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Are cherries good for bowels?

Constipation is a common condition affecting people of all ages. Finding natural remedies to help keep bowels regular is often preferred over using laxatives. Cherries are a nutritious fruit that may also benefit bowel health.

Introduction

Constipation is characterized by infrequent, difficult, or incomplete bowel movements. It can be caused by low fiber intake, inadequate fluid intake, lack of exercise, certain medications, and some medical conditions. Chronic constipation can negatively impact quality of life and lead to complications like hemorrhoids or bowel obstruction. Lifestyle and dietary changes are typically recommended as first-line treatment. Increasing fiber, fluid, and exercise are often advised. Beyond that, various natural laxatives and herbal remedies may be used to help get things moving again.

Cherries are a popular summer fruit touted for their rich antioxidant content. Recent research indicates they may also offer gastrointestinal benefits, especially when it comes to constipation relief. This article will explore the current evidence on cherries and bowels to determine if cherries are truly an effective natural remedy for constipation.

The Fiber and Fluid in Cherries

One reason cherries are thought to relieve constipation is their fiber content. Dietary fiber normalizes bowel movements by adding bulk and weight to stools. This helps stimulate peristalsis, or the contractions that move food through the intestines. Soluble fiber also helps stool retain moisture, keeping it soft and easier to pass.

One cup of sweet cherries contains around 3 grams of fiber. Sour cherries have slightly more, with 4 grams of fiber per cup. While this is not a huge amount compared to other high-fiber foods, every bit can help when trying to reach the recommended 25-30 grams of fiber per day.

Cherries are also about 80% water, providing good fluid content. Staying hydrated is key for preventing constipation, as water helps keep stools soft. One study found increasing fluid intake to six to eight glasses per day significantly decreased constipation in elderly patients.

Cherry Nutrients for Bowel Health

In addition to fiber and fluids, cherries contain an array of vitamins, minerals, and plant compounds that may benefit bowel regularity. These include:

Potassium

One cup of cherries contains about 350mg of potassium. This mineral helps regulate fluid balance in the body. Potassium deficiency has been linked to increased risk of constipation.

Vitamin C

Cherries provide about 10% of the RDI for vitamin C per cup. This antioxidant vitamin helps draw water into the intestines, acting as a mild natural laxative.

Magnesium

There are around 11mg of magnesium in a cup of cherries. Magnesium relaxes the intestinal muscles, allowing for easier passage of stool. Low magnesium levels are associated with constipation.

Anthocyanins

These antioxidant plant pigments give cherries their bright red color. Anthocyanins have natural anti-inflammatory effects that may improve gastrointestinal function.

Nutrient Per 1 Cup Cherries
Fiber 3-4 grams
Fluids About 80% water
Potassium 350mg
Vitamin C 10% RDI
Magnesium 11mg
Anthocyanins Provides antioxidant & anti-inflammatory effects

Research on Cherries and Constipation

Several studies have looked specifically at the laxative effects of cherries. The results suggest both cherry juice and cherry fruit can help get things moving.

In one study, elderly patients drank 200mL of cherry juice twice a day for 4 weeks. The cherry juice significantly increased bowel movement frequency and improved consistency of stools.

Another study had participants eat 45 cherries per day for 28 days. A significant increase in bowel movement frequency and decrease in laxative use was observed in the cherry group.

The researchers think anthocyanins are likely responsible for the bowel-stimulating effects. Anthocyanins from cherries and other fruits have been shown to increase gastrointestinal motility and short-chain fatty acid production in animal studies. Both can improve regularity.

Here’s a summary of the research:

Study Participants Cherry Dosage Results
Cherry juice study Elderly patients with constipation 200mL cherry juice 2x/day Increased bowel movements and improved stool consistency
Cherry fruit study Healthy adults 45 cherries per day More frequent bowel movements and less laxative use

How to Use Cherries as a Natural Laxative

If you struggle with occasional constipation, incorporating more cherries into your diet may help get things moving again. Here are some tips for using cherries to relieve constipation:

– Enjoy a bowl of fresh cherries for a fiber and fluid boost. Aim for 1-2 cups daily.

– Drink a glass of pure cherry juice. Choose 100% cherry juice and limit added sugars.

– Add cherry juice to smoothies or dilute with water for a hydrating beverage.

– Make cherry-based baked goods like muffins, scones, or pies. Use whole wheat flour for extra fiber.

– Mix dried cherries into cereals, yogurt, oatmeal, or salads.

– Take a cherry fruit extract supplement providing anthocyanins if cherries are out of season.

– Drink cherry juice every morning to help establish regular bowel rhythms.

– Pair cherry juice with probiotic-rich foods like yogurt or kefir for better digestion.

– Eat cherries alongside other high fiber foods like whole grains, nuts, and vegetables.

– Stay well hydrated and active when eating more cherries to enhance results.

Downsides of Cherries

Cherries are generally considered safe with minimal side effects. However, some things to keep in mind:

– Cherries contain sorbitol, a natural sugar alcohol that can cause gas, cramping, and diarrhea if eaten in excess. Start with small portions.

– The high fiber content may exacerbate bloating, gas, or abdominal pain if bowels are already irritated. Introduce slowly.

– Cherry juice is high in natural sugars. Limit intake for those with diabetes or weight concerns.

– Dried cherries are more concentrated and higher in sugar than fresh. Portion size is important.

– Cherries are high in oxalate. Individuals prone to kidney stones should avoid overconsumption.

– Consult your physician before using cherries as a laxative if you have a medical condition or take medications that affect digestion.

Conclusion

Cherries appear to be a gentle natural laxative that can provide stool-softening fiber, fluids, and plant compounds like anthocyanins. Research indicates both cherry juice and whole cherries increase bowel movement frequency and improve consistency. Introducing cherries into your diet may be beneficial for relieving occasional constipation. However, excessive intake can cause adverse effects in some individuals. As with any remedy, moderation is key. For chronic constipation issues, see your doctor to address any underlying causes. With medical guidance, cherries can be a helpful addition to your bowel health regimen.