DEAR DR. GOTT: After years of using Tums and then omeprazole for acid reflux, I purchased aloe vera juice from a health food store. I did my research and got most of my information from the WebMD site and made sure to get the juice that is filtered to remove the aloin (which apparently causes diarrhea and is not safe to take orally). I began drinking about two ounces morning and night. The stomach acid disappeared almost immediately. I have had no side effects and the juice was about $15 for a gallon.
DEAR READER: Aloe vera is a cactus-like plant (known as a succulent). The gel (found on the inside of the leaf) is most commonly used topically to treat burns and certain skin conditions, such as psoriasis. The outer (green) portion of the leaf can be used to make juice or aloe latex. Aloe latex was a component of many over-the-counter laxatives, but they were removed from the market in 2002 due to concerns.
Aloe latex is hard to digest and process through the kidneys, may have carcinogenic properties (intestinal tumors were found in male and female rats during one study), causes a loss of potassium, interacts with several medications and supplements, and more.
Topical application of aloe is most likely safe and may be beneficial for some conditions. Ingestion of aloe gel may be safe but additional studies are needed before definitive results can be passed along to consumers.
As to aloe juice, additional studies also need to be performed before I would feel comfortable either endorsing or condemning it. If it works for you, great; however, be sure that your physician is aware of your consumption. Those on steroids, laxatives, heart and diabetes medications should likely avoid oral aloe products, due to the possibility of potentially serious interactions.
In place of aloe juice, you may consider other alternatives, such as eating almonds at the first sign of symptoms, raising the head of the bed, taking a teaspoon of mustard, or drinking a combination of apple cider vinegar in water.
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