In general, I think green tea is great for you. I highly recommend it, and I frequently drink it myself. However, there are times when it’s not the best beverage to choose. And if you suffer from inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and enjoy green tea, you may have learned this the hard way.
IBD involves chronic inflammation of the digestive tract. Some warning signs of the disease include bloody diarrhea, fatigue, pain, weight loss, and iron deficiency or anemia. Some research has found that EGCG, which is what makes green tea so beneficial, can actually help with IBD. That’s because EGCG blocks the effects of a pro-inflammatory enzyme called myeloperoxidase. So it’s not always bad to drink green tea if you have IBD.
The problem comes if you’re suffering from iron loss and anemia, a common symptom of IBD. If this is the case, your doctor has likely given you iron supplements to take. But if you take those iron supplements with green tea, you might as well flush them both down the toilet – you’re wasting your time and money.
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According to research published in the American Journal of Pathology, it seems that EGCG and iron really enjoy each other’s company – so much so that they immediately bind together if you consume them simultaneously. Not only will this keep you from absorbing the iron, it also prevents EGCG from blocking myeloperoxidase. So your IBD won’t get any better, and you won’t restore any of your lost iron either.
This effect also occurs if you drink green tea while eating iron-rich foods, such as red meat and leafy greens. So if you’re eating a steak omelet with spinach for breakfast, you should probably save the green tea for later in the day. If you prefer eggs and toast, green tea will be more beneficial. Whatever you do, don’t use green tea to wash down iron supplements. If your doctor has recommended them, it’s probably best to give green tea a break until your levels are back where they should be.
And if you’re taking Green Tea Extract along with iron supplements, take them at different times of the day. That way, you can make sure you’re getting the benefits of both.
Yours for better health,
Frank Shallenberger, MD
Beng San Yeoh, Rodrigo Aguilera Olvera, Vishal Singh, Xia Xiao, Mary J. Kennett, Bina Joe, Joshua D. Lambert, Matam Vijay-Kumar. Epigallocatechin-3-Gallate Inhibition of Myeloperoxidase and Its Counter-Regulation by Dietary Iron and Lipocalin 2 in Murine Model of Gut Inflammation. The American Journal of Pathology, 2016; DOI: 10.1016/j.ajpath.2015.12.004