Using prune juice to relieve constipation
How long does it take for prune juice to work?
If you’re suffering from constipation or just want to improve your digestion, you’ve probably heard that prunes can be helpful. Prunes (also known as dried plums) and their juice can be beneficial to your gastrointestinal tract, but it’s important to be careful when introducing it.
How long does it take for prune juice to help your digestion and what does it do? Learn more about how to supplement with prunes, when to expect results and how to make your own prune juice at home.
Basics of constipation
The Mayo Clinic defines constipation as having “three or fewer bowel movements per week,” and chronic constipation is this same infrequency lasting for weeks or longer.
However, it should be noted that there is a wide range of what is considered normal for bowel movements. There’s no need to panic if you don’t have a bowel movement every day. However, if you’re in pain or haven’t had a bowel movement in three days, you should call your doctor.
What causes constipation?
While constipation can have many causes, the most common causes in an otherwise healthy person are:
- Lack of physical activity
- Eating a diet low in fiber
The good news is there’s a lot within your control to prevent constipation. By upping your physical activity, drinking more water (eight or more cups per day) and eating more fiber, you can support regular digestion.
How to prevent constipation
The recommendations for relieving constipation are largely the same as for its prevention. They include drinking plenty of water, exercising, eating more fiber and going to the bathroom as soon as you feel the urge.
If these tactics aren’t enough to get things moving, you may want to consider other options.
Gentle remedies like bulk-forming laxatives are usually made with insoluble fiber that absorbs water in the intestinal tract, softening stool and making it easier to pass through your system. Bulk-forming laxatives such as Metamucil are formulated with psyllium husk (natural fiber from the outside of Plantago Ovata plant seeds).
Laxatives typically start to work in two to five days. However, it may take anywhere from a few days to a few weeks to influence your digestion. There are harsher laxatives, but they can have undesirable side effects and require a prescription from your healthcare provider.
If you’d like to start with something natural, prunes are a great option.
Prune juice is a natural alternative to laxatives
Prunes and prune juice have long been used to relieve symptoms of constipation.
Prune juice edged out psyllium in one study that showed consumption increased frequency of bowel movements in adults in three weeks.
Another study showed fiber and prune juice supplementation in Essex County adults “virtually eliminated” laxative use.
Dried plums are naturally high in fiber (the main component of over-the-counter laxatives), so it’s understandable that they would help relieve constipation, but prune juice usually has the fiber stripped out during filtration.
Why prunes are more effective than other fruit
Prunes are associated with getting the digestive tract moving, but what sets them apart from other fruit and fiber? Researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago suggested the “well-known mild laxative effect” of prunes could be explained by their high sorbitol content.
Sorbitol is a type of sugar, but unlike glucose or sucrose, sorbitol is absorbed into the blood slowly and doesn’t cause a spike in blood sugar. As it passes through the gastrointestinal tract, sorbitol holds water, which can loosen stool and move things through the digestive system more easily.
This also explains why there’s a warning label on sugarless chewing gum made with sorbitol. Excessive consumption has in rare cases led to severe diarrhea.
How to supplement with prune juice
It’s best to add in prune juice slowly to avoid uncomfortable bloating and gas. Two to four ounces is generally recommended (100 grams is the most common amount cited in studies, even though the recommended serving size on bottle labels can be a full eight ounces).
Babies and toddlers
If nothing has changed after a few days, your doctor may advise you to move on to other methods, such as a natural children’s laxative.
How to make your own prune juice at home
Most store-bought prune juice lacks the beneficial fiber in dried plums because the fiber is strained out. You can retain all the natural fiber in prunes by making your own prune juice at home. You'll need to steam or soak your dried prunes in hot water (to rehydrate them) in advance.
Using a powerful blender (such as a Vitamix) to puree the mixture will eliminate the need to strain, saving on cleanup and retaining more insoluble fiber.
- Place 1 cup of dried plums in a heatproof bowl.
- Bring 5 cups of water up to a boil.
- Pour boiling water over prunes until they’re completely submerged. Save remaining water to use later.
- Cover and let soak between four and 12 hours, depending on the original moisture content of your dried fruit.
- Puree the prunes and their soaking liquid in a blender or food processor until smooth.
- If the mixture isn’t smooth enough, you can press it through a fine mesh strainer.
- Slowly add remaining water to the pureed prunes until it reaches the desired consistency.
Homemade prune juice keeps for one week in the refrigerator.
Rachel Boller is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money.
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