One of the primary uses of aloe vera is as a topical treatment for minor cuts and burns. Traditionally, aloe also has been used as a laxative to treat constipation, but recent research suggests that it can cause severe side effects, which may include diarrhea and gas. In some cases, albeit less commonly, a digestive disorder or contamination is to blame for diarrhea and gas after drinking aloe vera juice.
Aloe vera is a succulent plant, which means its leaves hold large amounts of water. The leaves contain the clear gel that is used as a topical ointment for burns and cuts. The leaves themselves are turned into a juice -- known as aloe latex -- that is taken orally and does not contain any of the clear gel. The aloe latex, however, contains constituents with laxative effects.
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Aloe latex is a yellow-colored, bitter-tasting liquid. The liquid contains a cathartic laxative called anthraquinone that has been used to treat constipation. However, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center, the reported side effects of drinking aloe latex include diarrhea and cramping, and it is now recommended not to drink aloe latex for constipation. If you are drinking aloe juice that still retains some form of anthraquinone -- aloin, aloe-emodin or barbaloin, for example -- it is a likely cause of your bloating and gas.
Avoiding aloe latex altogether is the easiest way to prevent getting diarrhea, bloating and gas. However, if you still wish to drink aloe juice, it is available without the laxative constituents. According to the International Aloe Science Council, decolorized whole leaf aloe vera juice is free of the anthraquinones that cause the laxative effect and should not cause symptoms typically associated with aloe latex. Look for a label identifying the juice as made from decolorized whole leaf or identifying it as "latex-free."
A sensitivity to the laxative effects of aloe latex is a common cause of diarrhea and gas, but drinking the juice can also cause similar symptoms if you have a digestive disorder. For example, while aloe juice is reportedly helpful for some mild forms of digestive diseases, such as Crohn's disease, it may also cause problems such as diarrhea or cramping, according to the Crohn's and Colitis Foundation of America. If you experience severe diarrhea and gas after consuming aloe juice, or experience these symptoms with other foods or drinks, consult a doctor to rule out an underlying digestive problem. In rare cases, diarrhea and cramping could be due to bacterial contamination, but this is usually an isolated incident.
- Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center: Aloe Vera
- National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine: Aloe Vera
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Aloe
- MedlinePlus: Aloe
- Union County College: Aloe Vera
- Crohn's and Colitis Foundation of America: Complementary and Alternative Medicine -- Aloe Vera
- The International Aloe Science Council: Purified Aloe Vera Whole Leaf Juice Free of Constituents of Concern Identified by IARC Monograph Working Group
- Foodsafety.gov: Food Poisoning
Is this an emergency? If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, please see the National Library of Medicine’s list of signs you need emergency medical attention or call 911.