Green tea is made by steaming the leaves of the Camellia sinensis plant at an intense heat which releases antioxidants called polyphenols or catechins. Due to high concentrations of these powerful antioxidants, green tea has been getting a lot of press for a myriad of health benefits including reduced cholesterol levels, cancer prevention, enhanced weight loss and improved functioning of the immune system.

Studies are also showing that epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG) in green tea may help regulate the digestive system as it reduces inflammation in the gastrointestinal tract. Ohio researchers found that EGCG inhibits the expression of the interleukin-8 gene which plays a major role in the inflammatory response.

While there is not a lot of research indicating a direct correlation between green tea and good digestive health, studies of green tea effects in other areas can clarify why it may help regulate the digestive system.

Recent animal research examined how catechins in green tea may affect obesity. It was found that a diet high in green tea catechins slowed the action of digestive enzymes in rats affecting calorie absorption. Calories eaten by the rats in the experimental group were only partially absorbed within the intestines. 5.8 percent of the calories consumed were wasted as opposed to 1.6 percent for the control group eating a regular diet. This resulted in weight and fat loss in the rats, pointing to a more efficient digestive system in those supplemented with tea catechins.

Other studies suggest that green tea provides an anti-inflammatory benefit. Researchers from the College of Medicine at the University of Cincinnati recently investigated how EGCG may help in cases of colitis, an inflammatory disorder that upsets digestive health. They found that EGCG may help to prevent the inflammation associated with colitis.

Additional research has confirmed these benefits of green tea in cases of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). IBD can cause inflammation in the intestines that often lasts for long periods of time and comes back repeatedly. As more than 600,000 Americans suffer from some type of inflammatory bowel disease, further research into the effects of green tea on IBD is expected.

While green tea has been consumed for thousands of years in some parts of the world to help regulate the digestive system, studies show that it can take three to five cups of green tea to obtain health benefits. Green tea extract in liquid or pill form delivers the same health benefit in a much smaller dose.

It is also important to note that green tea does contain caffeine which can sometimes cause stomach upset, insomnia, anxiety and headaches in people who are sensitive to it. While green tea is typically well tolerated due to low levels of caffeine, decaffeinated green tea extracts are an option for those with sensitivity.

Proven to be an effective natural remedy for many health problems, green tea may eventually play an important role in the treatment of all diseases related to inflammation. Because of its anti-inflammatory benefits, the use of green tea to help regulate the digestive system definitely deserves further study.