Digestive Relief with the Aloe Leaf

I am in full Earth-mama mode these days, using a natural remedy whenever possible. So when Patrick started moaning from the bathroom about inheriting his father’s bad digestion, I started looking into aloe.

Yes, aloe. “We have a whole section for dealing with constipation,” said Jan at Jimbo’s Naturally in Del Mar (858-793-7755). “First, you need to drink a lot of water and maybe take some probiotics — anything with acidophilus. Something such as Bio-K. That’s a yogurt that you shake up and drink [$4.35 for a single bottle, $25 for a 6-pack, $48 for a 15-pack]. It can be used whether you have diarrhea or constipation. The large intestine will use the acidophilus in the Bio-K, while the small intestine will use the bifidus. There are probiotic strains that prepare the gut so that other strains can take root and multiply, and all this helps you digest your food.”

Jan’s other recommendation was aloe juice. “I’m trying to suggest things that are not addictive. With some herbs, such as cascara sagrada, you get a good result but then you start needing more and more to get the same result. But aloe juice is a great way to go. I recommend whole-leaf aloe juice — it gives you all the constituents of the plant. The whole-leaf brands we carry are Lily of the Desert, Real Aloe, and Aloe Life [prices range from $3.95 to $32]. We also carry Georgia’s, but it’s distilled and tastes watery. A lot of things have been removed, to the point where it tastes like water.”

Sandy at Henry’s in North Park (619-291-8287) jumped on the Aloe Life bandwagon for natural constipation relief. “I use the Aloe Life Cherry Berry [$12.99 for 16 oz.]. I take a swig in the morning. It keeps me regular, and it’s very gentle. There are no harsh stimulants.”

The Aloe Life company happens to be based in Santee (800-414-2563; aloelife.com), and I called them up to ask about their product. The first woman I spoke with, Lacey, was a true believer.

“I was one of those who had chronic constipation, even from childhood. I thought it was normal. But when I got on our products, I noticed an improvement within days. We recommend one ounce a day.”

Next I spoke with Aloe Life owner Karen Masterson-Koch. “We’ve been pioneers in the field of aloe juice,” she began, “though the plant itself has been used for thousands of years, going back to the ancient civilizations in Egypt and the Mediterranean. The ancients knew about its incredible uses for healing the skin, but in the old herbalist books, aloe is listed as a cure for digestive ailments. The juice is 100 percent safe to drink for everyone, including children and the elderly. There are no contra-indications with any kind of medicine.

“Aloe juice,” she continued, “has been sold in health-food stores for about 50 years, so that’s not new. What is new is the technology that allows us to process the whole leaf instead of just the inner gel. The gel just isn’t as potent a therapeutic as the whole leaf. We sell a whole-leaf concentrate. It takes 25 pounds of aloe vera to make a 32-ounce bottle…. We use cold processing, and that lets us avoid breaking the long sugar chains, or polysaccharides, that would normally rupture during pasteurization.”

But on to more, er, pressing matters. “Aloe juice is also an herbal bitter. Bitters cause an increase of digestive juices such as hydrochloric acid into the stomach. If you don’t have enough of those juices, you can get heartburn. Further, when aloe juice is not overfiltered, it provides a laxative effect similar to that of prune juice. So it will help to move the bowels. And it contains five natural anti-inflammatories, which can help with irritable-bowel syndrome.”

Masterson-Koch compared the taste of her aloe juice ($14.29 for 16 oz., $24.19 for 32 oz., available at most health-food stores) to “tomato juice, with a bitter kind of bite. It’s not quite as thick as tomato juice, but it does have body and a dark-yellow color. For kids, or for people who just like it better sweeter, we have flavors such as orange-papaya, cherry-berry, or super fruit.”

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