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.
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
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.
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:
- abdominal pain
- change in bowel movements
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.
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.
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
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:
- bell peppers
- Brussels sprouts
- green cabbage
- collard greens
- green beans
- green peas
- romaine lettuce
- Swiss chard
- turnip greens
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.
With this in mind, an individual can speak with a doctor to determine the best level of salt and the sources in their diet.
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.