Is Chlorophyll Good for Lupus? Risks and Benefits | MyLupusTeam

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Is Chlorophyll Good for Lupus? Risks and Benefits

Medically reviewed by Kelsey Stalvey, PharmD
Written by Sarah Winfrey
Posted on July 18, 2023

Drinking chlorophyll for its supposed health benefits is a TikTok trend that recently went viral — videos about the supplement have generated millions of views online. Now members of MyLupusTeam are asking about it, like one who asked, “Does anyone take supplements with chlorophyll?”

If you’re interested in taking chlorophyll to help with lupus or for other health benefits, it’s important to understand what you’re doing before you start. Also, be aware that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) doesn’t regulate vitamins and supplements as rigorously as medications. For example, supplement packaging may make claims that aren’t backed by science and may not accurately reflect a product’s ingredients.

You should also talk with your health care provider before you start taking any new supplements. They can tell you about any possible dangers or drug interactions specific to you and your treatment plan.

Here’s what you need to know to decide if chlorophyll is right for you.

What Is Chlorophyll?

Chlorophyll (often listed in supplements as chlorophyllin) is a bright green substance that gives green plants their color. This pigment is part of the process of photosynthesis, through which plants turn light into food and release oxygen into the world.

Chlorophyll acts as an antioxidant. That means it may help protect your cells by stabilizing them and neutralizing molecules called free radicals, which can do damage if left unchecked.

As a supplement, chlorophyll is usually taken as a pill or liquid. You also get a dose of chlorophyll naturally anytime you eat a green vegetable, like broccoli, lettuce, kale, or spinach.

How Is Chlorophyll Used as a Supplement?

People attribute all sorts of health benefits to chlorophyll. These include claims that chlorophyll can prevent cancer, promote weight loss, lower inflammation, and get rid of toxins. Some people say that they have more energy when they take chlorophyll or that the supplement helps with problems such as body odor or upset stomach.

Most people who use chlorophyll choose a supplement form rather than consuming extra green vegetables. They can get a higher amount at one time through supplementation, and they don’t have to change their diet, especially if they don’t like or don’t eat green vegetables.

However, you can get a good amount of chlorophyll simply by incorporating green vegetables into your diet. This approach is generally sufficient if you’re interested in boosting your chlorophyll intake, because all green vegetables are good sources. You can then skip swallowing more pills or a liquid chlorophyll supplement. Plus, you’ll reap the benefits of the full spectrum of nutrients the vegetable has to offer — such as vitamins C, B6, and K and the minerals calcium, potassium, and iron —which is often more than you’d get from a supplement.

Chlorophyll and Lupus

Of the claims made for chlorophyll, the most helpful potential benefit for people living with lupus might be its anti-inflammatory properties. Lupus is an inflammatory autoimmune disease, so the hope would be that chlorophyll could help manage symptoms like joint pain or reduce lupus flares.

What Are the Known Benefits of Chlorophyll?

Very few systematic studies have looked into chlorophyll’s effects on the human body. A few studies are underway, in response to the recent TikTok trend, but it will be years before the research is finished and the conclusions can be applied and understood.

Some small studies indicate that chlorophyll has the potential to help prevent cancer, or at least specific types of cancer. Applied directly, chlorophyll may promote healing and ease inflammation of wounds and may help treat some skin issues, like acne or sun spots.

Chlorophyll does seem beneficial for people who have colostomy or ileostomy bags (pouches outside the body that catch and hold feces until they can be disposed of), usually due to intestinal problems. The supplement has long been prescribed to help the feces smell better. However, it hasn’t been shown to have any other health benefits.

Is Chlorophyll Linked With Any Risks?

Very few risks are associated with taking chlorophyll, especially at moderate doses. However, you might notice certain adverse effects.

In some people, taking chlorophyll causes stomach issues. Medical providers have observed that people who take chlorophyll to improve the smell of their stool in colostomy or ileostomy bags can experience side effects of diarrhea or stomach/intestine cramps.

Chlorophyll can also turn your stools dark green. This isn’t necessarily a problem, but it might be disturbing unless you know what caused the change.

In addition, taking chlorophyll may make you more prone to sunburn — a particular problem if you’re living with lupus. The condition makes many people photosensitive, which means their skin reacts to ultraviolet light from the sun and artificial lighting. Further heightening your skin’s sensitivity to sunlight may not be a chance you want to take, especially if it raises your risk of developing some types of lupus rashes.

Discuss Chlorophyll With Your Doctor

If you’re considering taking chlorophyll to help treat lupus or gain other health benefits, first talk to your rheumatology provider to get medical advice and additional information. They’ll help you evaluate whether chlorophyll might be a good dietary supplement for you. This may involve looking at research on chlorophyll to see if the supplement might provide your hoped-for benefits or if another supplement could better help you reach your goals.

Your health care provider will also talk you through the risks of taking chlorophyll, including increased sun sensitivity. If you still decide to take the supplement, they may work with you to make sure you know how to manage photosensitivity. They can also help ensure that you don’t face potential drug interactions between chlorophyll, your lupus treatments, and any other medications you use, as well as help you decide if chlorophyll is right for you if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.

A health care professional can also help you decide how to up your intake of chlorophyll. They may recommend a pill or a liquid supplement, or they may encourage you to get more chlorophyll through your diet first. They’ll make sure that you’re taking a safe amount of chlorophyll and getting it in a way that makes it available for your body to use.

Talk With Others Who Understand

MyLupusTeam is the social network for people with lupus and their loved ones. On MyLupusTeam, more than 223,000 members come together to ask questions, give advice, and share their stories with others who understand life with lupus.

Are you considering chlorophyll for lupus? If you’ve tried it, did you feel that it had an effect on your symptoms? Share your experience in the comments below, or start a conversation by posting on your Activities page.

Posted on July 18, 2023
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Kelsey Stalvey, PharmD received her Doctor of Pharmacy from Pacific University School of Pharmacy in Portland, Oregon, and went on to complete a one-year postgraduate residency at Sarasota Memorial Hospital in Sarasota, Florida. Learn more about her here.
Sarah Winfrey is a writer at MyHealthTeam. Learn more about her here.

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