So many sufferers have tried aloe vera for IBS or Irritable Bowel Syndrome symptoms and have found that it improves them.
Certainly there are many companies who promote the medicinal properties of this natural health product and as a result, the health benefits of aloe and other products have become part of a multi-million pound industry.
I'm sure you have probably heard some of them. Claims about the general health benefits as well as being a natural health product.
There are many more medicinal benefits too which has led some some sufferers to look further at at its use in IBS.
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The health benefits been known for centuries.
They are derived from a succulent plant which originated in the Sudan, Egypt and other North African countries.
The plant is common, growing up to a 100 cm’s in length with tapering, thick stemmed green leaves.
It has a serrated edge and is well suited to the hot and arid climate found in North Africa.
When cut open, the inner sap is a clear, yellow coloured liquid - the main source of the juice.
The sap contains many amino acids (19 of which 7 are essential for the human bodies production of proteins), vitamin C, B vitamins, Folic Acid, essential elements including calcium, electrolytes including sodium & potassium and the trace elements of magnesium, manganese, copper, zinc and chromium.
These are all required for the human body’s homeostatic environment and surely a big plus in favour of aloe vera for IBS.
Many centuries ago, natives in Sudan and other North African countries used the sap to treat cuts and burns by cutting the stem of the plant and applying this to the affected area.
This led people to look at at other benefits including those on the immune system, the antibacterial effects, antioxidant effects, effects as an anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial and many more.
These benefits have been picked up by the cosmetic industry exulting the health benefits in their products.
The natural health industry promotes the medicinal uses of aloe vera in many forms including creams, lotions, capsules, liquids and gels.
It’s not only been promoted as an antiseptic for burns, but in for use in genital herpes, psoriasis, eczema, sunburn, diabetes (lowering sugar levels) and hyperlipidaemia (high fat or cholesterol levels).
Many of my patients have expressed the benefits for IBS symptoms they suffer.
However, they are only individual’s experiences but ones I would fully endorse.
If you look at the evidence for aloe vera for IBS, it is a little less clear.
Its not that it isn't beneficial, rather it has not been investigated enough.
There was a study by Davis et al from St Georges Hospital, London (2006) looking at the juice in Irritable Bowel Syndrome.
The study was small, with 58 patients randomised to have either aloe vera or a placebo.
11 of the aloe vera group reported an improvement in their symptoms at 1 month in comparison to 6 of the placebo group.
This wasn't statistically significant, but the sample numbers were clearly low and the study only looked at symptoms at 1 and 3 months respectively.
The study group commented that the diarrhea-predominant IBS patients “trended towards a response”.
In 1991, Odes and Madar looked at celandin, aloe vera and psyllium laxative preparation in adult patients with constipation.
This was a double-blind trial lasting 28 days. There were only 35 people in the study, but it did confirm its effect as a laxative.
The laxative effect comes from the dried latex in the inner lining of the plant.
Side effects are unusual.
There are several theories as to how it works.
The juice contains many amino acids, essential for protein manufacture and it is possible that this is of benefit to restoring damaged cells in the bowel.
The antioxidant effects preventing free radical damage to cells and processes may also play a role.
It also has antiseptic and antibacterial effects too.
Alteration in the composition of the small bowel bacterial load may also explain how aloe vera works in IBS.
Supply of essential minerals, trace elements and vitamins are clearly also important.