Constipation is a common problem which can be frustrating and sometimes uncomfortable or even painful. There are many causes of constipation and the first step in treatment, is to have the underlying cause properly diagnosed. Treating constipation may require over-the-counter or prescription medications and changes to your diet. Including some prunes or prune juice can also help but it should be combined with other lifestyle changes.
Constipation may be diagnosed when you are having bowel movements less frequently than is normal for you or if you are having less than three bowel movements per week. Symptoms of constipation can include having less frequent bowel movements; bowel movements that are hard, dry or painful; feeling like you have to go right after you have had a bowel movement; having difficulty passing a stool; bloody stools or abdominal pain and cramping. Constipation occurs when your stools move too slowly through your intestines for one of the following reasons, according to FamilyDoctor.org: not drinking enough fluid; not getting enough fiber in your diet; a lack of exercise; as a side effect of a medication; excessive use of laxatives or an underlying medical condition.
As food passes through your intestines, your colon absorbs the water from the food and forms waste products and stools. The muscles of the colon then contract to push the solid stools out to be eliminated. A lack of fiber in the diet, especially the soluble kind, is a leading cause of constipation. Soluble fiber dissolves in water and takes on a soft, gel-like texture in the intestines. This can help to soften the stools, making them easier to pass. Insoluble fiber passes through the intestines almost unchanged but it helps to keep the intestinal muscles strong, as the intestinal muscles must work to push it through. To help avoid or treat constipation the National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse recommends consuming 20 to 35 grams of fiber each day, and getting a mix of soluble and insoluble.
Prunes act as a natural laxative and they contain fiber so including prunes or prune juice in your diet may help to manage constipation. Everyone responds to dietary changes differently so you may need to experiment with how much you need to get relief. Prunes are not a high-fiber food, but two medium prunes do contain about 2 grams of fiber and a ½ cup of prune juice has about 2.6 grams, notes the University of Mississippi Medical Center. There are other foods high in fiber, such as whole grain cereals which can have between eight and 20 grams of fiber per ¾ cup. A ½ cup of beans can provide four to almost 10 grams of fiber and a ½ cup of raspberries has about eight grams of fiber. Since prunes and prune juice are low in fiber you would need to eat 20 to 35 prunes or drink four to seven cups of prune juice every day to meet your fiber needs.
Just drinking prune juice alone may not be enough to manage your constipation. You must also adopt other healthy habits, such as drinking at least 1½ to 2 quarts of water and other fluids a day, since dehydration can contribute to constipation. Also, ignoring the need to have a bowel movement may eventually cause you to no longer feel the need to go which can then lead to constipation. Getting plenty of exercise on a regular basis and eating a a wide variety of fruits, vegetables and whole grains are other ways to help keep your bowels working properly, reports Cleveland Clinic.