You may have heard the digestive system described as a window to your state of health.
Having adequate fuel from food is key to allowing your body to thrive.
That includes your immune system (your defence against illness or infection), having clear skin, healthy hair, high energy levels, and generally feeling healthy and comfortable.1
However, various factors can contribute to your bowels and your overall digestive system not working as well as it could.
And aloe vera could potentially play a role in combatting some of those factors.
- Healthy bowels
- Causes of unhealthy bowels
- How to improve digestive health
- Benefits for the gut
- How to use it
What does a healthy bowel look like?
Well-functioning bowels vary from person to person.
If for most of your life, you have had a bowel movement once a day, that is your normal, and you will want to investigate if you suddenly start going once every three days.2
Rather than focusing on frequency (though there are extremes that indicate an issue), the key to recognising healthy bowels is that you are going to the toilet enough that you can empty your colon and not feel bloated or in pain.
You should not have to strain hard or feel discomfort when you go, either.3
Causes of unhealthy bowels
High stress levels, low amounts of sleep, consuming a lot of processed and high-sugar foods, and taking antibiotics are just some of the things that can damage your gut microbiome and stop it from functioning well.4
Some common ways an unhealthy gut or bowel can manifest itself include an upset stomach (gas, bloating, constipation, diarrhoea, heartburn), increased sugar cravings due to an imbalance in the number of good bacteria in your gut, and unhealthy weight changes.
An unhealthy gut can impair your ability to absorb all the nutrients you need and make it hard for you to regulate blood sugar, as well as potentially causing issues with storing fat.
Gut problems can also lead to constant fatigue, sleep issues, skin irritation, and food intolerances.5
How to improve digestive health
Beyond addressing the causes of these issues, by getting enough sleep or avoiding processed food, for example, you can take some other measures for good digestive health.
These include eating a high-fibre diet, consuming probiotics, following a regular eating schedule, and drinking enough water.6
Good sources of fibre include fruits and vegetables like artichokes, apples, pears, dates, figs, prunes, broccoli, peas, and more.
You can also eat chickpeas, lentils, high-fibre grains like oats, chia, baked beans, and other types of beans.
Yoghurt with an active culture can help the natural bacteria in your digestive system do what it must do, and exercising helps the colon move waste along.7
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What are the health benefits of aloe vera?
Consuming aloe vera (as a juice, supplement, or in other formats) can be helpful for your gut health.
Aloe vera contains enzymes that can help with the breakdown of sugars and fats, and that can help your digestive system to keep running smoothly.
It can also assist with decreasing any irritation in the stomach and intestines.8
If you cut open an aloe vera leaf, you can see that it is full of a fairly slimy and clear gel. This gel is often used on the skin as a moisturiser and for sunburn.
But the green part of the leaf and the yellow juice around the gel and lining that leaf can be used in a juice or as part of a supplement for addressing gut issues like constipation or diarrhoea.
Aloe vera has anti-inflammatory properties, which can help reduce gastrointestinal inflammation.9 That is when irritants like germs cause the body to respond.
Aloe vera for constipation
For constipation, aloe vera is thought to help calm symptoms.
The outer layer of aloe vera’s green leaves contains a substance called anthraquinones, which have been shown to have a laxative effect.10
Those who suffer from periodic constipation might find that aloe vera could help. But, while aloe vera’s laxative effects have been recognised, aloe vera hasn’t been confirmed as safe to use for this purpose.
It’s also important to note that if you experience constipation frequently, you should speak to a medical professional as they will be able to advise on appropriate treatment.
Aloe vera for IBS
Diarrhoea and constipation are two common concerns that can be related to stomach issues like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
There is little research available on the effects of aloe vera on IBS, but one study showed positive results in people who experienced constipation, diarrhoea, bloating and gas because of IBS.11
However, in other studies, participants saw no difference in symptoms when taking aloe vera versus taking a placebo.12
So, perhaps when it comes to stomach concerns like IBS, it would be best to check with a doctor for advice and treatment.
How to consume aloe vera for healthy digestion
If consuming aloe vera juice, it must be purified or decolourised.
This process removes any phenolic compounds found in the latex (the yellow juice).13 Usually, activated carbon is used here.
Unfortunately, unpurified aloe vera can have unpleasant side effects such as cramping and diarrhoea.14
You can drink up to a cup of aloe vera juice a day. Either drink it straight, mix it with a smoothie or juice, or add ice or milk.15
The recommendation, though, is 100 to 200 milligrams of aloe juice or 50 milligrams of aloe extract daily, or as needed, for constipation.16
Find out more reasons to start using aloe vera here.