Chlorophyll has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, and some people take it to relieve the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). However, evidence for its effectiveness is lacking, and it may worsen symptoms in some cases.

This article explains what chlorophyll is and how to use it as a food or supplement. Next, we look at what the research says about its benefits for IBS and discuss its safety, effectiveness, and side effects. Finally, we list foods that contain high levels of chlorophyll.

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Chlorophyll is a green pigment within almost all plants and algae. It absorbs light and is necessary for photosynthesis, in which plants use sunlight for energy.

There are several different types of chlorophyll, including chlorophyll a, the primary pigment for photosynthesis in plants, and chlorophyll b, an accessory pigment transferring light to chlorophyll a.

In addition, chlorophyllin is a chlorophyll derivative that manufacturers use as a food additive and natural food colorant. For example, as a food coloring, they label chlorophyllin as E141. Retailers also market chlorophyllin as a dietary supplement.

Sodium copper chlorophyllin is a semi-synthetic mixture of sodium copper salts that derives from chlorophyll. This is the type of chlorophyllin that scientists have studied the most.

Some people take chlorophyll as a liquid drink, powder, or capsule for its health benefits. Alternatively, they may juice plants with high chlorophyll content.

Read on for the benefits of chlorophyll.

According to the American College of Gastroenterology (ACG), 10–15% of adults may experience IBS symptoms, yet doctors have only diagnosed 5–7% of adults.

The ACG advises that changes in the nerves and muscles that control gut sensation and movement may cause IBS. Symptoms may include:

Doctors may treat IBS with different types of medication depending on a person’s symptoms. Some people may also benefit from psychological therapies. However, a doctor is unlikely to recommend chlorophyll as a treatment for IBS.

Chlorophyll supplements generally do not carry risks, and people absorb them in liquid supplements more easily. However, a person who is pregnant or lactating can speak with a doctor before taking chlorophyll and its derivatives, as its effects are not fully clear.

Possible side effects

Possible side effects of consuming chlorophyll may include diarrhea and nausea, which may aggravate IBS symptoms.

Additionally, if someone takes medication, they should check with their doctor before consuming chlorophyll.

Evidence is lacking for chlorophyll’s effectiveness for IBS symptoms. However, scientists have studied it for other medical conditions and suggested the substance has beneficial properties that could help those with IBS. The benefits include the below.

Reducing inflammation

Some research suggests that using chlorophyll-containing herbal supplements, such as wheatgrass juice, may be beneficial for the inflammation associated with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). However, because IBD and IBS are different conditions, these findings may not be applicable.

IBD is an autoimmune condition that results in inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract. In contrast, digestive issues and gut sensitivity may cause IBS.

Read on for the differences between IBD and IBS.

However, the ACG advises that a bowel infection or overgrowth of bacteria in the gut may trigger IBS. Therefore, in principle, reducing inflammation with chlorophyll could be beneficial.

Antioxidant activity

Other research indicates that chlorophyll has antioxidant properties. Antioxidants work by fighting free radicals that may cause inflammation or disease in the body. However, there is limited research on the antioxidant activity of chlorophyll, but it provides future opportunities to determine the substance’s actions on human metabolism.

Regulate microbiota

Additionally, a 2018 animal study indicates that chlorophyllin regulates the microbiota in the gut and inhibits inflammation in the intestines. An alteration in gut microbiota may contribute to IBS. Therefore, restoring the microbiota could benefit IBS symptoms.

The existing research suggests that chlorophyll may be beneficial for digestive and immune health, but there is no specific evidence for its effects on IBS symptoms.

While all green plants and most vegetables we eat contain chlorophyll, dark green leafy vegetables and others provide high, natural sources of chlorophyll, including:

Retailers often market green algae, such as chlorella, as supplemental sources of chlorophyll. Some people add this or other chlorophyll-rich sources, such as wheatgrass, to smoothies and other green vegetables to drink it in its natural form.

Other dietary recommendations

A 2022 laboratory study showed that salt in foods might decrease the amount of chlorophyll a person digests.

However, research from 2017 found that in both rodents and humans, a high-salt diet resulted in a lower amount of of Lactobacillus in the gut, the good bacteria.

With this in mind, an individual can speak with a doctor to determine the best level of salt and the sources in their diet.

Experts recommend a FODMAP diet for those with IBS. This eating plan excludes some vegetables that may contribute to gas and bloating. Therefore, including many foods containing chlorophyll, such as beans, cabbage, and sugar snap peas, may aggravate symptoms and be counterproductive.

A person can consult a doctor or dietitian to explore the most suitable diet for relieving symptoms and any supplements to take.

At present, there is no evidence that chlorophyll can specifically help the symptoms of IBS. However, its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties may be beneficial, and it may support the gut microbiome in people with IBS.

A person should check with their doctor before using chlorophyll if they are taking medication and avoid it if they are pregnant or lactating. In addition, because chlorophyll may have side effects, it could worsen IBS or digestive symptoms, so an individual can speak with a doctor or dietitian in these cases.