A visit to your grocery store’s juice aisle may be all that’s needed to find relief from constipation.
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Prune juice almost holds legendary status when it comes to making people poop. Many consider it nature’s #1 remedy for going #2. To learn why, let’s turn to gastroenterologist Samita Garg, MD.
How prune juice helps
There’s little question that the tart-and-tangy purple elixir known as prune juice can flush people out. Study after study makes that point. (Check out this research that found prune juice “significantly increased” pooping.)
The way prune juice relieves constipation isn’t some magical cause-and-effect, either. It’s biological science.
Prune juice is loaded with sorbitol, a carbohydrate and sugar alcohol found in many different fruits, notes Dr. Garg. That list of fruits includes plums, including varieties that are dried out and turned into prunes.
Sorbitol helps you win the battle against constipation by drawing water into your colon. This moisture offers a laxative effect while softening hard and lumpy stool that’s plugging up your system.
Prune juice also is high in fiber, which works to better regulate bowel movements and move poop through your intestines a little more quickly.
In fact, research shows that prune juice appears more effective than psyllium (a fiber laxative used in many over-the-counter medicines) when it comes to improving stool frequency and consistency.
Will eating prunes relieve constipation?
Prune-powered constipation relief doesn’t just flow out of a glass. Eating dried prunes can provide the same effect. One study even concluded that dried prunes “should be considered as a first-line therapy” for mild to moderate constipation.
Compared to prune juice, dried prunes offer:
- More than double the amount of sorbitol in the same serving size.
- Higher fiber content (as some fiber is lost during the juicing process).
Bottom line: Either prune juice or dried prunes can make you poop. Dr. Garg’s advice? “I always prefer the actual fruit over the juice given the higher fiber content, which is good for your GI tract.”
In addition, the sugar and calories in prune juice can be a concern if the drink is consumed in large quantities. Registered dietitians often compare the sugar content in 100% fruit juice to what’s in soda.
Other benefits of prunes
Prunes offer far more than gastrointestinal goodness. The fruit also is a good source of body-boosting antioxidants and the following vitamins and nutrients:
How much prune juice is too much?
The notion that you can have “too much” of a good thing applies to prune juice.
If you’re trying prune juice for the first time, the general recommendation is for adults to start with a half-cup (4-ounce) serving in the morning. (Research shows that drinking as little as 2 ounces of prune juice a day can increase bowel movements.)
A second half-cup serving at night before bedtime might be worth trying if your system responds well. (Five dried prunes is the rough equivalent of a half-cup of juice.)
For younger children, cut the amounts in half to address constipation.
“Start slow,” advises Dr. Garg. “It’s best to start with just a few prunes or a small drink and see how it goes.”
And if you overdo it on prune juice or prunes, you’ll know it pretty quickly. It can lead to:
Dealing with constipation
If you’re having trouble pooping, know that you’re not alone. It’s estimated that 16% of the world’s adult population — or about 1 out of 6 people — knows the discomfort of constipation. The issue typically becomes worse with age, too.
(How often people “go” varies from person to person, but having fewer than three bowel movements a week is considered the line for being constipated.)
Prune juice is one of many at-home remedies for constipation that can offer the desired laxative effect. Simple actions like a diet change, drinking enough water and reducing stress also may help you have more regular bowel movements.
Even something as simple as a morning cup of coffee can make a difference in your pooping habits. (The acids in coffee can give you the urge to go in just minutes!)
“There are many ways to address issues with constipation through your overall routine and diet,” says Dr. Garg. “Eating enough fiber, exercising, minimizing stress, getting enough sleep … these can all work to the benefit of your bowel movements.”
Talk with your doctor if constipation suddenly emerges as a new health issue or if you:
- See blood in your stool.
- Begin losing weight unintentionally.
- Experience severe pain with bowel movements.
- Go more than three weeks with constipation.