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Aloe is typically known for easing sunburns, treating dry skin conditions, and healing wounds. However, aloe vera is now being explored as a treatment for gastrointestinal disorders.
Prebiotics vs. Probiotics
Aloe vera is a prebiotic. Prebiotics are non-digestible food ingredients that enhance the function of beneficial bacteria that live in the human digestive system. This is in contrast to probiotics, which are the beneficial bacteria themselves. Probiotics are living microorganisms that confer health benefits to the host when consumed in adequate amounts. Examples of microorganisms include bacteria, yeast, and viruses, many of which are found naturally in the human body. Probiotics are often used to treat chronic digestive problems, and aloe vera is often used in tandem with probiotics to maintain a healthy digestive tract.
- Prebiotics are non-digestible food ingredients that enhance the function of beneficial bacteria that live in the human digestive system.
Glycerine Vs. Glycol
When prebiotics and probiotics are mixed together, they form a synbiotic. Thus, combining aloe vera and probiotics would form a synbiotic. It has been hypothesized that synbiotics may have additive or synergistic effects on digestive health, meaning there would be more benefits from using both components together than from using either component alone. Therefore, using aloe vera with probiotics may be better for the digestive tract than using either by themselves.
- When prebiotics and probiotics are mixed together, they form a synbiotic.
- Therefore, using aloe vera with probiotics may be better for the digestive tract than using either by themselves.
Digestion-Related Uses of Aloe Vera
Aloe vera and probiotics are frequently used to treat constipation and alleviate digestive problems associated with irritable bowel syndrome. Irritable bowel syndrome is a chronic gastrointestinal disorder that causes abdominal pain, gas, bloating, diarrhea and/or constipation. Aloe vera and probiotics are also purported to treat ulcerative colitis. Ulcerative colitis causes inflammation of the large intestine and rectum, which leads to abdominal pain and diarrhea. The theory of synbiotics suggests that combining aloe vera and probiotics would further ease symptoms of these conditions.
- Aloe vera and probiotics are frequently used to treat constipation and alleviate digestive problems associated with irritable bowel syndrome.
- Aloe vera and probiotics are also purported to treat ulcerative colitis.
How It Works
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Probiotics contain bacteria that help break down food and lactose, which can be hard for adult systems to digest. Prebiotics enhance the function of those bacteria, which can include altering mineral absorption or lipid metabolism in the gut. Additionally, aloe vera has laxative effects that are caused by aloin, which is found in the sap of the aloe vera plant. Aloin stimulates colon contractions and decreases water absorption in the intestines, which induces and softens stools, respectively. This helps alleviate constipation. Aloe also has anti-inflammatory and analgesic effects, which may help lessen other digestive symptoms.
- Probiotics contain bacteria that help break down food and lactose, which can be hard for adult systems to digest.
- Prebiotics enhance the function of those bacteria, which can include altering mineral absorption or lipid metabolism in the gut.
Aloe vera can cause diarrhea or cramping, and probiotics can cause gas and bloating. While Mayo Clinic and the National Institutes of Health suggest that there is good scientific evidence for use of aloe vera and probiotics to treat certain digestive problems, the long-term safety and side effects are unknown 2. Therefore, as with any new treatment, consult your doctor before using it.
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- "Clinical Science"; S. Ghosh & R.J. Playford; 2003
- National Institues of Health: An Introduction to Probiotics
- Dat, A.; Poon, F.; Pham, K. et al. Aloe vera for treating acute and chronic wounds. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2012 Feb 15;(2):CD008762. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD008762.pub2.
- Haddad, P.; Amouzgar-Hashemi, F.; Samsami, S. et al. Aloe Vera for Prevention of Radiation-Induced Dermatitis: a Self-Controlled Clinical Trial. Curr Oncol. 2013 Aug;20(4):e345-8. DOI: 10.3747/co.20.1356.
- Heggie, S.; Bryant, G.; Tripcony, L. et al. A Phase III Study on the Efficacy of Topical Aloe Vera Gel on Irradiated Breast Tissue. Cancer Nurs. 2002;25(6):442-51.
- Langmead, L.; Feakins, R.; Goldthorpe, S.et al. Randomized, Double-blind, Placebo-controlled Trial of Oral Aloe Vera Gel for Active Ulcerative Colitis. Aliment Pharmacol Ther. 2004;19(7):739-47. DOI: 10.1111/j.1365-2036.2004.01902.x.
- Paulsen, E.; Korsholm, L.; and Brandrup, F. Double-blind, Placebo-Controlled Study of a Commercial Aloe Vera Gel in the Treatment of Slight to Moderate Psoriasis Vulgaris. J Eur Acad Dermatol Venereol. 2005:19(3):326-31. DOI: 10.1111/j.1468-3083.2004.01186.x.
- Suksomboon, N.; Poolsup, N.; Punthanitisarn, S. et al. Effect of Aloe vera on glycaemic control in prediabetes and type 2 diabetes: a systematic review and meta‐analysis. J Clin Pharm Ther. 2016;41(2):180-8. DOI: 10.1111/jcpt.12382
- Zhang, Y.; Liu, W.; Liu, D. et al. Efficacy of Aloe Vera Supplementation on Prediabetes and Early Non-Treated Diabetic Patients: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials. Nutrients. 2016 Jul; 8(7): 388. DOI: 10.3390/nu8070388.
Trisha Pruis has been writing health and science material since 2003. Her work has been published in scientific journals, including "Hormones and Behavior," "Neurobiology of Aging" and "Journal of General Psychology." Pruis completed a professional science writing course in 2008. She holds a Doctor of Philosophy in behavioral neuroscience from Oregon Health & Science University.