Can this 'super plant' aid your digestive health issues?

Every so often the public becomes obsessed with a natural product that ends up being labelled a "superfood".  

We've seen people dousing themselves with coconut oil, bathing in cocoa butter, drinking green tea by the gallon and juicing everything in sight.

One of these "super plants" is Aloe Vera. This succulent, hailing from the arid wastelands of Arabia, has been used for thousands of years to treat a variety of ailments.

Its health benefits are seemingly endless as the plant is naturally rich in calcium, magnesium, folic acid, antioxidants and many other vitamins and minerals. Aloe is usually consumed in a liquid or gel form.

Digestive health benefits 

Studies have shown that Aloe Vera can help people who suffer from various digestive health problems. Many of the foods we eat cause ailments like heartburn, acid reflux and inflammation, and Aloe Vera’s alkalising properties help to counteract acidity and restore our digestive system’s pH balance.

The enzymes found within the plant help to break down sugars and fats, aiding the process of digestion. Aloe also helps to reduce the incidence of stomach ulcers.

Other studies have found that these same enzymes assist with the absorption of nutrients and are responsible for the plant’s anti-inflammatory properties.

Your intestines need enough moisture in order to perform peristalsis, the action of moving waste through the bowels. Lack of water can cause constipation, and consuming Aloe Vera can help those who suffer from constipation. Made up of about 99% water, Aloe Vera helps lubricate the intestines.

Aloe Vera has also been shown to strengthen your immune system. The polysaccharides found in the leaves tackle antigens in the body and combat skin issues.

Dangers

Studies advise caution when consuming Aloe Vera as the plant does contain toxins. One of these is called aloin, which has been known to cause abdominal pain, muscle weakness, intestinal spasms and diarrhoea. 

Aloin does provide a laxative effect, but studies have found the results to be unpredictable and warn against this method of constipation relief.

Many of the aloe products we buy have, however, gone through a refining process, thereby removing any toxins found in the plant.

Image credit: Istock 

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