Have you ever wondered if grandma’s remedy of using apple juice for constipation really works? You’ve probably heard of prune juice to help you go, but many people have a hard time getting past the taste and thick texture.
Is apple juice the next best option? Read on to learn how apple juice can make you poop, who might benefit from this home remedy, and who might be better suited for other options.
Plus, we cover a few basics on what constipation is, other strategies for management, and when to seek help from a doctor.
Is Apple Juice Good for Constipation?
Is apple juice good for constipation? Maybe… Apple juice does have laxative properties, but the effects can vary from one person to another. And it may depend on just how backed up you are.
Apple juice has a very gentle laxative effect. So if you haven’t had a bowel movement in… oh, I don’t know… 5 to 7 days, you might need something with a little more oomph.
But if you are mostly regular and just looking for something to keep you going, apple juice might be worth a shot – unless you are sensitive to FODMAPs (more on this later).
How does apple juice make you poop?
So how does apple juice make you poop? There are two major mechanisms behind the effects of apple juice on your bowel function.
First… Fluid! Obviously, apple juice is a fluid, right? And adequate intake of fluids is super important for gut function.
Fluid helps soften your poo. If you do not drink enough fluid, the poop moving through your colon can get dried out and hard. This makes it more difficult and sometimes painful to pass.
Although water is the best fluid to keep your gut (and every other organ system) functioning properly, juices can contribute to your total daily intake of fluid.
Second… Sugar! But not just any sugar. Apple juice contains FODMAPs which are fermentable sugars that can be poorly absorbed in the gut. These sugars also draw water into the gut. This combination of malabsorption and increased water can help soften your stool and give you the urge to go.
The FODMAPs in apple juice are fructose and sorbitol. These sugars are responsible for the laxative effect of apple juice.
But not all people respond the same way to FODMAPs. Some people may find that they help stimulate bowel movements, while others find that there is not much of an effect.
And for people with IBS or FODMAP sensitivities, you may find that certain FODMAPs cause abdominal pain, bloating, and excess gas, in addition to changes in bowel habits.
Who Should Take Apple Juice for Constipation?
So, who should take apple juice for constipation? People with mild constipation are likely the best candidate.
Although there are no guidelines on the use of apple juice for constipation, you might try adding one four-ounce (120 mL) glass to your daily routine.
Another consideration is to eat an apple a day (it keeps the doctor away, right?). Why? Fiber, yo! Apple juice has little or no fiber. Whole apples have around 4 grams of fiber in one medium fruit.
But make sure you keep the peelings on! That’s where the insoluble fiber is that can help provide bulk to your bowel movement.
And yes, whole apples also contain fructose and sorbitol, the FODMAPs that may cause a laxative effect in apple juice.
Additionally, apples are high in phytochemicals. Phytochemicals are compounds found in plants that are protective of health. One of the ways phytochemicals help us is by nourishing our gut microbiomes.
Although there are some phytochemicals in apple juice, they are most concentrated in the apple peel. So again, whole apples may win over apple juice. And if you pair it with a glass of water you won’t miss out on the fluid that apple juice provides.
Who Should Avoid Apple Juice for Constipation?
Apple juice might not be the best solution for constipation for those with diabetes. Juice is a concentrated source of sugars and can pose a challenge for blood sugar management.
Every four ounces of juice contains about 14 grams of sugar, equal to about one serving of carbohydrates.
Not to say that someone with diabetes cannot have juice, ever. But portion size matters. And so does timing.
Drinking a 4-ounce glass of juice on its own will have a bigger effect on blood sugar than if it were paired with an otherwise low-carbohydrate meal that includes some fiber and protein.
Eating a whole apple might be a better choice than sipping on apple juice for someone with diabetes. The whole apple contains fiber that will help slow down the rise of blood sugar.
And, as mentioned above, the fiber and phytochemicals may be good for your gut microbes – another emerging area that may help with diabetes.
Irritable Bowel Syndrome
Those with IBS are another group that may be better off with an alternative plan for constipation management.
As mentioned earlier, FODMAPs are sugars that are poorly absorbed in the gut. And when these sugars reach the colon, they are rapidly fermented by the bacteria living there. And wherever there is fermentation, there is gas.
There are five categories of FODMAPs: fructans, oligosacharrides, fructose, polyols, and lactose. Fructose and sorbitol (a type of polyol) are the FODMAPs present in apples and apple juice.
Most people without IBS do fine with FODMAPs in their diet. In fact, FODMAPs are an excellent source of prebiotic fiber for your gut. That’s a good thing. It will keep the balance of microbes in your gut in favor of optimal health.
However, consuming FODMAPs can lead to pain and a myriad of gut symptoms for those with IBS. But not all IBS sufferers are sensitive to FODMAPs. And those that are, usually find that there are only a few categories of FODMAPs they need to avoid.
That’s where a FODMAP elimination diet, under the guidance of a registered dietitian, can help. This process helps identify which FODMAPs are making you double over in pain, put on your stretchy pants, or make a run for the bathroom.
So, for some with IBS, apple juice may still be on the table.
Other Juices for Constipation
Pear juice is often recommended for constipation in children due to its mild laxative effect and pleasant taste. Of course, adults can also take advantage of these properties.
Like apple juice, pear juice is high in sorbitol and fructose which draw water into the bowel and can help stimulate bowel movements. Pears have a similar fructose content to apples, but an even higher sorbitol content.
The downsides to pear juice? It can be harder to find than apple juice. And due to its high FODMAP content, pear juice can trigger unpleasant symptoms in those who are intolerant to sorbitol or fructose.
Prune juice is perhaps the best-known juice for constipation. And for good reason.
Prunes are one of the highest natural sources of sorbitol. And unlike most other juices, prune juice does contain fiber – though not as much as whole prunes. Prune juice has about 1.5 grams of fiber in a 4-ounce portion.
But of course, the high sorbitol content can be problematic for some people. And some people do not like the taste or texture of prune juice.
Everyone has trouble going from time to time. It’s perfectly normal and nothing to be too concerned about. Normal bowel movements are anywhere from three times per day to three times per week. However, daily is ideal.
If, on the other hand, you often go long stretches without having a bowel movement and your stool is hard and dry when you do go, you might be constipated.
The American Gastroenterology Association defines constipation as fewer than three bowel movements per week or stools that are hard to pass (ie, you are pushing and straining to get it out).
Additionally, you feel like your bowel movements are incomplete… That is, you go – but you feel like there is more in there that just won’t come out.
Constipation can often be managed at home with diet, lifestyle changes, supplements, and/or over-the-counter medications. However, chronic constipation or severe symptoms may warrant a trip to the doctor.
The following are some ways that you can improve the frequency and quality of your bowel movements.
To keep food moving through your intestines without drying up and turning into hard lumps of poop that are difficult to pass, it is important to drink enough fluid.
How much fluid do you need? That can vary from one person to another based on your size, activity level, environment (especially temperature), and medical conditions.
Eight cups per day (64 ounces) is a common recommendation, but this is just a starting point – some people need more, and others can make do with a little less.
No need to chug way above your needs – this won’t help constipation.
Fiber is crucial for gut health and function. Fiber is the structural part of cell walls, sometimes described as the “skeleton” of the plant. Fiber is found only in plants.
That’s why medical professionals (and your mom) are always trying to get you to eat your vegetables! And fruits, beans, legumes, nuts, seeds, and whole grains…
Most of us fall way short of the recommendations for fiber intake. Women should aim for 25 grams of fiber per day, while men should be getting closer to 38 grams.
Ideally, this fiber would come from food, but when that is not possible (or likely), a fiber supplement can help. Unless you are impacted… in this case, you must clear the pipes before adding fiber or you are just adding to the backup.
And remember that fiber and fluid work together – fluid intake must be adequate for fiber to do it’s job. If fluid is missing from the equation, increasing fiber may actually make you more constipated.
Regular gentle movement can help get your bowels moving. It can also help release gas and make you feel less bloated. So, find a form of exercise you enjoy and practice regularly. This can be as simple as a 30-minute walk daily.
Respect The Urge
I know, I know… I don’t like public bathrooms either. But please… resist the urge to ignore the urge.
If you hold your poop too long, it can contribute to constipation by allowing more time for water to be reabsorbed into your body and out of your poop. This makes poop harder and more difficult to pass.
Not to mention that if you ignore your body’s signals too often, you may stop recognizing the signals. And holding it can contribute to other problems like stool impaction, bowel perforation, hemorrhoids, and dysfunction of the muscles that help you poop.
There are many over-the-counter medications that are fine for most people to use for occasional constipation. Osmotic laxatives, stimulant laxatives, and stool softeners are among the options you can purchase without a prescription.
Osmotic laxatives are generally safe, while stimulant laxatives are more controversial and could become habit-forming. Stool softeners are also pretty safe but there is a lack of evidence that they actually help with constipation.
But none of these are meant to be long-term solutions. If you find yourself turning to medications often, it might be time to talk to your doctor.
When to Seek Help
Severe constipation sometimes requires medical attention.
If the following apply to you, it might be time to see a doctor.
- If you are constipated more often than not.
- If the above strategies do not work.
- If you are turning to over-the-counter medications regularly.
- If you are using your fingers to help remove the stuck poop.
The following are alarm symptoms. If you have any of these along with your constipation, you should contact your doctor immediately.
- Losing weight without trying.
- Blood in your stool or unexplained anemia – a little blood when you wipe can be normal.
- Family history of inflammatory bowel disease (Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis).
- Your symptoms start after the age of 50.
- Recurrent vomiting.
Alarm symptoms can indicate that there is a more serious problem that needs to be addressed. Your doctor will review the potential causes of your constipation and help determine whether you need to see a specialist.
Constipation happens. Most of us experience it from time to time. If you are looking for a simple strategy to keep this annoying problem away and your symptoms are mild, apple juice might be worth a shot. But a whole apple may be better.
If you do use apple juice as a part of your strategy to prevent or relieve constipation, look for 100% juice instead of cocktails made with added sugar.
Other strategies you can work into your daily routine include making sure you stay hydrated, eating plenty of fiber, getting regular exercise, and responding to the urge to poop.
Talk to your doctor if you symptoms persist or if you have any red-flag symptoms (above). And recruit help from a dietitian if you would like to learn more about dietary management for constipation.
Remember: this post is for informational purposes only and may not be the best fit for you and your personal situation. It shall not be construed as medical advice. The information and education provided here is not intended or implied to supplement or replace professional medical treatment, advice, and/or diagnosis. Always check with your own physician or medical professional before trying or implementing any information read here.