'Green Slime' for Ulcerative Colitis Patients? New Study Shows This Blue-Green Alga Holds Promise

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In the search for safer, natural remedies for ulcerative colitis, a tiny blue-green alga called Spirulina is making big waves. Discover how this nutrient-packed superfood may hold the key to improving gut health and quality of life for millions of UC patients worldwide.

Ulcerative colitis (UC) is a chronic inflammatory bowel disease that affects millions globally, causing painful ulcers in the digestive tract, frequent diarrhea, and reduced quality of life. While immunosuppressant and anti-inflammatory drugs are commonly used to manage UC, these medications often come with undesirable side effects. Now, researchers are exploring natural remedies like Spirulina, a nutrient-rich blue-green algae, as a potential complementary therapy for UC patients.

In a recent randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial published in BMC Complementary Medicine and Therapies, Moradi et al. investigated the effects of Spirulina supplementation on disease activity, quality of life, antioxidant status, and inflammatory markers in 80 patients with mild to moderate UC.1 For 8 weeks, participants were randomly assigned to receive either 1g/day of Spirulina (two 500mg capsules) or a placebo.

The researchers found that Spirulina supplementation significantly increased serum total antioxidant capacity (TAC) compared to the placebo group.1 This is noteworthy because oxidative stress is thought to play a key role in the pathogenesis of UC.2 Spirulina's potent antioxidant effects have been attributed to its rich content of phycocyanin and carotenoids, which can scavenge harmful reactive oxygen species and reduce lipid peroxidation.3

Moreover, while both the Spirulina and placebo groups saw improvements in health-related quality of life scores, the Spirulina group experienced a significantly greater increase.1 The researchers suggest this may be due in part to an improvement in stool frequency, a key factor influencing quality of life in UC patients.4

Interestingly, the mechanisms by which Spirulina improves gut health are multifaceted. In addition to its antioxidant properties, Spirulina has been shown to modulate the gut microbiome, increasing beneficial bacteria like Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium.5 It may also regulate adipokines involved in inflammation and help promote wound healing in the intestines.6,7

While the study did not find significant changes in disease activity scores or certain inflammatory markers like ESR and pentraxin-3, the authors note this may be due to the concurrent use of anti-inflammatory medications and the relatively short intervention period. Larger, longer-term trials are needed to fully elucidate Spirulina's potential anti-inflammatory benefits in UC.

It's important to note that the dose used in this study, 1g/day, was well-tolerated with no serious adverse events reported. This aligns with prior research indicating the safety of Spirulina supplementation.8 However, as with any supplement, patients should consult their healthcare provider before adding Spirulina to their treatment regimen.

In conclusion, this randomized controlled trial provides promising preliminary evidence for Spirulina as a safe, natural adjuvant therapy for UC patients. By boosting antioxidant capacity and improving quality of life, Spirulina may help alleviate some of the burdens of this chronic disease. As research continues to unravel the mechanisms and optimal dosing of this blue-green algae, Spirulina may emerge as a valuable tool in the integrative management of ulcerative colitis.

To learn more about the health benefits of spirulina, visit our database on subject here.

To learn more about natural alternatives for ulcerative colitis, visit our database on subject here.


1. Sajjad Moradi et al., "Effects of Spirulina Supplementation in Patients with Ulcerative Colitis: A Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Randomized Trial," BMC Complementary Medicine and Therapies 24, no. 1 (April 11, 2024): 109, https://doi.org/10.1186/s12906-024-04400-w.

2. A. Rezaie, R. D. Parker, and M. Abdollahi, "Oxidative Stress and Pathogenesis of Inflammatory Bowel Disease: An Epiphenomenon or the Cause?," Digestive Diseases and Sciences 52, no. 9 (September 2007): 2015-21, https://doi.org/10.1007/s10620-006-9622-2.

3. Qingfeng Wu et al., "The Antioxidant, Immunomodulatory, and Anti-Inflammatory Activities of Spirulina: An Overview," Archives of Toxicology 90, no. 8 (August 2016): 1817-40, https://doi.org/10.1007/s00204-016-1744-5.

4. S. L. Jowett et al., "The Short Inflammatory Bowel Disease Questionnaire Is Reliable and Responsive to Clinically Important Change in Ulcerative Colitis," The American Journal of Gastroenterology 96, no. 10 (October 2001): 2921-28, https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1572-0241.2001.04682.x.

5. Alberto Finamore et al., "Antioxidant, Immunomodulating, and Microbial-Modulating Activities of the Sustainable and Ecofriendly Spirulina," Oxidative Medicine and Cellular Longevity 2017 (2017): 3247528, https://doi.org/10.1155/2017/3247528.

6. Konstantinos Karmiris, Ioannis E. Koutroubakis, and Elias A. Kouroumalis, "Leptin, Adiponectin, Resistin, and Ghrelin--Implications for Inflammatory Bowel Disease," Molecular Nutrition & Food Research 52, no. 8 (August 2008): 855-66, https://doi.org/10.1002/mnfr.200700050.

7. Zeinab I. Elbialy et al., "Healing Potential of Spirulina Platensis for Skin Wounds by Modulating BFGF, VEGF, TGF-β1 and α-SMA Genes Expression Targeting Angiogenesis and Scar Tissue Formation in the Rat Model," Biomedicine & Pharmacotherapy 137 (May 2021): 111349, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.biopha.2021.111349.

8. P. D. Karkos et al., "Spirulina in Clinical Practice: Evidence-Based Human Applications," Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine 2011 (2011): 531053, https://doi.org/10.1093/ecam/nen058.

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