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A woman reads the label on a bottle of aloe vera gel caps.

Beware Aloe Vera With IBS (And Tips for Taking AV If You Must)

The first year after I was diagnosed with IBS and still in college, I was desperate to find a better way to manage and control my symptoms. Sometimes this led me to make impulsive decisions. For instance, if I even briefly heard about a supplement or herb that could potentially help IBS I often would rush out and buy it without researching it much first. This was in the earlier days of the internet, where data was out there but not as comprehensive or easy to access as today.

Can aloe vera help with gut health?

In the summer of ’99, I read some reference in a magazine article that aloe vera was good for intestinal issues. The next day I drove to a natural food store and brought a big bottle of gel caps containing pure aloe vera gel. The capsules were large. After my summer classes, I immediately took one with a large glass of water. The first hour or so, I felt fine. But within a couple of hours, my tummy started to rumble and I had to sprint to the bathroom.

Aloe vera was not a good choice for my IBS

What I hadn’t realized was that aloe vera in its organic unfiltered form acts as a natural laxative. The article I read did not clarify how it benefits the intestinal tract, which was more for those with constipation or in “maintaining regularity.” Though I technically have IBS that alternates, I was (and still am) much more prone to IBS-D than IBS-C. So the aloe vera was not a wise choice.

I spent the rest of the night running back and forth from the bathroom (not fun when you are in a dorm and share a communal bathroom with stalls) and getting hardly any sleep. A few days later, I tossed out the bottle of gel caps since the store would not accept them back or offer me a refund for my purchase.

Aloe vera for IC

Fast forward nearly a decade and I also developed Interstitial Cystitis (IC), which is a form of irritable bladder marked by its inflammation and tendency to spasm even with small amounts of liquid in it. This time the internet was much more advanced, and I was much more adept at embarking on a rigorous research path before trying different treatments and supplements. It was during this time I stumbled upon research that found aloe vera was actually very effective in treating IC (as well as for GERD, another health condition I was struggling with at the time.)

I was wary after my bad experience so many years earlier. However, I found a brand that noted that there is a specific part of the aloe vera plant that causes diarrhea – the latex that forms the outer skin of the plant. But in their formula, they only use the inner gel and filter out the laxative qualities. I still wasn’t sure if I believed it. However, I decided to try it anyway while being extra cautious.

Low dose aloe vera helpful for IBS

I ordered a low dose and one that was cut with vitamin D and calcium (which helps counteract laxative effects of other foods or supplements as well as acidity in foods and other things ingested) rather than a high dose of pure aloe vera. The day my order arrived, I stayed home and close to the bathroom. It did not affect me negatively or give me diarrhea. It took a few weeks to notice a positive effect on my IC, but I did eventually and so took it nearly daily for the next five years or so to manage my IC. Not only that, but it also benefited my digestive issues, including my GERD and IBS.

I eventually weaned myself off the aloe vera supplements as I read over time aloe vera can act estrogenic and instigate endometriosis, which I noticed was getting worse. However, I still keep some as a backup when my IC, GERD and/or IBS do flare.

How about you – have you tried aloe vera for IBS or other related disorders? Has it helped or hurt? Please answer in the comments below!

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.