Prune juice has emerged as one of the most popular natural remedies for constipation, a condition that affects 16 out of 100 adults, as reported by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. This problem is even more common in the elderly.
If left unaddressed, constipation can affect your quality of life and lead to serious complications, such as hemorrhoids and rectal prolapse. Compared to laxatives, prune juice is safer and less likely to cause addiction.
Prune juice may help relieve constipation, especially in children. The whole fruit, though, seems to be more effective.
Start with one serving (half a cup) of prune juice per day and see how your body reacts. Increase the dosage if necessary. Another option is to eat three or four dried plums daily — that's about one serving.
Constipation at a Glance
Constipation is a common health complaint among people of all ages. A diet low in fiber, lack of exercise and certain gastrointestinal disorders may increase your risk of developing this condition. It's estimated that 8.2 percent to 32.9 percent of the general population suffers from constipation. Some people are unable to have bowel movements without medication, so they rely on laxatives to stay regular.
Contrary to popular belief, constipation isn't a disease, but a symptom. Sometimes, it indicates an underlying disorder, such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), inflammatory bowel diseases, hypothyroidism or diabetes. Parkinson's disease, multiple sclerosis and bowel cancer may cause this issue, too.
Certain lifestyle factors, including dehydration, low fiber intake, stress and changes in your daily routine, are often the culprits behind constipation. Psychological stress, for example, may cause digestive symptoms, such as nausea, vomiting, stomach pain and reduced gastrointestinal motility, according to a May 2014 research paper featured in the journal Expert Review of Gastroenterology & Hepatology.
Constipation is more than a nuisance. Without adequate treatment, it can put you at risk for anal fissures, fecal impaction, hemorrhoids and other complications. In rare cases, it may lead to fecalomas. This condition is characterized by masses of hardened feces in the colon or rectum and may cause bowel obstruction.
Does Prune Juice Relieve Constipation?
Laxatives and stool softeners are the most widely used medications for constipation. Unfortunately, these products carry side effects that range from bloating and gas to abdominal cramps and dehydration. That's why medical professionals advise against using laxatives on a regular basis.
As the National Eating Disorders Association points out, laxative abuse or overuse may cause mineral and electrolyte imbalances, internal organ damage and addiction.
Prune juice has long been used as a natural laxative. This beverage is made from dried plums and has a sweet flavor. Some people also drink pear or apple juice for constipation.
According to a December 2014 review published in Pediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition, fruit juices are high in water, fructose and sorbitol and may help relieve constipation, especially in children. Sorbitol, a natural sugar in prunes, is particularly beneficial. Prune juice, though, contains less fiber and sorbitol compared to the whole fruit, as the review authors point out.
A review funded by the California Dried Plum Board and featured in the October 2013 edition of Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition looked specifically at the benefits of dried plums and their juice. Researchers state these fruits are rich in copper, potassium, phenolic compounds and sorbitol. When consumed regularly, they may improve overall health.
Furthermore, the review reports that these fruits may help prevent constipation and protect against colon cancer. Surprisingly, they have a negligible impact on blood glucose levels despite their high sugar content. The nutrients in dried plums may also suppress appetite and aid in the management of diabetes, obesity and heart disease.
Prunes appear to be more effective than psyllium husks for constipation relief, according to a review published in Alimentary Pharmacology & Therapeutics in August 2014, also funded by the California Dried Plum Board.
Researchers have found that eating 3.5 ounces of prunes daily for three weeks may improve stool consistency and increase the frequency of bowel movements. These beneficial effects are due to their high content of fiber, phenolic compounds and sorbitol. Prune juice also contains these nutrients, but in smaller amounts. However, more research is needed to confirm the laxative potential of dried plums and their juice.
How to Take Prune Juice
Clinical evidence indicates that dried plums and prune juice may help prevent and relieve constipation. The question is: how much juice should you drink to reap the benefits?
Like with most fruit juices, there is no standard recommended dosage for prune juice. The Mayo Clinic recommends giving babies a daily serving of this beverage. Apple and pear juices have mild laxatives effects, too.
The Johns Hopkins Women's Center for Pelvic Health offers a recipe for bowel regularity. Mix 1 cup of prune juice, 1 cup of unrefined wheat or oat bran and 1 cup of applesauce. Take 1 or 2 tablespoons along with a big cup of water or juice every evening for two weeks. If nothing changes, you may gradually increase the dosage to 4 tablespoons.
One serving of fruit juice is half a cup. If you're not sure how much prune juice to drink for constipation, start with one serving per day. See how your body reacts and drink slightly more if necessary. Another option is to eat three or four prunes daily.
Refrain from drinking too much prune juice as it may cause diarrhea when consumed in excess.
These fruits and their juice are generally safe and unlikely to cause side effects. The downside is that they're quite high in carbs. One serving of prunes (three fruits, pitted) has 68 calories and 18.2 grams of carbs, including 10.8 grams of sugars and 2 grams of fiber. Prune juice boasts 91 calories and 22.3 grams of carbs, including 21 grams of sugars and 1.3 grams of fiber per serving.
Fructose, the sugar in fruits, is no better than refined sugar and may lead to weight gain when consumed in excess. According to a recent article published in JAMA Network Open in March 2019, each additional daily serving of fruit juices may increase diabetes risk by 7 percent. Drinking fewer than seven glasses per week has been shown to lower the risk of heart disease by 17 percent and stroke by 24 percent. Like with everything else, moderation is the key.
How to Make Prune Juice
When it comes to prune juice, you have two options: you can either purchase bottled juice or prepare it at home. If you prefer to buy this beverage, choose an organic brand. Make sure it has no sugar added. Check the label for additives, preservatives and synthetic flavors.
Most times, homemade prune juice is the best choice. If you make your own juice, you have full control over the ingredients used. Plus, you can enjoy it fresh. Start with this simple recipe:
- 10.5 ounces of prunes
- 67.6 fluid ounces of water
- Boil the prunes in water and then simmer for about two minutes.
- Allow them to cool and then slowly pour the mixture into a blender.
- Blend until smooth. Add more water (boiled), if necessary.
- Transfer the juice to a mason jar or bottle and refrigerate it.
Add a few drops of fresh lime or lemon juice for extra flavor. Enjoy it cold or at room temperature. You can also add pear or apple juice to the mix to enhance its flavor and boost your nutrient intake.
- NIH.gov: "Definition & Facts for Constipation"
- Journal of Neurogastroenterology and Motility: "Prevalence and Self-recognition of Chronic Constipation: Results of an Internet Survey"
- NHS Inform: "Constipation"
- Expert Review of Gastroenterology & Hepatology: "Does Stress Induce Bowel Dysfunction?"
- NCBI: "Chronic Constipation and Its Complications"
- NCBI: "Giant Fecaloma Causing Small Bowel Obstruction: Case Report and Review of the Literature"
- NHS: "Laxatives"
- National Eating Disorders Association: "Laxative Abuse"
- NCBI: "Diets for Constipation"
- Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition: "Dried Plums and Their Products: Composition and Health Effects–An Updated Review"
- Alimentary Pharmacology & Therapeutics: "Systematic Review: The Effect of Prunes on Gastrointestinal Function"
- Mayo Clinic: "What Are the Signs of Infant Constipation? and What's the Best Way to Treat It?"
- Johns Hopkins Medicine: "Bowel Regularity"
- Half Your Plate: "What Is a Serving?"
- USDA: "Prunes"
- USDA: "Prune Juice"
- JAMA Network: "Are Fruit Juices Just as Unhealthy as Sugar-Sweetened Beverages?"