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Can cherry juice give you diarrhea?

Cherry juice is a delicious and nutritious beverage made from cherries. It is rich in antioxidants, vitamins, minerals and fiber. However, some people may experience digestive issues like diarrhea after drinking cherry juice. In this article, we’ll explore whether cherry juice can cause diarrhea and the reasons behind it.

What is Cherry Juice?

Cherry juice is extracted from tart or sweet cherries. It can be consumed as 100% cherry juice or blended with other fruit juices. Cherry juice is considered a superfood due to its dense nutrient profile.

Some key nutrients found in 8 ounces (240 ml) of cherry juice include:

  • Calories: 135
  • Carbs: 33 grams
  • Sugar: 31 grams
  • Fiber: 2 grams
  • Vitamin C: 40% of the Daily Value (DV)
  • Potassium: 12% of the DV
  • Vitamin A: 8% of the DV
  • Iron: 6% of the DV

It also contains various antioxidants like anthocyanins, quercetin and catechins. These plant compounds give cherries their bright red color and provide anti-inflammatory effects.

Can Cherry Juice Cause Diarrhea?

For most people, drinking cherry juice should not cause diarrhea or loose stools. However, some individuals may experience diarrhea after consuming it.

Below are some possible reasons why cherry juice can lead to diarrhea in sensitive people:

FODMAPs

Cherries contain FODMAPs, which stands for fermentable oligo-, di-, mono-saccharides and polyols. FODMAPs are certain carbs that can be hard to digest for some people.

When FODMAPs travel through the digestive tract undigested, they can draw fluid into the intestines by osmosis. This can lead to diarrhea in those with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) or other digestive issues.

Major dietary sources of FODMAPs include:

  • Fructose: Found in various fruits and honey
  • Lactose: Found in dairy products
  • Fructans: Found in wheat, garlic, onions and artichokes
  • Galactans: Found in legumes
  • Polyols: Found in stone fruits like cherries, apricots, plums

If you have IBS or a FODMAP intolerance, consuming large amounts of cherry juice on an empty stomach could result in diarrhea or abdominal discomfort.

Sorbitol

Sorbitol is a sugar alcohol that acts as a natural sweetener and thickening agent in some fruit juices. It’s considered a FODMAP.

Many people have difficulty digesting and absorbing sorbitol properly. When excessive sorbitol from juice ends up in the large intestines, it draws water into the bowels through osmosis. This can lead to loose stools or diarrhea.

One study gave participants different dosages of sorbitol. 7.5 grams of sorbitol significantly increased stool output, while 20 grams of sorbitol dramatically escalated diarrhea and gastrointestinal symptoms.

Cherry juice contains approximately 4–7 grams of sorbitol per 8 ounce (240 ml) serving. While small amounts are generally fine for most healthy people, those with sorbitol intolerance may experience diarrhea if they consume too much.

Fructose

Cherries naturally contain significant amounts of fructose. This simple sugar is in many fruits and honey.

Although fructose may cause gas or bloating in some people, it’s generally well tolerated in small-to-moderate amounts. However, consuming excessive fructose without sufficient glucose can overwhelm the body’s absorption capacity.

Unabsorbed fructose travels to the large intestine, where it pulls in water through osmosis. This process draws excess fluid into the bowels, resulting in loose stools or diarrhea in some cases.

One study had participants drink a solution with 25 grams of fructose. This high dosage caused intestinal distress and diarrhea in 62% of people.

For reference, a 1-cup (240-ml) serving of cherry juice provides about 24 grams of fructose. Consuming cherry juice — especially in large quantities — may overwhelm your body’s ability to absorb fructose.

Fiber

Dietary fiber is the indigestible part of plant foods. It passes through your gastrointestinal tract mostly intact.

Fiber comes in two main types:

  • Insoluble fiber: Does not dissolve in water and helps move material through your digestive system. Found in wheat bran, nuts and some vegetables.
  • Soluble fiber: Dissolves in water to form a gel-like consistency. Found in oats, beans, apples and citrus fruits.

Though important for gut and overall health, eating too much fiber at once can cause diarrhea. This is especially true if you’re not used to having fiber in your diet.

Cherries contain just over 1 gram of fiber per cup (154 grams) — most of which is insoluble fiber that does not dissolve.

Consuming large amounts of cherry juice in one sitting floods your intestines with insoluble fiber. This draws water into the bowels by osmosis, potentially resulting in loose stools.

Caffeic and Ellagic Acids

Cherries contain two unique antioxidants — caffeic acid and ellagic acid — which offer anti-inflammatory and anticancer benefits.

However, test-tube and animal studies reveal that high doses of these compounds may increase intestinal fluid secretion and electrolyte output. This can potentially cause diarrhea.

That said, you would need to consume very large, unrealistic amounts of cherry juice for the caffeic and ellagic acids to have this laxative effect.

Other Possible Causes

There are a few other theories as to why cherry juice may cause diarrhea in certain people:

  • Individual tolerance: Some people may have a low tolerance to the sugars or fiber found naturally in cherry juice.
  • Dosage: Consuming more than 8 ounces (240 ml) per day of cherry juice could overwhelm the digestive system.
  • Additives: Some commercial juices have added sugars, artificial sweeteners or preservatives that may cause digestive issues in sensitive people.
  • Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS): Those with IBS may experience diarrhea from juices that are normally well tolerated.
  • Bacterial overgrowth: Excess bacteria in the small intestine can ferment sugars and cause diarrhea when consuming fructose-rich drinks.
  • Medications: Certain medications may interact with compounds in cherry juice, potentially increasing bowel motility.

Overall, if you experience diarrhea or digestive upset after drinking cherry juice, it’s likely due to an individual intolerance or sensitivity.

Tips to Prevent Diarrhea from Cherry Juice

Here are some tips to drink cherry juice without getting diarrhea:

  • Consume 100% cherry juice instead of commercial types high in added sugars or sweeteners.
  • Start with a small 4–6 ounce (120–180 ml) serving and see how your body responds.
  • Drink it diluted with water or combined with other fruit juices.
  • Avoid drinking cherry juice on an empty stomach, as this may cause indigestion.
  • Introduce cherry juice slowly into your diet to assess your tolerance.
  • Stick to one small glass per day and look for any symptoms.
  • Consider eliminating it from your diet if it repeatedly causes digestive distress.

Should You Avoid Cherry Juice If You Have Diarrhea?

Diarrhea is characterized by loose, watery stools that occur more than three times per day. It’s usually caused by an infection, foodborne illness or reaction to certain foods or medication.

If you develop diarrhea, it’s best to avoid all fruit juices — including cherry juice — until your symptoms resolve. Although juice can help replace lost fluids and electrolytes, sugars and fiber may worsen diarrhea.

After diarrhea subsides, slowly reintroduce cherry juice in small amounts while monitoring your tolerance. This allows you to determine if it was likely the culprit.

The Bottom Line

Cherry juice makes a delicious, refreshing beverage loaded with nutrition. However, due to its fiber and sugar content, it may cause diarrhea or loose stools in some people.

To avoid this problem, follow the tips above and monitor your personal tolerance. See a doctor if you frequently experience diarrhea or digestive distress after drinking cherry or other fruit juices.