, very few studies have assessed the effectiveness of aloe vera in treating IBS symptoms.
In a 2011 study (1) involving 110 participants with IBS; researchers were unable to find a significant difference between aloe vera drinks and a placebo substance in terms of improving quality of life.
A 2013 trial (2) found that aloe vera had a positive effect on reducing abdominal pain and flatulence in people with IBS. However, this trial lacked a control group; meaning that it was not possible to conclude that aloe vera was responsible for the improvement in symptoms.
On a more positive note; a systematic review and meta analysis (3) concluded that oral aloe vera products, such as drinks, gels, and pills, are safe and effective short-term treatments for IBS. However, the authors note that more high quality randomised controlled trials are necessary to confirm any benefits that aloe vera may offer people with different types of IBS.
How Does It Affect The Gut Microbiome?
Aloe vera, like many foods containing soluble fibre , ferments in the gut and releases butyrate; a short chain fatty acid which is beneficial for health. Butyrate can act as an alternative energy source for some cells in the body, including those that line the intestinal barrier of the colon. These cells (colonocytes) can get around 70% of their energy from butyrate!
This whole process, in turn, can promote more helpful butyrate-producing bacteria within the gut microbiome.
There is some interesting research investigating the effects of butyrate on gut inflammation . This includes potential benefits for people with IBD (5), IBS (4) and other gastrointestinal disease (6-8).
As with all products; there are some important considerations to take before taking Aloe Vera Juice.
The outer pulp of aloe vera leaves contains latex. Drinks containing latex from aloe plants can cause allergic reaction in some people.
Other symptoms reported upon consumption of Aloe vera juice include:
Dehydration or electrolyte imbalance
Low blood glucose levels
Interactions with other medications such as Digoxin (always check with your Doctor)
The oral consumption of aloe leaf extracts for prolonged periods has been linked to cases of acute hepatitis.
How Much Should I Take?
Between 15ml-50ml of Aloe vera juice per day is generally recommended however the dose recommended may vary between products.
Always follow the manufacturer’s recommendations as formulas may vary in strength between different brands.
Always try to buy decolourised aloe vera juice; to minimise gastrointestinal effects. Within the UK, all reputable brands will be decolourised.
Taking aloe gel orally may also be unsafe to take if you are elderly, during pregnancy and when nursing.
Always look at the ingredients of the product you are taking and consider any allergies you have before taking. There’s a risk of allergic reaction with all natural remedies and health supplements. If you experience any symptoms if allergic reaction including hives, a fast heart rate, or difficulty breathing after using Aloe Vera juice you should discontinue use. If your symptoms are severe, you should seek medical attention.
You are encouraged to discuss starting any new supplements with a medical health professional including potential interactions with medications.
If you want to know more about this and would like to book a 1-1 consultation, please take a look on our website for further information.
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Gut love to you all
Cat & Rosie, Registered Dietitians