Aloe vera and the human digestive system

Trials indicate that Aloe Vera heals peptic ulcers, controls intestinal secretions to normal levels, influences the bowel flora, controls gastric and heals peptic ulcers, controls intestinal secretions to normal levels, influences the bowel flora, controls gastric and
intestinal pH, improves the functioning of the pancreas and limits adverse bacteria action in the colon, reducing putrefaction.


The Normal Digestive System

In looking closely at the functions of the Digestive System, it is much the usual thing to examine minutely the functions of its individual parts. Whilst it may well be necessary to do some analysis of that kind, it is usually far more instructive to consider the digestive system as a whole. The reason why this is so important is that the functions of each part of this system interact with those of every other part. Hence, if the digestive system is in difficulties, the job of restoring it to normal should not be tackled piecemeal, but rather in a completely wholistic manner. Before we can consider exactly what Aloe vera does within the Digestive System it is necessary to understand the normal functions of digestion and the more common forms of malfunction which may be encountered in practice. Whilst the first part may be accomplished by reading the appropriate chapter of any textbook of anatomy and physiology, a simple overall explanation is provided here by reference to the diagram below.

The food, upon entering through the mouth and undergoing mastication, becomes mixed with the saliva. As saliva contains a starch digesting enzyme, salivary amylase, the digestion of starch begins almost at once. On passing down into the stomach, the food meets the gastric juice, which contains the protein-digesting enzyme pepsin and hydrochloric acid, HC1, which is there to provide the very low (i.e. acidic) pH at which the pepsin works best. Under good conditions, therefore, protein digestion proceeds apace in the stomach phase of digestion. The highly acid conditions in the stomach are also of importance in destroying bacteria which enter with the food. Most of the potentially harmful bacteria are killed by a sufficiently strong acid environment, while the more beneficial, acid-producing bacteria, like Lactobacillus acidophilus are more likely to survive and to subsequently implant themselves to grow and reproduce in the intestines. A relative lack of stomach acid can therefore be harmful both because it impedes digestion of proteins by pepsin and allows some of the undesirable bacteria to pass through.

However, too much acid can be a serious disadvantage also, as we shall see below. This phase may characteristically last for about 2 hours before the stomach starts to empty, but is very variable. In particular the time of residence in the stomach is lengthened by a high fat content in the meal, which may delay emptying for quite a long time. When the stomach empties, its contents are passed on into the duodenum, which is the first part of the small intestine. Here the very acid, partly digested, fluid material, now called “chyle”, meets the pancreatic juice and the bile, which are both secreted into the duodenum, respectively from the exocrine pancreas and from the liver and gall bladder. The pancreatic juice contains lipase (to digest fats), trypsin, chymotrypsin and carboxypeptidase (to continue the digestion of proteins) and pancreatic amylase (to continue the digestion of starch). The pancreatic juice therefore amounts to a quite formidable battery of enzymes able to break down all the main bulk nutrients. The bile contains many wastes and toxins, for it is one of the functions of the liver to clear the blood of toxins and excrete them into the bile for passing out of the body. However, it also contains the bile salts, taurocholic and glycocholic acids, which are potent fat emulsifiers. These play an important part in fat digestion by breaking down the larger fat droplets into smaller ones.

The Remedy Provided by Aloe vera

What has been described above is a maze of possible symptoms that may be cross-connected in diverse ways. Whilst some improvements may sometimes be gained by a piecemeal and symptomatic approach, a wholistic approach to the overall working of the digestive system, as has already been stated, is far more likely to provide a truly effective and lasting solution. To gain insight into how Aloe affects the working of the digestive system as a whole, it is necessary to consider at some length the work of Dr. Jeffrey Bland as reported in his paper “Effect of Orally Consumed Aloe vera Juice on Gastrointestinal Function in Normal Humans”. Dr Bland wrote this paper from the Linus Pauling Institute of Science & Medicine at Palo Alto, California. It was published in “Preventive Medicine” in the Issue of March/April 1985.

In the tests reported by Bland, the dose of unconcentrated Aloe vera juice was 6 ounces per day (i.e. about 170ml), divided into 3 aliquots of 2 ounces (59ml). The duration of the test was only 7 days and no special measures were taken with regard to diet during the test period. Several parameters were measured which, taken together, were regarded as providing as a good and reliable index of the functioning of the gastrointestinal system. These were (1) a stool culture to indicate the distribution of bacterial types (2) levels of indican in the urine as an indication of the putrefactive capability of the ^ intestinal flora and hence of the flora’s capacity to manufacture toxic amines from intestinal amino acids (3) stool density (4) bowel transit time and (5) gastric pH.

The results indicated about a 40% reduction in the indican levels. This was taken to indicate that either bowel putrefactive activity was reduced, or else the digestion and assimilation of dietary protein higher up the tract was improved, or possibly both. Indican is derived from the amino acid tryptophane, but it was being used as a likely indicator of overall amino acid decarboxylating activity, and therefore of toxic amine production generally. The markedly diminished indican levels in the urine were taken, quite correctly, I think, to represent a considerable improvement in overall gastrointestinal function. It is a finding which carries with it implications for gastric function, pancreatic function, better bowel flora composition and, correlated to that, bowel contents pH and lower putrefactive activity.

Peptic Ulcer

Some Japanese work concerns peptic ulcer, as does the work of Blitz and colleagues in Florida (1963). In the latter study 12 patients with peptic ulcer were selected and Aloe vera gel was the sole source of treatment. It is notable that the gel was used by Blitz because in the Japanese work some components of the exudate fraction of the leaf {which is absent from gel) were recognised as being important. The twelve patients were “diagnosed clinically as having peptic ulcer, and having unmistakable roentgenographic evidence of duodenal cap lesions”. The results of the Blitz work are summarized as “All of these patients had recovered completely by the end of 1961, so that at this writing at least 1 year has elapsed since the last treatment”. Also “Clinically, Aloe vera gel has dissipated all symptoms” and “ Aloe vera gel provided complete recovery”. It is, indeed, tantalizing when one has only a small quantity of good information on such an important subject. The chances are that the misery of thousands of peptic ulcer sufferers could be removed through Aloe vera, but no one has proved it on a large enough scale, or to the satisfaction of the medical profession. The lucky members of the public are the ones who know about it.

The clinical evidence, both from the work of Blitz and from the Japanese work, is clear, in spite of their small numbers of patients. The effectiveness of Aloe for peptic ulcer seems established, even if some component of the exudate, such as aloenin, might ideally be added for maximum effect. There is, in my view, quite enough evidence to support the use of Aloe vera Whole Leaf Extract as a component of treatment for every peptic ulcer case encountered.

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