Photo: Getty Images/Rodin Eckenroth
For better or for worse, when it comes to health trends, celebs often lead the way. Whenever they share what they're into, our ears perk up. After all, they have access to the best trainers, nutritionists, and specialists out there. Taylor Swift recently opened up about the supplements she takes; and Kylie Jenner shared that she uses a collagen-infused creamer for her coffee; and Anne Hathaway had us doing a double-take with her 'giant food syringe' full of juice.
So when Mandy Moore recently shared that she drinks chlorophyll-infused water for her gut health, we were intrigued. (Psst here are more of her workout and diet tips.) So, do we need to start too?! We asked experts if it's the gut health elixir we've all been missing.
What is chlorophyll again?
"Chlorophyll is the green molecule in plants that absorbs sunlight during photosynthesis and converts sunlight into energy, aiding in some anti-oxidative process in plants," says Christine Lee, M.D., a gastroenterologist at Cleveland Clinic.
Chlorophyll has been shown to have some legit benefits for your skin—a small study found that women who applied a chlorophyll gel to their skin for 12 days showed less sun damage. It's also been studied as a possible acne remedy. (Dr. Lee notes that chlorophyll can make skin more sensitive to the sun, though.) Chlorophyll has also been found to be a natural deodorant, helping decrease symptoms in people with trimethylaminuria, a condition that causes fishy odors—and it can help with wound healing by neutralizing skin bacteria in wounds, says Dr. Lee.
It also has a few other health benefits that have been studied. Most notably? It my be anticarginogenic. One small study suggested that chlorophyll may limint the bioavailability of aflatoxins—a compound known to cause cancer—that people can become unknowingly exposed to by eating contaminated plant products. Other research found that it may aid weight loss; 38 women in the study were given a chlorophyll supplement (5 grams) or a placebo, and those who took the chlorophyll reported more significant weight loss compared to the placebo takers.
So does chlorophyll have gut health benefits?
Chlorophyll has most recently gained attention for its possible gut health benefits. Chlorophyll-infused waters, like Verday and Jus have popped up on the market, toting chlorophyll's antioxidant and detoxifying benefits to help improve digestion and overall health. Liquid chlorophyll and chlorophyll supplements are also available for a chlorophyll fix. So is it legit?
The short answer: There isn't enough solid scientific evidence on effectiveness or safety when it comes to its effects on gut bacteria and digestion. (Related: Celery Juice Is All Over Instagram, So What's the Big Deal?)
"While vegetables containing chlorophyll have proven health benefits, taking chlorophyll separately has not been shown to affect our health, including our gut," says Melissa Majumdar, M.S., R.D., spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. "The Natural Medicines Database (which reviews the effectiveness of supplements and natural medicines, providing information on the validity of the supplements for certain conditions) at this time finds chlorophyll does not have enough evidence to demonstrate effectiveness for any condition; gut health is not mentioned at all."
There can also be some not-so-great side effects, "including changing the color of your stool to green, diarrhea, and abdominal cramping," says Dr. Lee. So basically, the opposite of a healthy, happy gut.
So should you try chlorophyll?
While you may have some not-so-pretty digestive side effects, if you decide to take chlorophyll, it should be otherwise harmless. (One exception: It can interact with certain photosensitizing medications, so be sure to check with your doc if you're taking one before trying the trendy drink.)
If you're looking to give it a try, be sure to follow dosing guidelines. "In general, the supplement industry recommends adding around 1 teaspoon (5mL) of the chlorophyll supplement to an 8 oz. water drink," says Dr. Lee. "You can try more or less based on preference."
But most importantly, if you're ultimately looking to improve your gut health, there are other, probably better, ways to do so.
"Eating a variety of foods provides the gut a diversity of bacteria, along with other health benefits. Instead of reaching for the chlorophyll infused drink, pick different produce each week, aiming for something new to your taste buds and new to your gut," says Majumdar. (Related: Is the Microbiome Diet the Best Way to Promote Gut Health?)
Dr. Lee agrees you're better off getting your fill of chlorophyll through your diet rather than supplements. "Foods rich in chlorophyll (which come with a wide variety of additional healthful vitamins and minerals!) include spinach, collard greens, parsley, broccoli, green cabbage, asparagus, and matcha green tea, just to name a few."
And try prebiotics. "Prebiotics provide the fuel for probiotics, the bacteria that benefits the gut. Prebiotics can be found in asparagus, chicory root, garlic, Jerusalem artichokes, leeks, onions, bananas, beans and peas, flaxseed, sweet potatoes, wheat bran, and whole wheat," says Majumdar.