Suffering from Constipation? Aloe Vera Can Help

(Last Updated On: August 3, 2018)

Bowels; they aren’t pretty to think about and can be embarrassing to talk about, but many of us have trouble with them in one way or another. And bowel trouble can be painful, some people end up in hospital with such bad pain in their gut that they think they’re about to die; then get told it’s just gas or indigestion.

Modern life is bad for our bowels; they have processed diets, a sedentary lifestyle and stress to deal with. But sometimes all that is needed is a simple lifestyle change to make a difference.

Common Digestive Problems

Common Digestive Problems

Acid reflux

When stomach acid flows back up through the valve which connects the oesophagus to the stomach, we experience acid reflux. This is an unpleasant condition which causes heartburn, a sour taste in the mouth, and over time, causes damage to the oesophagus which can cause cancer. Acid reflux can be caused by pregnancy, the side effects of medication, drinking alcohol and eating foods which are known to cause heartburn,  such as foods containing tomatoes and spicy foods.

Acid reflux is treated with drugs called proton pump inhibitors, which reduce the amount of acid produced by the stomach, or in severe cases, surgery to tighten the faulty valve which allows the acid to flow back up into the oesophagus. Lifestyle changes are often the first line of treatment though, and doctors will recommend dietary modifications, not eating too late at night, and not smoking or drinking too much alcohol. You can also modify how you sleep, by propping up the head of your bed slightly to reduce reflux.

Peptic ulcers

Stomach ulcers are often caused by a bacterium called Helicobacter pylori, which break down the protective layer of mucus on the stomach wall and cause an ulcer to form. This infection is treated with up to 2 weeks of intensive antibiotic therapy and if left untreated for a long time, can lead to cancer. Other causes of stomach ulcers include smoking, drinking excessive alcohol, overuse of anti-inflammatory pain medication such as Ibuprofen and stress. If ulcers aren’t treated, they can bleed and cause an infection in the stomach wall.

Gallstones

Gallstones resemble small pebbles, made of cholesterol and bile salts. They need to be removed if they move out of the gallbladder and get stuck in the ducts between the liver and the intestine. This blocks the flow of bile and it can be very painful. The pain presents in the upper abdomen on the right-hand side and between the shoulder blades. Nausea, vomiting and fever can also occur. Causes can include obesity, and the general lack of fibre and high amount of fat in the western diet.

Inflammatory Bowel Disease

Conditions such as Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis cause symptoms such as abdominal pain, diarrhoea, and weight loss. Both conditions are caused by the immune system attacking the intestinal tract. Crohn’s causes ulcers in the intestinal tract which can lead to infection and a need for surgery. Ulcerative colitis affects the colon and the rectum where it can also cause ulceration.  Treatments include getting some control over the immune system with immunosuppressants and steroids.  

Coeliac Disease

This is also an autoimmune condition. People with the condition are unable to eat gluten, which is a protein found in rye and wheat, among other things. Symptoms of the condition include abdominal pain and bloating, constipation, and foul-smelling stools. A gluten-free diet can reduce gut inflammation.

Constipation

If you find that you regularly go for a week without passing a bowel movement, and you experience pain when you do, the chances are, you’re constipated. Straining to go to the loo can cause haemorrhoids. The first line of treatment is usual lifestyle adjustment; including more fibre, fruit and veg in your diet and making sure that you drink enough water. Other than that, mild laxatives to stimulate the intestines are useful. Excessive used of these can make the gut dependent on them to be able to work properly however.

What is constipation?

You are constipated if you don’t have a bowel movement regularly or if you can’t open your bowels completely when you do go. Constipation affects around 1 in 7 people, and it is more common in older people and pregnant women.  Most people visit the loo as much as 3 times per day or as little as 3 times per week. If you don’t get the urge to go, the waste stays in the colon and it goes hard which makes it harder to pass.

Causes of constipation include not eating enough fibre, being dehydrated, not exercising enough, and ignoring urges to go to the loo when you need to. Some medications can cause symptoms too, with painkillers like codeine being the worst culprits.

What are the usual treatments for constipation?

What are the usual treatments for constipation

Dietary changes: eating more fibre and staying hydrated.  

Being more active: exercising regularly promotes normal bowel motion and regularity.

Laxatives: you can get them from the pharmacy or from your GP. They are only intended for short term use. There are 3 kinds of laxatives; bulk-forming, osmotic and stimulant. Bulk-forming laxatives make waste retain fluid so it’s easier to pass, osmotic laxatives increase fluids in the bowel and stimulants encourage the natural peristaltic action of the bowel to help pass stools.

If you have tried changing your lifestyle and you don’t really fancy the laxatives from the pharmacy, try a natural laxative, from nature’s pharmacy, Aloe vera.

What is Aloe?

Aloe is a plant native to Africa. The long leaves contain a gel and a sticky substance called latex. The gel can be used externally and internally to treat various complaints and the latex and juice contain compounds which have laxative effects.

The plant itself has numerous healing properties and the gel contains a range of nutrients including vitamins A, C, E, and folic acid. The mineral content is also impressive, and aloe juice contains copper, iron, sodium, zinc, and potassium.  

Known health benefits of aloe vera

Boosts immunity  

Aloe vera is rich in antioxidants, which fight free radicals in the body. Free radicals circulate in the blood and contribute to aging and disease. Drinking aloe vera juice gives the body plenty of antioxidants which can keep the immune system healthy and working as it should.  

Promotes skin health

Aloe vera is used in a lot of skin care products. Its natural soothing, nourishing and hydrating properties make it a perfect ingredient for problem and sensitive skins. You can apply aloe vera gel to your face for clear, glowing skin or it can treat problems like sunburn, insect bites and burns.

Helps maintain a healthy weight and boosts energy

Drinking aloe vera juice can promote healthy digestion and regulate appetite, so it can help you maintain a healthy weight if you drink it regularly. The nutrients and antioxidants will help you stay full of energy and fighting fit.

 Maintains oral health   

Aloe vera helps keep your mouth and gums healthy, as it is a natural antibacterial agent. The nutrients in the aloe also promote healing of mouth ulcers and other oral health issues. If you have problems with your gums, massaging the aloe gel in daily or sprinkling aloe in powder form on your toothbrush prior to brushing will help problems heal. Drinking aloe juice can wash away bacteria in the mouth and can strengthen teeth.

Fights inflammation

Aloe vera can be used topically to ease inflammation of joints and reduce pain associated with arthritis. You can also drink aloe vera juice to fight inflammation anywhere in the body. Research has shown that when people drink aloe vera juice for two weeks they generally begin to report a reduction of inflammation and pain. People with conditions such as ulcerative colitis have reported that aloe vera use considerably reduced their symptoms.

Treats acne

Aloe vera gel is used in a lot of skin care products, and it is especially effective for acne.  When someone has acne, the skin’s oils glands are more active and make more oil. This meets dead skin and bacteria to block pores. The skin then becomes inflamed. Aloe vera is a natural anti-inflammatory, so applying it to the skin twice daily will reduce breakouts, redness, and scarring.

Makes hair smooth and shiny

Aloe vera is a natural emollient which moisturises hair and keeps it looking healthy and shiny. The wide range of nutrients in aloe promote healthy hair growth, and its soothing properties get rid of an itchy scalp.  

For healthy hair, try this aloe hair mask

Cut open 2 aloe leaves and extract the gel with a spoon. If you’re using shop-bought aloe, use 2 spoonfuls. Mix the aloe with the juice of half a lemon and blend together. Apply the mixture to damp hair, working from the scalp to the ends. Wrap the hair in a towel for up to 20 minutes, then rinse and shampoo as normal. Use the mask once per week for beautiful healthy hair.

Controls blood sugar

Aloe vera juice can lower blood sugar levels in people with type 2 diabetes. Aloe can stabilise blood sugar and reduce circulating blood fats. Drinking aloe vera juice for 3 months appears to lower fasting blood sugar levels. Aloe supplements also appear to have an effect on nerve problems in the hands and feet that can be caused by diabetes.

Reduces cholesterol

Studies show that aloe gel can reduce cholesterol in those who have high cholesterol. A study in the Journal of Nutritional Science suggested that taking the aloe gel regularly can reduce the liver’s production of cholesterol by around 30%.

Beats constipation

Aloe vera juice contains fibre which keeps the digestive system healthy and keeps bowel movements regular. Aloe is also a gentle natural laxative, so it gets the digestive system moving as it should.  Drinking 2 ounces of aloe vera juice per day when you are constipated appears to be the optimum amount. Normal service tends to be resumed within 10 hours of drinking the juice.

Aloe Vera for Constipation

Aloe vera is a natural laxative which acts gently on the intestine to encourage the emptying of the bowel.  Aloe juice can help relieve constipation, as can taking the gel orally.

Preparing an aloe gel solution

You can buy aloe gel from health food stores, but if you want maximum potency, you can prepare a solution yourself. Rinse an aloe plant with cold water, cut it in half and remove any sharp thorns. Extract the gel and put it in a blender. Mix it with a little lemon or orange juice to make it more palatable and keep the mixture in the fridge. It should last around a week.  

How to drink aloe juice

Drink the juice on an empty stomach. You can stir aloe into a glass of water or fruit juice if you find the taste unpalatable. There are also plenty of delicious smoothies and juices you can make, in fact there’s one for you at the end of this article!

Where can I buy aloe vera juice?

You can buy aloe juice in most health foods stores. Avoid juices which contain aloe latex. Check the label to see if a product is indicated for internal use before you consume it.

Safety       

In some sensitive individuals, drinking aloe vera juice can cause low blood sugar and cause abdominal cramping. Aloe gel can cause occasional allergic skin reactions in some people, and the gel should not be used on severe burns and wounds, always seek medical advice. There is not yet enough evidence that aloe is safe to use for women who are pregnant or breastfeeding, or for people with liver or kidney disease. Aloe latex is not suitable for use by people who have intestinal disorders, and a high intake of aloe latex can cause serious problems like electrolyte imbalance and dehydration. Long term use of aloe for its laxative effects should be avoided as the body can become dependent on it to function normally. It can also interact with other drugs such as diuretics, steroids, and diabetic drugs. Remember that a natural product is not always a safe product and that they can still interact with medications and can worsen pre-existing medical conditions.  

Aloe Vera Smoothie recipe

Aloe Vera Smoothie recipe

Try this delicious smoothie to beat constipation and keep your digestive system healthy.

Ingredients

1 cup almond or coconut milk

1 medium aloe vera leaf, shredded

1/2 cup fresh or frozen blueberries

1/2 cup fresh or frozen mango chunks

1/2 tablespoon coconut oil

1 handful of fresh basil

A little honey, maple syrup, or stevia to sweeten (optional)

To taste, or to boost nutrient intake even further, you can add:

1 tablespoon coconut flakes or shreds

1 tablespoon flax or chia seeds

1 serving of protein powder of your choice

How to make it:

Place all the ingredients into a blender and blend on a high speed until the mixture is nice and smooth.

Final thoughts

Let’s face it, bowel trouble is embarrassing. We don’t like to talk about it and can even be reluctant to visit our doctor about it. But a healthy gut is a healthy body. And when our guts don’t do their job properly, we know about it. Whether it’s bloating, constipation, gas, or cramping, tummy problems are unpleasant. They are often temporary, due to a change in diet, medication, lifestyle, or stress, but sometimes they can be a symptom of something a little more serious going on.

Constipation is often temporary but it can be worrying. We imagine our stomachs filling up with food and think about all the waste that isn’t going anywhere. We feel bloated, sluggish, and below par. Constipation is one of those symptoms that shows us that we need to evaluate our lifestyle and make some changes to restore our natural rhythms. Whether that means exercising more, drinking more water, or eating more healthily, only you know what you should do.

Suffering from constipation means that the natural balance of your body is a little off kilter, and what better way to restore its balance than with the help of a product from the natural world?

Aloe vera has countless health benefits. It’s great for skin, helps manage weight, controls blood sugar and boosts the immune system. And to top off the list, it’s great for the digestive system. It’s a natural, gentle laxative which restores your body’s rhythm and relieves the discomfort of constipation. You can take the gel or drink the juice to promote good digestive health in the short term, but you still need to think about the changes you need to make in the long term to keep your system running as efficiently as it can.

Your digestive health impacts upon the health of the rest of your body, so it makes sense to eat well, exercise, drink plenty of water, and do what you can to give it a helping hand. Over the counter remedies can be effective, but they treat symptoms, they don’t restore the body’s balance. We have to look to nature for that.

Written by Irina Radosevic MD
Irina graduated from the University of Belgrade, School of Medicine as a Doctor of Medicine (MD) and spent over 3 years working in the Clinical Hospital Center Zvezdara, in the Department of Emergency Medicine. She also undertook a postgraduate in Cardiology from the same University and had previously worked for over a year as a Physician and Nutritionist Dietitian for the Fitness club Green Zone. She eventually left her chaotic but fulfilling job in the ER to pursue her passion of writing, travelling and mountain climbing which has included writing a first aid course for the alpine club of Belgrade. Irina currently works as a VA for PintMedia focusing on medical and travel writing. Feel free to connect with Irina on LinkedIn and FaceBook. Her CV can be seen here.