Wheat Grass Juice for Ulcerative Colitis
Long touted, but never proven, as a treatment for a wide range of health conditions, wheat grass juice has now been found to benefit people suffering from ulcerative colitis.
Ulcerative colitis is a common and sometimes serious disorder of the large intestine that can cause abdominal pain, diarrhea, and bleeding. According to a new double-blind study published in the Scandinavian Journal of Gastroenterology,1 people taking wheat grass juice experienced a significant improvement of their ulcerative colitis symptoms on a scale that measured overall disease activity, compared with people taking a placebo. Wheat grass juice also significantly reduced the severity of rectal bleeding and abdominal pain.
Researchers studied 23 people (average age, 35 years) with clinically active ulcerative colitis who were randomly assigned to consume wheat grass juice or a placebo for one month. The initial amount, 20 ml (two-thirds of an ounce) per day, was increased over a period of several days to a maximum of 100 ml (3.5 ounces) per day. In addition to the positive results mentioned above, an examination of the colon (sigmoidoscopy) showed improvement in 78% of the people receiving wheat grass juice, compared with only 30% of those receiving placebo. No serious side effects were seen. Although nausea was reported by 33% of the participants receiving wheat grass juice, 41% noted an increase in vitality while taking the supplement.
The use of wheat grass juice for therapeutic purposes was pioneered by the late Dr. Ann Wigmore. In 1956, she founded the Hippocrates Institute in West Palm Beach, Florida, which emphasizes health promotion through the use of natural foods and wheat grass supplements. Although this “green drink” has been promoted for nearly 50 years as a treatment for a wide range of health conditions (including cancer), until now it has not been tested in clinical trials.
Wheat grass is produced by sprouting and planting the seeds of the common wheat plant (Triticum aestivum). The difference between wheat grass and what most of us recognize as edible wheat is that the former is harvested much earlier in its life cycle. The wheat grass juice used in the new study was prepared fresh each day and consumed within an hour of extraction. Wheat grass juice has long been sold at many health food stores and juice bars. Some people grow wheat grass at home from the seeds. Kits designed to facilitate the growing process are commercially available.
Other natural treatments that have been reported to be effective against ulcerative colitis include identification and avoidance of allergenic foods,2 administration of butyrate (a short-chain fatty acid) by enema,3 and supplementation with psyllium (Plantago ovata) seeds.4
1. Ben-Arye E, Goldin E, Wengrower D, et al. Wheat grass juice in the treatment of active distal ulcerative colitis: a randomized double-blind placebo-controlled trial. Scand J Gastroenterol 2002;37:444–9.
2. Candy S, Borok G, Wright JP, et al. The value of an elimination diet in the management of patients with ulcerative colitis. S Afr Med J 1995;85:1176–9.
3. Scheppach W, Sommer H, Kirchner T, et al. Effect of butyrate enemas on the colonic mucosa in distal ulcerative colitis. Gastroenterology 1992;103:51–6.
4. Fernandez-Banares F, Hinojosa J, Sanchez-Lombrana JL, et al. Randomized clinical trial of Plantago ovata seeds (dietary fiber) as compared with mesalamine in maintaining remission in ulcerative colitis. Am J Gastroenterol 1999;94:427–33.
Alan R. Gaby, MD, an expert in nutritional therapies, served as a member of the Ad-Hoc Advisory Panel of the National Institutes of Health Office of Alternative Medicine. He is the Medical Editor for Clinical Essentials Alert, is the author of Preventing and Reversing Osteoporosis (Prima, 1994), and co-author of The Natural Pharmacy, 2nd Edition (Healthnotes, Prima, 1999), the A–Z Guide to Drug-Herb-Vitamin Interactions (Healthnotes, Prima, 1999), Clinical Essentials Volume 1 and 2 (Healthnotes, 2000), and The Patient’s Book of Natural Healing (Prima, 1999). Currently he is the Endowed Professor of Nutrition at Bastyr University of Natural Health Sciences, Kenmore, WA.
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