Traditional uses for black licorice include treatment for constipation. In that respect, black licorice generally doesn't cause constipation in most people. However, if you have a sensitive gut or suffer from any intestinal problems, licorice may trigger constipation. Similarly, eating lots of licorice might cause your system to get clogged up and bloated. Finally, in some serious cases, eating lots of licorice can cause hypokalemia, which can also include constipation symptoms.
Natural black licorice comes from the root of the licorice plant. It has a very distinctive and strong taste and a pungent smell. Many of the packs of the licorice sticks you see in stores are in fact just candies flavored with licorice. Raw licorice often features in traditional remedies, with a substance called glycyrrhizic acid thought to be the active ingredient. Uses include treatment for digestive complaints. So, when it comes to constipation, old-fashioned cures may involve licorice as a herbal solution.
Hypokalemia occurs when your blood contains very low levels of potassium. One of the symptoms of this is constipation. Eating very large amounts of black licorice can trigger hypokalemia in some very rare cases, according to Jane Higdon Ph.D., from the Linus Pauling Institute. Glycyrrhizic acid in licorice can trigger the body to excrete more potassium through urine. However, you're unlikely to experience this unless you eat packets of black licorice every day for two weeks or more.
People with certain bowel conditions may react badly to licorice. However, problems such as irritable bowel syndrome are often unpredictable. You may feel constipated, while the next person with IBS might experience diarrhea or no symptoms whatsoever. If you have IBS, celiac disease or Crohn's disease you should speak with your doctor before eating a lot of licorice. People with celiac disease, in particular, need to look out for gluten in some forms of licorice.
If you're avoiding black licorice for fear of constipation, the chances are you won't experience a blocked up system from eating a small amount. The sugar and gum-filled candy black licorice may be more likely to cause constipation than raw black licorice. Avoid eating large packs in one session.