Cherry Juice & Irritable Bowel Syndrome

Closeup of fresh juice with sweet cherries and ice
A glass of cherry juice (Image: Shaiith/iStock/Getty Images)

Irritable bowel syndrome, or IBS, is a collection of symptoms rather than a disease. The causes of IBS are not well understood and sometimes multifactoral, but the symptoms usually involve abdominal bloating and pain, flatulence, diarrhea and inflammatory reactions. Cherry juice has a variety of health benefits and is often used to combat gout and stimulate digestion. It may be helpful for some causes of IBS, but it naturally contains sorbitol, which may also aggravate IBS. Consult your doctor before consuming large amounts of sour cherries or cherry juice.

Irritable Bowel Syndrome

IBS is basically a diagnosis of exclusion, which means that other conditions such as Crohn’s disease and colon cancer need to be ruled out first. It is best considered a functional bowel disorder characterized by chronic abdominal symptoms, intestinal inflammation and altered bowel habits that are not related to an obvious organic cause, according to "Human Biochemistry and Disease,” by Gerald Litwack. Potential causes of IBS include low-grade infection, poor digestion, nutritional deficiency, food allergies, pharmaceutical intolerance, compromised immunity, excessive stress and psychological imbalance.

Properties of Cherry Juice

Cherries are a rich source of a variety of vitamins and minerals such as thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, iron, magnesium and calcium. According to the “Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine,” sour cherries are known for their anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant properties. In fact, research has shown that tart cherry juice works similarly to nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, but with essentially no negative side effects. The anti-oxidant compounds in cherries are called anthocyanins, which also give cherries their red color. Because of its acidity and ability to dissolve uric acid crystals and mineral build-up, cherry juice is commonly used to combat gout, arthritis and atherosclerosis, although you should consult your doctor if you suffer from these conditions.

Problems of Sorbitol

Cherries naturally contain sorbitol, which is a type of sugar that isn't digested or absorbed by the small intestine, according to “Advanced Nutrition and Human Metabolism,” by Sareen Gropper. As such, undigested sorbitol acts as a fermentation substrate for friendly bacteria in your large intestine, which produce hydrogen gas and contribute to abdominal pain, bloating, flatulence and diarrhea. Further, it upsets osmotic balance in the large intestine, drawing too much water in. Sorbitol consumption, from both natural and artificial sources, not only can aggravate IBS, but also can be the primary cause. Sorbitol is used as an artificial sweetener, especially in chewing gum.

Recommendations

Cherry juice can improve digestion, provide protection from free-radicals and reduce inflammation throughout your body, which may have direct benefits for people with IBS, depending on its cause. On the other hand, the sorbitol in cherries can promote some symptoms that characterize IBS, such as abdominal bloating and diarrhea. If you are interested in supplementing with cherry juice to combat the symptoms of gout or other inflammatory conditions, start with small amounts, and use brands that do not contain any added sweeteners. Be especially cautious if you suffer from IBS, and ask your doctor for the appropriate dosage.

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