Chlorophyll, that green substance responsible for giving plants their color and for facilitating photosynthesis, has a lot of potential health benefits.
Among the many benefits of the green supplement is digestive assistance. It may, however, be a bit of a double-edged sword. The truth is, while most of us consume chlorophyll every single day in the vegetables we eat, very little of that actually remains in the body as chlorophyll. Instead, it is generally broken down into constituent parts, as part of the digestive process.
When taking pure chlorophyll (or chlorophyllin, the synthetic extract often used in supplements) the body can't break it all down, and thus, some of it makes its way into your bodily system whole. This is the medicinal use of chlorophyll, and it's surprisingly understudied.
What this means is that, basically any time you see an authoritative site talk about chlorophyll, you'll see phrases like:
- "No good scientific evidence to support these uses."
- "Larger, more rigorous studies are needed to evaluate the potential health benefits."
In other words, while people have been using the substance for its alleged health benefits, scientific studies are either inconclusive, mixed, or haven't been performed at all.
Potential Benefits of Chlorophyll
We can't say with 100% certainty that chlorophyll has benefits for everyone. What we can say is that we sell a chlorophyll supplement, and our customers themselves have reported benefits from taking it. Those benefits include:
- Stimulation of the immune system. As a healthy plant-based molecule and phytonutrient, chlorophyll may stimulate the production of red and white blood cells and a resultant boost to the immune system's function.
- Assistance in bodily detoxification. Some potential benefits of chlorophyll include its antifungal properties, helping to purge fungal spores from the body, as well as boosting liver function, and assisting the body's natural detoxification processes.
- Reducing odors. One of the primary benefits of concentrated chlorophyll is the ability to reduce bodily odors carried through the intestines, as well as on the breath and elsewhere.
- Wound healing and reduced inflammation. Inflammation is the body's natural response to damage, whether it's systemic or acute. Chlorophyll, when ingested, seems to help the body heal and fight off minor infections, while also reducing inflammation.
- Regulated bowels. Another primary benefit of chlorophyll is the regulation of bowel movements. People suffering from diarrhea find that they get it less, and people suffering from constipation find more regularity in their movements. This may be dose-dependent.
All these potential benefits aside, further scientific study is needed to come to a conclusive answer about each one.
Chlorophyll and Bowel Movements
Since we're focused on constipation today, let's talk about how chlorophyll and bowel movements may interact.
Kaiser Permanente has recorded some evidence that chlorophyll supplements can help loosen stool and facilitate bowel movements, particularly in the elderly who suffer from chronic constipation. Specifically, they say:
"Chlorophyll, the substance responsible for the green color in plants, has been shown to ease chronic constipation in elderly people. Chlorophyll, the substance responsible for the green color in plants, may be useful for a number of gastrointestinal problems. In a preliminary trial, chlorophyll supplementation eased chronic constipation in elderly people."
On the other hand, there's no evidence to suggest that chlorophyll can cure diarrhea. In fact, it's quite the opposite; a common side effect of taking chlorophyll is increased digestive distress and diarrhea. So, chlorophyll can loosen stool, but if you're not suffering from constipation, chances are you're probably going to go too far in the other direction.
Chlorophyll Versus Vegetables
Some people list chlorophyll as a nutrient that regulates bowel movements. What's going on?
The truth is, chlorophyll is a key ingredient in many vegetables. Pretty much any green vegetable, including salad greens like kale, spinach, and arugula, will have a sizable amount of chlorophyll in it.
What is happening is likely misreporting, whether accidental or intentional. High-chlorophyll vegetables will, indeed, stabilize your bowel movements and make you much more regular. It's not only the chlorophyll doing it, though; it's the fiber.
Dietary fiber is a hugely important nutrient. It's a long, difficult-to-digest carbohydrate. This means it passes through your digestive tract slowly, which serves many purposes:
- It reduces hunger pangs, making you feel full for longer, and suppressing your appetite.
- It soaks up water that would otherwise pass through you, allowing your body to absorb it more slowly over the course of hours.
- It provides a range of beneficial nutrients and energy, which is delivered more slowly but more consistently than with energy-spiking foods like sugars and simple carbs.
- It helps move the bowels. By soaking up water, it helps prevent diarrhea from occurring, but retaining that water helps prevent the dehydrated stool that becomes constipation.
So; eat your vegetables, and get plenty of greens, and you're likely to cut down on diarrhea unless something you're eating is triggering an allergy or sensitivity. Pure chlorophyll? It can probably help with constipation, but not with diarrhea.
Chlorophyll Versus Chlorophyllin
One thing you might encounter is that chlorophyll might not actually be chlorophyll. Many chlorophyll supplements are actually chlorophyllin. So what is it, and what's the difference?
Chlorophyll is the molecule used in plants as part of photosynthesis. It's a ring-shaped molecule centered around an atom of magnesium. This is actually very similar to a ring-shaped molecule centered around the element, iron, which is called heme – the heme in hemoglobin, that is, blood.
Chlorophyllin is a semi-synthetic version of chlorophyll that, rather than using magnesium, uses a copper salt. Sodium copper chlorin, specifically, with either two or three sodium molecules; disodium or trisodium copper chlorin.
The two molecules are very similar, but they're not quite identical. They have many of the same effects on the body, partially because their method of action is mechanical. They have similar structures to hemoglobin, which is how they interact with and stimulate the blood.
On the other hand, not much study has been done to see how different the two really are. They're both green, they're both taken up by the body in the same way, and they both eventually make their way through you. A few studies have been performed and show some differences, though. For example, this study into rats and colon cancer found that chlorophyll could help minimize the risk of colon cancer, but chlorophyllin – the synthetic alternative – did not.
Does a single molecule of copper versus a single molecule of magnesium make that much of a difference? Probably, but again, there's very little evidence to indicate either way. Very few studies have been performed into either one, let alone comparing the two.
This might be a good place to point out that our chlorophyll supplement is natural chlorophyll, not chlorophyllin. Just saying.
Potential Side Effects
Chlorophyll supplements have a few side effects, almost entirely limited to digestion. Specifically, pure chlorophyll AND chlorophyllin supplements may trigger diarrhea in some people, or in large doses.
It's a simple matter of mechanism. Chlorophyll seems to loosen stool and encourage bowel movements. If you're constipated, that's a good thing, and it can help get things moving. You'll feel everything loosen up and, sooner rather than later, need to be released. On the other hand, if you're not constipated and you aren't worried about bowel movements, well, chlorophyll may push you too far in the other direction.
The other primary issue is color. Chlorophyll is intense, deep green. If you've ever eaten food with a lot of artificial color in it, you may know that some of that color may pass through you and tint your bowl movements. Chlorophyll is no different and does this a lot.
When taking a chlorophyll or chlorophyllin supplement, be aware that it may turn your stool green or black. This can be disconcerting because, well, a black stool is a sign of bleeding in the intestines, and is usually one of the only indicators you get before something dangerous like sepsis happens. Seeing it can be distressing until you remember what caused it.
On the more extreme end of side effects, there are a couple of small, rare potential concerns.
First of all, if you apply chlorophyll topically, it might irritate your skin, particularly around wounds. Some people find that using it as a wound healing topical application leaves them with itching or burning around the wound. If that happens, discontinue the use of chlorophyll immediately. That said, our supplements aren't meant for topical use, so this shouldn't be a problem with our product.
There's also the potential case that chlorophyll, in large doses, might affect other medications you're taking. This is true of just about anything and is why we always encourage you to consult with a doctor before you start taking any supplement while on another medication. The last thing you want is for an important medication to work less effectively!
That said, we don't know of any medication interactions. So far, science hasn't discovered any in the trials that have been done. Additionally, chlorophyll and chlorophyllin are non-toxic; it's not possible to overdose on them without taking far, far too much in a day, and even then, it's likely other ingredients in the chlorophyll supplement that would be hurting you, not the chlorophyll itself.
If you're pregnant, you might want to hold off on a chlorophyll supplement, just to be on the safe side. No studies have been done into the impact of chlorophyll on pregnant mothers or newborns who are breastfed, so we can't in good conscience tell you it's safe; we just don't know.
Should You Take Chlorophyll?
There are two questions here: should you take a chlorophyll supplement, and if so, should it be chlorophyll or chlorophyllin?
Let's answer the first part first. Should you take chlorophyll as a supplement?
Our answer: why not? If you're constipated and you want to see if you can use it as a relatively healthy way to free up your bowels, it's worth a try. It won't hurt you, and it's probably easier on the body than pure magnesium citrate or whatever other laxatives you might be taking. It's also unlikely to cause the de-training effect laxatives can cause, where a rebounding laxative leaves you constipated once you stop taking it, causing you to become dependent on the laxative itself.
The only thing to watch out for is certain kinds of chlorophyll supplements you might find on the market. We know of one, popular on Amazon, that has a dosage level of just a few drops; this is because it's laced with essential oils, which are generally not safe to consume. Be aware of the ingredients other than chlorophyll that are in the supplements you buy!
Secondly, should you go for chlorophyll or chlorophyllin?
From what we know, chlorophyllin is a little cheaper and a little easier to find. That said, that's not a problem when you have our supplement readily available, right? Chlorophyllin seems to be a little less effective in the few tests that compare the two, even though they're very similar molecules with very similar mechanisms of action.
The truth is, science has not yet really determined which is better, or which is more effective, or what the benefits truly are for either chlorophyll or chlorophyllin.
Our recommendation is to take chlorophyll in moderation, starting with a small dose, to see how it affects your body. If it leaves you with beneficial effects, great! If you end up suffering from gastrointestinal distress, or if it doesn't seem to do much for you, consider discontinuing it. Most likely, it will be safe for you. It might give you energy, it might help you with body odor, it might help cure constipation and leave you with more regular bowel movements, or it might do none of the above. Every person is different and reacts to supplements differently, so give it a try and see how it goes!
Have you tried chlorophyll before? What about chlorophyllin? What were your thoughts? Would you personally recommend it to others? We'd love to hear your thoughts about all this!