A new scientific review of 80 human trials published in Medical Principles and Practice explores which antioxidant supplement ingredients may offer clear benefits for people suffering from irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) or inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), including Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. Researchers explored the potential GI benefits of a wide range of antioxidant supplement ingredients, including boswellia (Boswellia serrata), turmeric (Curcuma longa), chamomile, wormwood, peppermint, polyunsaturated fatty acids, and other Ayurvedic and Chinese herbs.
By first selecting studies based on levels of confidence and benefits of antioxidant supplements, researchers arrived at a total of 80 human trials to include in the study. Starting with IBD, they found that for Crohn’s disease, clear benefits occurred in at least two studies for the drug allopurinol, boswellia, wormwood, léi gōng téng (Tripterygium wilfordii), and omega-3 fatty acids. For ulcerative colitis, allopurinol, chamomile, turmeric, and omega-3 fatty acids were found to offer a similar degree of positive effects.
However, when it came to IBS, researchers found only a marginal benefit associated with some of the antixoidant supplements, suggesting the ingredients are more beneficial at certain stages of specific diseases than others (IBD vs. IBS). Still, despite finding insufficient evidence for the benefits of these antioxidants against IBS, researchers also did not observe any adverse effects associated with such usage.
Based on the review results, researchers arrived at several recommendations. First, they suggested that allopurinol “and possibly curcumin” should be used for therapy in IBD patients in combination with the current treatments, including mesalamine, azathioprine, sulfasalazaine, and steroids. As far as boswellia, wormwood, léi gōng téng, fish oil, and chamomile, they suggested combined therapy trials should be considered along with the current treatments for IBD. And while studies showed some benefits from the use of multiherbal Chinese and Ayurvedic medicines, researchers suggested the findings still need to be replicated in large clinical trials.
Khan L et al., “Antioxidant supplements and gastrointestinal diseases: a critical appraisal,” Medical Principles and Practice. Published online March 8, 2017.