“11/10 for gut health,” claims one TikToker. “Magic for digestion,” states another. But is aloe vera juice really a gut health staple — or is it just another over-hyped TikTok fad? Here’s what you need to know before you jump on board the trend.
You are what you eat – at least that’s what we’ve been told. It seems that an increasing number of us are paying more attention to what our guts are telling us about our overall health.
Aloe vera juice is taking off on TikTok, with over 12.2 million views on aloe vera juice videos.
“My skin is glowing, my digestion is better, I feel less bloated,” claimed one TikToker in a video with over 21 thousand views. “I drink one of these a day.”
In another video with over 5 million views, a young woman says, “I’ve been taking this for like a week and a half now… my digestive system, like, my gut health? Never been better. Never been better.”
Olivia Ashton, MS, RD, CSSD, also took to TikTok to discuss the growing trend.
“It’s been confirmed that aloe vera has anti-inflammatory properties for the skin, but what about in liquid form? Does it have any benefits for gut health? Some studies say yes, some say no,” she says.
While dozens of women on TikTok claim that drinking anything from an ounce to a full bottle of aloe vera juice can do wonders for their gut health, what does the science actually say?
The benefits of drinking aloe vera
“Aloe vera, known as the ‘plant of immortality’, has been used for centuries as it claims to have healing properties for your skin, digestive system, diabetes prevention, as well as many more conditions,” agrees Dr Claire Shortt, Lead Scientist at FoodMarble.
“It may have just jumped on the scene via TikTok but in actual fact, aloe juice has long been praised for its health benefits, notably on one’s gut health,” explains Dr Giuseppe Aragona, GP and health adviser for Prescription Doctor.
“Aloe vera juice may help those suffering from chronic constipation or constipation-predominant IBS,” says Shortt. That’s because people with IBS and chronic constipation have gut microbes that produce excess methane, which slows down the mobility of food within the digestive system. “Aloe vera contains compounds that when ingested, can have a laxative effect.” In other words, it can help to get things moving again.
One 2018 study in the Journal of Neurogastroenterol and Motility suggested that people with IBS had significantly improved symptoms after taking aloe vera in comparison to a placebo, while a 2013 trial in the Journal of Research in Medical Sciences found that aloe vera could reduce pain, discomfort and flatulence.
“Some recent studies [such as a 2015 study in the Journal of Traditional Chinese Medicine and a 2016 study in the Natural Medicine Journal] have also reported that consuming aloe vera syrup can help those suffering from gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD),” she goes on. “Aloe vera was shown to reduce symptoms such as heartburn, belching, and food and acid regurgitation.” So, if you suffer from acid reflux, aloe vera juice might help.
And what about the benefits for people without a gut health condition?
“Aloe vera juice helps to maintain the good bacteria in your gut to keep your gut flora balanced,” says Aragona. “When our gut bacteria is balanced, our digestion is aided and improved, and this then helps with issues such as bloating and glass.”
However, the research is still pretty lacking. Some studies, such as a 2019 study in Plant Foods for Human Nutrition, show that aloe vera contains antioxidants that can have anti-inflammatory effects on the body. “Many of these are smaller, shorter studies,” notes Shortt. “Therefore more studies are needed to assess the safety of consuming it over the longer term.”
The dangers of drinking aloe vera
“The studies so far have shown that aloe vera juice is safe to consume but that this comes with a few caveats mainly, the dose consumed and if you suffer any negative side effects or have certain conditions,” says Shortt.
Aloe vera juice isn’t for everyone. If you’re not constipated, it can lead to diarrhoea. “If you experience this then it’s best to lower how much you are consuming or if severe, avoid it altogether,” warns Shortt. “Diarrhea can cause dehydration and an electrolyte imbalance which if not rectified quickly, can negatively impact your health.”
You should also avoid aloe vera juice if you are:
- Pregnant or breastfeeding
- Allergic to latex
How to incorporate aloe vera juice into your diet safely
Both Shortt and Argona suggest that drinking too much aloe vera juice can be dangerous. “It’s best to drink a small amount at first to see how well your body tolerates it,” says Shortt. “Drinking more is not going to necessarily give you more benefits.”
Here are some tips on drinking it safely:
- The strengths and formulas of aloe vera juice vary so it’s also best to read the label and not to exceed the recommended dose. In general, between 15ml and 50ml is recommended but studies have demonstrated beneficial effects from consuming 10ml. Remember, more is not always better. Limiting aloe vera juice to smaller portions but more often, can provide health benefits and help reduce the risk of the potential side effects.
- If you have a sensitive gut or are prone to looser stools, you should probably drink aloe vera juice every second or third day, in smaller quantities.
- Aloe vera is safe to drink on an empty stomach or with your daily meals. Some people find it less appealing to drink unsweetened aloe vera juice, you can mix it with some fresh fruits, add mint or dilute it with sparkling water.
Shortt sums up with a word of caution: “Researchers and doctors both agree that more research is needed to fully understand the benefits and any negative side effects of long-term aloe vera consumption.” Our advice? Aloe vera may be a useful supplement for people with some pre-existing gut conditions such as GERD or IBS. But because it’s a natural laxative, it may only mess up your gut health if your gut microbe is already healthy.
Plus, it’s never healthy to think of one product as a holy grail. “The hype is accurate to an extent, but drinking aloe juice will not lead you to a healthy body alone,” says Aragona. “You can incorporate it into your diet but ensure you are also eating a healthy and balanced diet and exercising regularly.”