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Health News Archive 43 - Colon Health (con't)
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Chlorella Produces 61% Reduction in Ulcerative Colitis Symptoms

Researchers at Virginia Commonwealth University's Medical College of Virginia conducted a small study to further examine the effect of Chlorella on certain chronic illnesses. Double-blind, placebo-controlled, randomized clinical trials were held using 55 subjects with fibromyalgia, 33 with hypertension, and 9 with ulcerative colitis.  This report is on the ulcerative colitis patients.  

Eight of nine ulcerative colitis patients, age 25 to 56 completed the study.  All UC patients participating in the open-label study were given an initial sigmoidoscopic exam of their colons, and their symptoms were recorded and scored. Each participant took fifty chlorella tablets (ten grams) and approximately three ounces of liquid extract each day for two months. No restrictions were implemented and participants were instructed to continue their normal lifestyle routines, including taking any already prescribed medications.

At the end of the second month, full examinations and interviews were completed to determine any improvements in the patients’ ulcerative colitis condition. These examinations were performed to determine the disease activity index (DAI) — the most commonly used objective assessment for determining the state of inflammation of the colon. The DAI has four subscales: stool frequency, rectal bleeding, mucosal appearance, and physician’s overall assessment. Each subclass is scored from 0 to 3, thus the maximum score for the DAI is 12.  Zero represents no disease symptoms.  

Every participant’s symptoms improved after adding chlorella to their diets. The examinations revealed significantly less inflammation. General assessment indicated that the patients’ overall ulcerative colitis had significantly improved. The Disease Activity Index decreased from an average of 7.2 to 2.8. That’s nearly a sixty percent reduction in symptoms!

Prior to the study, there was a fair amount of medical literature that indicated that the use of chlorella could provide substantial benefits for sufferers of ulcerative colitis:

  • Numerous reports indicated that chlorophyll was beneficial in cleansing and protecting the lower GI tract. Chlorella has the highest chlorophyll content of any known plant.
  • Laboratory studies have suggested that chlorella stimulates the immune system to produce macrophages, which are cells that clean the blood, body fluids and cavities of harmful substances.
  • In the bowel area, chlorella was reported to stimulate the growth of “good” intestinal bacteria — lactobacilli, that assist in destroying populations of harmful bacteria such as Escherichia coli (E. coli).

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Ulcerative Colitis Background
Ulcerative colitis is a common, chronic form of inflammatory bowel disease that is characterized histologically as inflammation involving the mucosa and submucosa of the rectum and colon. Its most common symptoms are abdominal pain and bloody diarrhea, although those afflicted may also suffer from anemia, fatigue, weight loss, rectal bleeding, dehydration and malnutrition. The cause of ulcerative colitis is unknown and there is currently no cure. While available drug therapy for ulcerative colitis is often disappointing, most patients get some relief with a combination of sulfasalazine and corticosteroids. Up to now, no special diet or dietary supplement has been proven effective in the treatment of ulcerative colitis and, therefore, the purpose of our study was to determine if patients strongly symptomatic for ulcerative colitis would benefit from the inclusion of Chlorella in their diet (Merchant and Andre, 2001)

Ulcerative colitis is defined as having documented symptoms of hematochezia and diarrhea, negative stool cultures, and typical sigmoidoscopic findings such as superficial ulcerations, distorted mucosal vascular patterns, granularity, and exudate. From these data, a Disease Activity Index (DAI) can be computed from four subscales, consisting of: stool frequency, rectal bleeding, mucosal appearance, and physician's overall assessment (Kam et al., 1996). 

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Study Details
Researchers reported "To be eligible for our study, subjects had to have suffered from mild to moderate disease for at least a year and have a total DAI between 4 and 10, inclusive. The nine subjects enrolled ranged in age from 25 to 56 years and had at baseline, an average DAI of 7.2 (+/- 2.4). They supplemented their diets with 10 g of Chlorella tablets and 100 ml of Chlorella liquid extract daily for the two months of the study. Each participant returned to clinic every four weeks when blood samples were taken in order to assess any alterations in serum chemistries, cell counts, and sedimentation rate. A flexible sigmoidoscopic examination was conducted at the end of two months."

Eight subjects completed the entire two-month study and changes in each subclass of their DAI improved such that the total DAI declined from an average 7.2 (+/- 2.4) to 2.8 (+/- 2.5). The mean decrease in DAI from the beginning to end of study was 61% and even though this was a small study, the results were highly statistically significant (P=0.008). The decrease in stool frequency was statistically significant (p=0.016). The physician's sigmoidoscopic examination of rectal mucosa showed significantly less inflammation (p=0.02) and his overall assessment was that the patients' ulcerative colitis was significantly better (p=0.008). While the occasions of rectal bleeding were less for most subjects, the change was not significant (p=0.18). All blood analyses indicated these values remained within the normal limits of variation.

The effects of dietary Chlorella supplementation on their quality of life were quantified with the Inflammatory Bowel Disease Questionnaire (Guyatt et al., 1989) which contained 32 questions which examined four aspects of the patients' lives: 1) symptoms related to the primary bowel disturbance, 2) systemic symptoms, 3) emotional, and 4) social functions. Their responses on this questionnaire indicated statistically significant and strong trends for improvements in all four categories. Furthermore, patients indicated that they believed the severity of their ulcerative colitis had decreased soon after the addition of Chlorella to their diet, and continued to lessen or remain stable over the study's course. Taken together, the DAI results which indicated that every participant's objective symptoms of ulcerative colitis improved, combined with the positive assessment each patient gave in their questionnaires, strongly suggested that all the subjects benefited from supplementing their diet with Chlorella.

R. E. Merchant and C. A. Andre, "A Review of Recent Clinical Trials of the Nutritional Supplement Chlorella Pyrenoidosa in the Treatment of Fibromyalgia, Hypertension, and Ulcerative Colitis," Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine 7, no. 3 (May/June 2001): 79–91. 

Dietary Supplementation with Chlorella Pyrenoidosa Produces Positive Results in Patients with Cancer or Suffering From Certain Common Chronic Illnesses. Townsend Letter for Doctors and Patients, Feb, 2001, by Randall E. Merchant, Cynthia A. Andre.

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