Liquid derived from the leaf of the Aloe vera plant -- also called aloe latex or aloe juice -- may be ingested as a health supplement. Historically, aloe has been consumed as a treatment for constipation. It should be noted, however, that in 2002 the U.S. Food and Drug Administration deemed over-the-counter laxatives containing aloe unsafe. Consult your medical provider for more information about the side effects of consuming aloe.
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Orally-administered aloe works by stimulating the digestive muscles inside your intestines. It is possible for ingested aloe to over-stimulate these muscles, leading to severe abdominal cramping. Abdominal cramps can also cause nausea or a diminished appetite in certain people. Seek care from your physician if severe abdominal cramping persists. This side effect of aloe ingestion may be indicative of an underlying health condition, such as a stomach ulcer or appendicitis.
Intestinal irritation caused by aloe ingestion may result in diarrhea. Frequent, urgent, loose bowel movements may be disruptive to your normal daily routine. Episodes of diarrhea may also be accompanied by abdominal cramps, bloating, pain or loss of appetite. If diarrhea persists, your body may not retain the electrolytes it needs to keep functioning normally, putting you at risk for developing dehydration. Seek care from your physician if you experience excessive thirst, fatigue, headache or dry mouth, or if diarrhea continues for longer than a couple of days.
Severe Adverse Effects
Prolonged or excessive treatment with orally-administered aloe may cause severe adverse side effects. Ingesting aloe supplements on a long-term basis can result in diminished potassium levels, heart problems, kidney damage, unintended weight loss and muscle weakness. Life-threatening medical complications may also arise if you take 1 g or more of aloe daily over a period of several days. As a result of these severe side effects, extended treatment with aloe supplements should be avoided. Seek prompt medical care if you develop any of these severe adverse effects after ingesting aloe.
Inform your physician of any medical issues you may have prior to consuming aloe. Women who are pregnant or nursing should not ingest aloe as the safety of this supplement in expectant mothers has not been fully evaluated. Unless otherwise advised by a doctor, treatment with aloe should also be avoided if you have diabetes, hemorrhoids, kidney damage or disease, or any intestinal problems such as Crohn's disease or intestinal obstruction.