Is Chlorella Good for Gut Health?

Written by: Pard Bharaj



Time to read 11 min

Image of Pard, the Author

Author: Pard Bharaj

I am a dedicated researcher with nearly a decade of experience in investigating health best practices. 

"Adding chlorella and chlorophyll to your smoothie gives you the benefits of leafy greens in their most raw form"

Hannah Bronfman


Emerging scientific research suggests that Chlorella can offer several benefits for the digestive system, including modulation of gut microbiota, enhancement of immune functions, and reduction of inflammation. 

This article explores the scientific findings regarding Chlorella's effectiveness in supporting gut health, providing insights into how this fantastic algae might be a valuable addition to those looking to enhance gut health and even to improve symptoms of gastrointestinal conditions like ulcerative colitis, crohn's disease and irritable bowel syndrome. 

Key Takeaways - Is Chlorella Good for Gut Health:

  • Optimises Gut Microbiota: Chlorella promotes the growth of beneficial bacteria that produce short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs), improving gut health.
  • Enhances Immune Function: Chlorella boosts the population of regulatory T cells (Tregs), aiding in immune regulation and reducing gut inflammation.
  • Detoxification: Chlorella binds with heavy metals and toxins, facilitating their elimination from the body and supporting gut health.
  • Rich in Fiber: The dietary fiber in Chlorella promotes bowel regularity and stimulates healthy gut bacteria growth.
  • Anti-inflammatory Effects: Chlorella‚Äôs antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds help mitigate digestive system inflammation.
  • Potential for Managing IBD: Chlorella may help alleviate symptoms of Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis by reducing inflammation.
  • Supports Overall Gut Health: Regular Chlorella intake can enhance digestive health and prevent gut-related issues.
  • Scientific Evidence: Studies show positive gut health results in both humans and animals, highlighting Chlorella's effectiveness.
  • Dosage and Precautions: Typical dosages range from 2-3 grams per day, but starting with smaller amounts is advisable to monitor for any adverse reactions.¬†

Is Chlorella Good for Gut Health?

I have analysed several scientific studies and the general consensus is that "Chlorella could be a very useful supplement for people looking to improve gut health", there is also evidence to show that it can help manage chronic gut inflammations such as Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis. I recommend readers to review "References and Further Reading" at the bottom of this article - here I have provided links and a brief summary of all of the relevant scientific studies.

I strongly recommend (especially if people have existing autoimmune diseases) to first consult with a healthcare professional before making significant changes to your diet, and please start slowly and in small does when introducing new supplements to your body.

Lets now explore how chlorella can be good for gut health.

1.  Optimisation of Gut Microbiota:

Chlorella has been shown to significantly influence the composition of the gut microbiota, a key aspect of digestive health. The gut microbiota consists of trillions of microorganisms, including bacteria, viruses, fungi, and other entities, which play a crucial role in digestion, metabolism, and immune function.

  • Influence on Microbial Composition:¬†¬†Chlorella supplementation has been observed to alter the gut microbiota by increasing the population of beneficial bacteria. Studies indicate that Chlorella can promote the growth of bacteria that produce short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs), such as acetate, propionate, and butyrate. These SCFAs are produced through the fermentation of dietary fibres by gut bacteria, and they serve as a primary energy source for colon cells, strengthen the gut barrier, and regulate the immune system.

  • Enhancement of SCFA Production:¬†¬†The increased production of SCFAs not only helps in maintaining the integrity of the gut lining but also plays a pivotal role in protecting against pathogens and reducing the risk of inflammatory diseases. SCFAs have been linked to beneficial effects on colon health by promoting an anti-inflammatory environment, which can mitigate conditions such as inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).

Asian man in traditional attire inspecting asian ginseng (panax) roots on a wooden table in a classical Chinese setting.

2. Immune Optimisation:

Chlorella vulgaris has demonstrated significant potential in immune regulation, particularly through its positive influence on T cells (Tregs). These cells are a subset of T cells that play a pivotal role in maintaining immune tolerance and preventing autoimmune and inflammatory responses.

  • Increase in Treg Population:¬†Research in animal models, such as mice, has shown that supplementation with Chlorella vulgaris can lead to an increase in the population of Tregs. These cells are crucial for modulating the immune system, maintaining tolerance to self-antigens, and preventing pathological immune responses against the body‚Äôs own cells and tissues.

  • Modulation of Immune Responses: Tregs help control the immune response by suppressing overactive immune cells, preventing excessive inflammation which can damage tissues. Chlorella‚Äôs ability to enhance Treg numbers suggests that it helps create a more regulated and less inflammatory immune environment in the gut.

The increased presence of Tregs can be particularly beneficial in managing diseases characterised by inflammation of the gut, such as Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis‚ÄĒcollectively known as inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD)

Indian man grinding ginger in a mortar in a traditional Indian setting with architecture and sunlight.

3. Detoxification Properties:

Chlorella is well known for its detoxification properties, particularly its ability to bind with heavy metals and other environmental toxins. This capability can significantly contribute to maintaining a healthier gut environment and improve overall health.

  • Binding with Toxins:¬†Chlorella has a high concentration of chlorophyll (the highest of any plant), which are known to bind with heavy metals like lead, mercury, and cadmium, as well as other toxins present in the gut. By binding to these harmful substances, chlorella prevents their absorption in the digestive system and facilitates their excretion from the body.

  • Enhancement of Toxin Elimination:¬†The fibrous cell wall of chlorella is thought to absorb toxins and promote their removal through faecal excretion. This detoxification process is vital as it helps reduce the toxin load on the body, which can otherwise lead to various health issues, including oxidative stress and inflammation that can damage gut tissues.¬†Chlorella's detoxifying effects also support liver health, a crucial organ for detoxification processes. Healthier liver function can enhance overall digestion and metabolism.

A stylized woman in Egyptian headdress holding a pomegranate with an ancient temple in the background.

4. Rich in Fibre:

Chlorella is a valuable source of dietary fibre, which is fundamental for maintaining optimal gut health. Its fibre content plays several key roles in digestive health, enhancing both mechanical and biochemical processes within the digestive system.

  • Promotion of Bowel Regularity: Dietary fibre in chlorella helps to bulk up stool and promote regular bowel movements, which is essential for preventing constipation. This regularity is crucial for avoiding conditions such as haemorrhoids and diverticular disease, which are often exacerbated by irregular bowel habits.

  • Stimulation of Healthy Gut Bacteria Growth:¬†The fibre in chlorella acts as a prebiotic, providing a food source for beneficial gut bacteria. These microbes ferment the fibre into short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs), which are vital for maintaining gut barrier integrity and modulating the immune system.

Man in ancient Greek attire grinding fenugreek in a courtyard.

5.  Anti-inflammatory Effects:

Chlorella is rich in various anti-inflammatory compounds, including chlorophyll, omega-3 fatty acids, and a huge array of antioxidants. These substances offer significant benefits for the digestive system by mitigating inflammation and potentially alleviating symptoms of digestive disorders.

  • Antioxidant Activity: Chlorella is also a source of various antioxidants, which help combat oxidative stress‚ÄĒa condition that contributes to inflammation. These antioxidants neutralise free radicals, unstable molecules that can damage cells and tissue, thereby mitigating inflammation at a molecular level.

  • Support for Long-term Gut Health: Continuous use of chlorella as part of a balanced diet might help prevent the onset of inflammation-related digestive disorders, promoting long-term health and preventing future gut-related health issues.

A stylized woman in Egyptian headdress holding a pomegranate with an ancient temple in the background.

Chlorella Nutritional Table:

Chlorella Nutritional Table

"The great thing about chlorella is that it's the highest concentration of chlorophyll in the world, chlorophyll has the same chemical composition as your hemoglobin so it's very powerful to build your blood, which builds your immune system, which builds your gut which builds everything"

Catharine Arnston

How to Incorporate Chlorella into Your Diet:

  • Chlorella Tablets or Powder:¬†¬†Integrate organic Chlorella supplements into your daily diet to aid with weight-loss. Start with a low dose and gradually increase as per the product's guidelines or a healthcare provider's advice.

  • Smoothies and Juices:¬†¬†Add Chlorella powder to your morning smoothie or juice for a nutrient-rich start to your day.

  • Dosage:¬†The recommended dosage of chlorella can vary based on the specific health goals and the individual's tolerance. Generally, the typical daily dosage ranges from 3 to 5 grams of chlorella powder or tablets. However, some studies and product recommendations suggest starting with a lower dose, such as 1 gram per day, and gradually increasing to avoid potential side effects, especially if you have any pre existing health conditions.

Potential Side Effects and Considerations:

  • Health Concerns:¬†¬†May contain contaminants if not sourced properly. Always go for an organic source well possible.

  • Be cautious with prebiotics: Prebiotics are dietary fibers that feed beneficial gut bacteria. While they can be beneficial for some individuals, they may cause digestive discomfort or exacerbate symptoms in others, particularly those with sensitive digestive systems or inflammatory bowel diseases like colitis or Crohn's disease.
  • Consider probiotics: Probiotics are beneficial bacteria that can help restore balance in the gut microbiota. However, not all probiotic strains may be suitable for individuals with colitis or Crohn's disease. Work with your healthcare provider to identify probiotic strains that are appropriate for your condition and avoid exacerbating symptoms.

  • Monitor for side effects: Pay close attention to how your body responds to any changes you make. Symptoms such as increased bloating, gas, abdominal pain, diarrhea, or constipation may indicate that a particular supplement or dietary change is not well-tolerated.
  • Start slowly: If you're introducing new supplements or dietary changes, start with small doses or portions to gauge how your body reacts. This allows you to monitor for any adverse effects or flare-ups of your condition.

  • Consult with a healthcare professional: Before starting any new supplement or making significant changes to your diet, consult with your healthcare provider, especially if you have existing gut health issues.

Frequently Asked Questions:

How does Chlorella support gut health?

It promotes beneficial gut bacteria, aids detoxification, supports immune function, and reduces inflammation.

Can Chlorella help with digestive disorders?

Yes, it may help alleviate symptoms of Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis by reducing inflammation.  Please consult with a healthcare professional before adding chlorella to your diet, especially if you have a pre-existing digestive disorder.

Can Chlorella detoxify the gut?

Yes, it binds with heavy metals and toxins, helping to eliminate them from the body and supporting gut health.

Apart from Chlorella what else can support good gut health?

Kefir is probably the best choice to improve gut health because it contains a high concentration of probiotics, which are live bacteria and yeasts that promote a healthy digestive system. These probiotics help balance the gut microbiome, improve digestion, and boost immune function.

It can be made at home using milk (go for organic, whole milk or raw if possible), and kefir grains.

References and Further Reading:

1.¬†Inflammatory bowel disease - A peek into the bacterial community shift and algae-based ‚Äėbiotic‚Äô approach to combat the disease:

IBD and Prebiotic and Anti-inflammatory Effects:  Chlorella is recognised for its prebiotic properties, which can influence the gut microbiota positively. The study notes that Chlorella's high content of bioactive compounds can support the growth of beneficial bacteria and suppress harmful ones, thereby reducing gut inflammation and potentially alleviating symptoms of Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD). This modulation of the gut environment can help in managing chronic gut inflammation such as Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis.

2. Assessing the impact of chlorella phenolic-rich extract on gastrointestinal health and function:

Therapeutic Potential of Chlorella Extract: Chlorella phenolic-rich extract has shown promise in modulating gut microbiota and reducing inflammation and oxidative stress, potentially improving symptoms of gastrointestinal conditions like ulcerative colitis and irritable bowel syndrome, as well as lowering liver enzyme levels and H. pylori infection rates. However, further research is necessary to understand its mechanisms and confirm its safety and effectiveness, with expert consultation recommended before use.

3. A review of recent clinical trials of the nutritional supplement Chlorella pyrenoidosa in the treatment of fibromyalgia, hypertension, and ulcerative colitis:

Chlorella Supplement Benefits in Chronic Illnesses: Clinical trials at Virginia Commonwealth University showed that daily supplementation with Chlorella pyrenoidosa could potentially alleviate symptoms and improve quality of life for patients with fibromyalgia, hypertension, and ulcerative colitis, suggesting benefits like reduced blood pressure and cholesterol levels, enhanced wound healing, and improved immune functions, which supports the need for more extensive studies to further explore its therapeutic effectiveness.

4. The Nutritional Efficacy of Chlorella Supplementation Depends on the Individual Gut Environment:

The study explores the impact of Chlorella on gut health, highlighting its variable effects based on individual gut environments. It shows that Chlorella intake does not significantly alter overall microbiome or metabolome profiles but can increase specific faecal dicarboxylic acids, which may improve gut health depending on the pre-existing gut microbial composition of the individual.

5. Chlorella vulgaris Modulates Gut Microbiota and Induces Regulatory T Cells to Alleviate Colitis in Mice:

The study investigates the immune regulatory effects of Chlorella vulgaris (C. vulgaris) and its influence on gut microbiota. It demonstrates that C. vulgaris supplementation can expand the regulatory T cell (Treg) population and alter gut microbiota composition, increasing short-chain fatty acid (SCFA) production in mice. Further, in a colitis model, C. vulgaris treatment reduced colitis symptoms and increased Treg levels, suggesting its potential as a safe supplement for managing inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) through modulating host-microbiome interactions.

6. Influence of Chlorella vulgaris on growth, digestibility and gut morphology and microbiota of weaned piglet:

The study assesses the impact of Chlorella vulgaris on gut health, specifically focusing on its effect on gut microbiota composition and associated metabolites. It found that Chlorella vulgaris supplementation altered the gut microbiota, increasing the production of short-chain fatty acids in mice, suggesting potential benefits for gut health modulation.

7. Potential of Chlorella as a Dietary Supplement to Promote Human Health:

The study investigates Chlorella vulgaris (C. vulgaris) and its effects on gut health, demonstrating that supplementation altered the gut microbiota composition and increased the production of short-chain fatty acids in mice, indicating a positive impact on gut health and potential use in managing gut-related issues.

8. Effects of oral supplementation with Spirulina and Chlorella on growth and digestive health in piglets around weaning:

Early oral supplementation with Spirulina and Chlorella in piglets around weaning improves growth performance, reduces diarrhoea incidence, and affects intestinal morphology and cytokine expression, suggesting potential benefits for digestive health during this critical period.

9. Effect of Chlorella vulgaris on gut microbiota through a simulated in vitro digestion process:

The study evaluates the effects of Chlorella vulgaris on gut health, specifically through in vitro simulation of digestion and colonic fermentation processes. It was found that Chlorella vulgaris significantly increased the production of short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs) such as acetate, propionate, and butyrate, which are beneficial for gut health. Additionally, microbial profiling showed an increase in beneficial gut bacteria like Faecalibacterium and Roseburia in the Chlorella group, suggesting a potential for improving gut microbiota and overall health.

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