Wheatgrass Juice for Ulcerative Colitis

Wheatgrass Juice for Ulcerative Colitis
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A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial found wheatgrass juice to be safe and effective in the treatment of an inflammatory bowel disease.

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In the editorial that accompanied the landmark study showing an extract of the spice, turmeric, could be used to fight ulcerative colitis, they congratulated the researchers on performing the largest study ever on complementary or alternative medicine approaches to treat inflammatory bowel disease. But that’s not saying much.

Two of the only other high quality trials tried aloe vera gel and wheat grass juice. No significant improvements in clinical remission rates or endoscopy findings for aloe vera, but the wheatgrass findings were impressive: “Wheat grass juice in the treatment of active distal ulcerative colitis.” The use of wheatgrass for treatment of various gastrointestinal and other conditions had been suggested by its proponents for more than 30 years, but was never clinically assessed in a controlled trial, until this study.

The use of wheatgrass juice in the treatment of ulcerative colitis was brought to their attention by several patients who attributed improvement to regular use of the stuff. So, in a pilot study, they gave 100 cc’s a day—which is between like a third and a half a cup—of wheatgrass juice for two weeks to ten patients. Eight patients described clinical improvement; one had no change; and one got worse. Why had I never heard of that study? Because it was never published. They thought they were really onto something; so, they wanted to do it right. So, this randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial was designed to examine the effects of wheatgrass juice in patients with active distal ulcerative colitis. The study found that treatment with wheatgrass juice was associated with reductions in the overall disease activity and the severity of rectal bleeding. Ninety percent of the wheatgrass patients improved, and none got worse. They conclude that wheatgrass juice appeared effective and safe as a single or added treatment of active distal ulcerative colitis.

No answer is available at present as to the site of wheatgrass juice action. Does the active substance get absorbed into the body and have some kind of general anti-inflammatory effect, or does it act locally right in the colon? How would you figure that out? By juicing in the opposite direction.

A study like this raises so many questions. How would wheatgrass juice do head-to-head against other treatments? Does it have any role in preventing attacks, or only when you already have one? Should we be giving it to people with Crohn’s disease, too? What’s the best dose? It’s been over ten years since the publication of this study, yet nothing since. How sad. Yes, no one’s going to make a million selling wheatberries, but what about the wheatgrass juicer companies? I wish they’d pony up some research dollars.

Until then, though, wheatgrass appears to offer a genuine therapeutic advantage in this disabling disease. That is, if you can stand the taste.

To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video. This is just an approximation of the audio contributed by Katie Schloer.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Image thanks to oklo / Flickr

In the editorial that accompanied the landmark study showing an extract of the spice, turmeric, could be used to fight ulcerative colitis, they congratulated the researchers on performing the largest study ever on complementary or alternative medicine approaches to treat inflammatory bowel disease. But that’s not saying much.

Two of the only other high quality trials tried aloe vera gel and wheat grass juice. No significant improvements in clinical remission rates or endoscopy findings for aloe vera, but the wheatgrass findings were impressive: “Wheat grass juice in the treatment of active distal ulcerative colitis.” The use of wheatgrass for treatment of various gastrointestinal and other conditions had been suggested by its proponents for more than 30 years, but was never clinically assessed in a controlled trial, until this study.

The use of wheatgrass juice in the treatment of ulcerative colitis was brought to their attention by several patients who attributed improvement to regular use of the stuff. So, in a pilot study, they gave 100 cc’s a day—which is between like a third and a half a cup—of wheatgrass juice for two weeks to ten patients. Eight patients described clinical improvement; one had no change; and one got worse. Why had I never heard of that study? Because it was never published. They thought they were really onto something; so, they wanted to do it right. So, this randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial was designed to examine the effects of wheatgrass juice in patients with active distal ulcerative colitis. The study found that treatment with wheatgrass juice was associated with reductions in the overall disease activity and the severity of rectal bleeding. Ninety percent of the wheatgrass patients improved, and none got worse. They conclude that wheatgrass juice appeared effective and safe as a single or added treatment of active distal ulcerative colitis.

No answer is available at present as to the site of wheatgrass juice action. Does the active substance get absorbed into the body and have some kind of general anti-inflammatory effect, or does it act locally right in the colon? How would you figure that out? By juicing in the opposite direction.

A study like this raises so many questions. How would wheatgrass juice do head-to-head against other treatments? Does it have any role in preventing attacks, or only when you already have one? Should we be giving it to people with Crohn’s disease, too? What’s the best dose? It’s been over ten years since the publication of this study, yet nothing since. How sad. Yes, no one’s going to make a million selling wheatberries, but what about the wheatgrass juicer companies? I wish they’d pony up some research dollars.

Until then, though, wheatgrass appears to offer a genuine therapeutic advantage in this disabling disease. That is, if you can stand the taste.

To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video. This is just an approximation of the audio contributed by Katie Schloer.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Image thanks to oklo / Flickr

Doctor's Note

The turmeric video I mentioned is Striking with the Root: Turmeric Curcumin and Ulcerative Colitis.

I think the only other videos where I’ve mentioned wheatgrass are How Much Broccoli Is Too Much? and Dietary Cure for Hidradenitis Suppurativa, and that was really just for comic relief. This is one of the topics I get lots of questions about, but there just wasn’t any good science…until now! Please never hesitate to contact us with topics you’d like us to cover.

For more on ulcerative colitis and inflammatory bowel disease, see:

If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to my videos for free by clicking here.

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