Cucumbers are a popular vegetable that are low in calories and high in nutrients. Some people claim that cucumbers have laxative effects and can help relieve constipation. In this article, we’ll take an in-depth look at the science behind cucumbers and constipation and help you understand if cucumbers can really make you poop.
What are Cucumbers?
Cucumbers are a type of vegetable that belong to the Cucurbitaceae family along with melons, squashes, and gourds. Botanically classified as Cucumis sativus, cucumbers are cultivated worldwide, with major production occurring in China, Russia, and the United States.
Cucumbers have a mild, fresh taste and a high water content, typically around 95-97%. The cucumber skin ranges in color from green to white, while the flesh inside can be seedless or contain numerous small edible seeds.
Some common types of cucumbers include:
- Pickling cucumbers – Smaller, shorter cucumbers used to make pickles
- Slicing cucumbers – Longer, smoother cucumbers usually eaten fresh
- English/hothouse cucumbers – Narrow, nearly seedless cucumbers grown indoors
- Persian cucumbers – Mini seedless cucumbers with thin, delicate skin
Cucumbers can be eaten raw or incorporated into salads, sandwiches, and side dishes. Their high water content makes them a refreshing snack on hot days.
Nutrition Facts of Cucumbers
Cucumbers are low in calories but provide a decent amount of vitamins and minerals. Here is an overview of the nutrition facts of 1 cup (104 grams) of raw, sliced cucumbers with the skin on (1):
|Vitamin K||16% DV|
|Vitamin C||14% DV|
As you can see, cucumbers are very low in calories, fat, protein and carbs. They contain decent amounts of vitamin K, vitamin C, magnesium and potassium.
Cucumbers also provide small amounts of vitamin A, folate, manganese, and antioxidants like flavonoids and polyphenols (2).
Do Cucumbers Have Laxative Effects?
Some people claim that eating cucumbers may trigger a laxative effect and promote bowel movements. Is there any truth to this?
There are a few reasons why cucumbers are thought to act as a natural laxative:
High water content – Cucumbers are comprised almost entirely of water, which can help soften stool and get things moving through the intestines. Even eating a single cup of cucumbers significantly increases your water intake for the day. Staying hydrated is key for preventing constipation.
Fiber – Cucumbers contain a small amount of fiber, providing 0.5 grams per cup. Fiber adds bulk to stool and may encourage regularity. However, the fiber content of cucumbers is lower than many other vegetables.
Cucurbitacins – Cucumbers contain phytonutrients called cucurbitacins. Animal studies have found that cucurbitacins may have a mild laxative effect by irritating the intestines and promoting contractions (3).
Seeds – Cucumber seeds are sometimes blamed for causing gas or diarrhea. However, there is little evidence that the small soft seeds lead to digestive upset.
Overall, any laxative effect provided by cucumbers is likely mild. Cucumbers are not considered a natural constipation remedy. Their high water content may help with mild temporary constipation, but they do not have powerful laxative properties.
Cucumber Laxative Claims & Myths
There are many myths surrounding cucumbers and their supposed effects on bowel movements. Here is an overview of some common cucumber laxative claims:
Myth: Drinking cucumber juice acts as a diuretic.
This is false. Cucumbers are made up almost entirely of water. Consuming more water does not lead to increased urination or dehydration. Cucumber juice may provide a burst of hydration, but it won’t make you urinate more than normal.
Myth: Cucumbers help flush out toxins.
There is no evidence that cucumbers specifically flush toxins out of the body. Cucumbers provide antioxidants and phytonutrients that may support overall health, but they do not “detox” the body.
Myth: Eating cucumbers for breakfast helps with constipation.
While cucumbers may mildly support regularity due to their water and fiber content, there is nothing special about eating them in the morning. Cucumbers are unlikely to significantly relieve constipation on their own regardless of time of day.
Myth: Cucumber peel cleans out the digestive tract.
The skin or peel of cucumbers has no specific laxative properties. Cucumber peel is a great source of nutrients, but it does not “scrub” or cleanse the digestive tract when consumed.
Overall, many claims about cucumbers and laxative effects are exaggerated. Cucumbers may help mildly hydrate the digestive tract, but solid scientific evidence behind constipation-relieving effects is lacking.
Alternative Constipation Home Remedies
While cucumbers aren’t a cure for constipation, there are other home remedies that may get things moving:
Drink More Fluids – Staying hydrated is key, so aim for 8 cups of water daily. You can also try sipping on warm water with lemon.
Eat High Fiber Foods – Foods like beans, lentils, oats, nuts, chia seeds, and berries provide stool-bulking fiber.
Exercise – Physical activity stimulates the intestines. Aim for at least 30 minutes per day.
Take a Warm Bath – Warm baths can help relax the abdominal muscles to make passing stool easier.
Try Probiotics – Probiotic foods like yogurt contain beneficial gut bacteria that support regularity. You can also take probiotic supplements.
If home remedies aren’t providing relief, see your doctor to identify the underlying cause of constipation. Laxatives or medication may be recommended in some cases.
The Bottom Line
Cucumbers are a healthy, hydrating vegetable that provide important vitamins, minerals and plant compounds. Due to their high water content, cucumbers may help mildly promote regularity.
However, there is no strong scientific evidence that cucumbers relieve constipation or have laxative effects. At best, eating cucumbers may provide a very modest increase in bowel movements.
So while cucumbers are a smart addition to a healthy diet, rely on other sources of fluids, fiber, exercise, and probiotics to keep your digestive system regular. If you have chronic constipation, see your doctor to help identify the proper treatment.
1. United States Department of Agriculture. FoodData Central. Cucumbers, raw. https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/169988/nutrients
2. Rai N, Yadav DS, Kumar R, Kumar M. Cucumis sativus: Phytochemistry, Traditional Uses, and Therapeutic Potential. In: Medicinal Plants. Springer, Cham. 2019. p. 187-223.
3. Roe AJ, O’Sullivan MP, Patra CN, Hipkiss AR, Warner A, Vanders RL, Anilkumar GP. Metabolomic strategies to study the gut ecosystems effects of cucumber extract in rats. Mol Biosyst. 2016 Nov 29;12(11):3349-3357. doi: 10.1039/c6mb00391d. PMID: 27694852.