Constipation is a common gastrointestinal problem, especially among women and adults age 65 and older. In many cases, you can reduce and prevent constipation by consuming more fiber, which is found in fruits such as kiwis. While kiwis are not a cure for constipation, it is a fruit that can help relieve symptoms while providing other valuable nutrients.
The National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse defines constipation as having less than three bowel movements a week. In addition to being infrequent, the stools are usually dry, small, hard and difficult to expel. People with constipation often feel bloated, full and have painful bowel movements. In a person with healthy bowel movements, the colon absorbs water from passing food and forms stool from waste products. Colon muscles then push the stool, after absorbing most of its water, toward the rectum to expel. Constipation occurs when the colon's muscle contractions are too slow and/or when the colon absorbs too much water, resulting in dry and hard stools.
A common cause of constipation is a poor diet, specifically one that does not have enough fiber. Fiber, a substance found in many fruits including kiwis, comes in two forms: soluble fiber attracts water and turns into gel during the digestion process. Insoluble fiber passes through the intestines almost intact. While soluble fiber makes stools softer, insoluble fiber makes them larger, which your body works faster to expel. Eating a high-fiber diet, thus, prevents small, hard stools and the bloated feeling that results from constipation.
The American Dietetic Association recommends that men under the age of 50 consume 38 grams of fiber daily, while women under age 50 consume 25 grams. After age 50, the recommended daily amount of fiber is 30 grams for men and 21 grams of women. One medium kiwi has a total 2 grams of fiber, composed of both the insoluble and soluble forms. The average American, who consumes a diet high in refined and processed foods, which typically have most fiber removed, does not eat enough fiber. Adding kiwi to your diet, along with eating other fruits, vegetables, beans and whole grains, can help ensure that you get enough fiber to relieve and prevent constipation.
Irritable Bowel Syndrome
Constipation is one symptom of irritable bowel syndrome. Other symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome include diarrhea, bloating, cramping and abdominal pain. Researchers do not know why some people develop irritable bowel syndrome. For people with irritable bowel syndrome with chronic constipation, increasing fiber intake can lessen the constipation. A study conducted by Taipei Medical University and published in "Asia Pacific Journal of Clinical Nutrition" in 2010 found that patients with irritable bowel syndrome with chronic constipation had increased and quicker bowel movements after eating two kiwis per day for four weeks than patients who took placebos. It is important to note that there is no statement as of yet from an U.S. health agency stating that kiwis are effective in reducing constipation in patients with irritable bowel syndrome. Consult a doctor for proper diagnoses and treatment of irritable bowel syndrome.
- National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse; Constipation; July 2007
- LIVESTRONG.COM MyPlate: Calories in Kiwi
- MedlinePlus: Fiber
- American Dietetic Association: Fiber
- California Kiwifruit Commission: Did You Know?
- National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse; Irritable Bowel Syndrome; Sept. 2007