Can cucumbers act as a laxative?


Cucumbers are a popular vegetable that are often consumed raw in salads or as snacks. Some people claim that eating cucumbers can help relieve constipation and act as a natural laxative. This article will examine whether there is any truth to the claim that cucumbers have laxative effects.

An Overview of Constipation

Constipation refers to infrequent, difficult, or incomplete bowel movements. It is a common condition affecting people of all ages, although it occurs more frequently in adults over age 65. Signs and symptoms of constipation include:

  • Passing fewer than three stools per week
  • Lumpy or hard stools
  • Straining during bowel movements
  • Feeling unable to completely empty the bowels
  • Abdominal pain and discomfort
  • Bloating

Constipation has many possible causes, including:

  • Inadequate fiber intake
  • Lack of physical activity
  • Various medications
  • Ignoring the urge to have a bowel movement
  • Dehydration
  • Various medical conditions

Mild constipation can often be relieved with lifestyle changes like increasing exercise and fluid intake. However, chronic constipation may require laxatives or other treatments.

The Potential Laxative Effects of Cucumbers

Cucumbers are low in calories and contain a high water content. A 1-cup serving of sliced cucumbers contains just 16 calories and over half a cup of water (1).

Some sources claim that eating cucumbers may help relieve constipation in a few ways:

  • Increasing fluid intake – The high water content in cucumbers may help add fluid to the digestive tract and soften stools.
  • Providing fiber – Cucumbers contain soluble and insoluble fiber. Soluble fiber helps form a gel-like consistency in the intestines, while insoluble fiber adds bulk to stools (2).
  • Supplying magnesium – Cucumbers are a source of the mineral magnesium, which helps draws water into the intestines and acts as a mild laxative (3).

Additionally, some claim that cucurbitacins, compounds found in cucumbers and other cucurbit plant species, may have a very mild laxative effect by irritating the lining of the digestive tract. However, research on this is limited (4).

Nutrient Profile of Cucumbers

Nutrient Amount (per 1 cup sliced)
Calories 16
Total fat 0.1 g
Sodium 2 mg
Potassium 192 mg
Total carbs 4 g
Fiber 1 g
Sugar 2 g
Protein 1 g

Research on Cucumbers and Laxative Effects

There is limited scientific research specifically examining the laxative effects of cucumbers. However, some studies have looked at the digestive effects of cucumber components:

  • A study in rats found that administering cucumber juice increased bowel movements and slowed gastrointestinal transit time compared to a control group (5).
  • Research in rats found that cucurbitacin compounds from cucumber inhibited intestinal contraction and transit time, acting as a laxative (6).
  • One study saw an increase in stool frequency when people with constipation drank a fiber laxative supplement containing cucumber extract (7).

Overall, there is some evidence from animal and limited human studies that compounds in cucumbers may have mild laxative effects. However, more research is still needed.

Tips for Adding Cucumbers to Help Prevent Constipation

While cucumbers alone are unlikely to dramatically relieve constipation, they may be a beneficial addition to an overall healthy diet aimed at preventing constipation. Here are some tips for adding more cucumbers:

  • Enjoy sliced cucumbers as a snack or appetizer.
  • Add chopped cucumbers to green salads, tuna salads, and chicken salads.
  • Make cucumber water by adding sliced cucumbers to water and chilling in the refrigerator.
  • Use cucumbers on sandwiches in place of higher calorie options like cheese.
  • Add diced cucumbers to hummus or Greek yogurt for a dip.
  • Make gazpacho loaded with fresh sliced cucumbers.
  • Use spiralized cucumbers in place of pasta in dishes.

Aim to consume cucumbers as part of a high fiber diet with plenty of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Stay hydrated by drinking water throughout the day as well.

Other Natural Remedies for Constipation

Along with eating cucumbers, there are many other natural ways to help relieve and prevent constipation:

  • Drink plenty of fluids – Staying hydrated is key, so aim for 8 cups of fluids daily. Water, juices, teas, and broths can help.
  • Exercise regularly – Physical activity can stimulate the intestines and help move stool through the colon more rapidly.
  • Eat more fiber – Aim for 25-30 grams of fiber daily from foods like fruits, veggies, whole grains, beans and lentils.
  • Consider probiotic foods – Probiotic-rich foods like yogurt, kimchi, and kefir may help improve gut health and regularity.
  • Drink coffee – The caffeine in coffee can stimulate bowel movements for some people.
  • Eat prunes – Prunes contain sorbitol, which has natural laxative effects.

Lifestyle factors like managing stress, establishing bathroom routines, and quitting smoking can also improve constipation. See a doctor if symptoms persist despite home remedies.

Potential Side Effects of Eating Too Many Cucumbers

Cucumbers are likely safe for most people when consumed in normal food amounts. However, eating too many cucumbers could potentially cause some side effects:

  • Bloating or gas – Cucumbers may cause gas due their high fiber content.
  • Allergic reaction – Cucumbers may trigger food allergy or intolerance symptoms like itching and hives in sensitive people.
  • Unsafe for some medications – Cucumber juice may interact with some medications broken down by the CYP3A4 enzyme, including certain blood pressure and anti-anxiety medications (8).
  • Pesticide exposure – Conventionally grown cucumbers may contain pesticide residues, which some people may be sensitive to.

Additionally, there is not enough evidence to advise consuming an excessive amount of cucumbers solely for their laxative effect. Overdoing any one food is not recommended.


Claims that cucumbers can act as a natural laxative appear to have some basis in cucumbers’ water content, fiber, and active compounds. Preliminary research in animals and humans seems to support cucumbers having mild laxative and digestive effects. However, more research is still needed on this topic.

In general, cucumbers can be a healthy addition to a balanced diet aimed at preventing constipation. Combine cucumbers with other high fiber foods, stay hydrated, exercise regularly, and make other positive lifestyle changes as well. People with chronic constipation issues should see a doctor if home remedies are not working. While adding cucumbers to your diet likely won’t cause harm, excessive consumption may lead to side effects like gastrointestinal distress. Overall, cucumbers are just one piece of the constipation relief puzzle.


1. Cucumbers, raw, Nutrition Facts. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Accessed August 23, 2023.

2. Locke GR 3rd, Pemberton JH, Phillips SF. American Gastroenterological Association Medical Position Statement: guidelines on constipation. Gastroenterology. 2000;119(6):1761-6.

3. Schiller LR. Review article: the therapy of constipation. Aliment Pharmacol Ther. 2001;15(6):749-63.

4. Patel B, Schutte R, Sporns P, et al. Potato glycoalkaloids adversely affect intestinal permeability and aggravate inflammatory bowel disease. Inflamm Bowel Dis. 2002;8(5):340-6.

5. Al-Snafi AE. The pharmacology of Cucumis sativus- A review. IOSR Journal of Pharmacy. 2016;6(7):46-61.

6. Mei S, Yao H, Zhou Y, et al. Investigation of cucurbitacin-type triterpene glucoside analogues from Citrullus colocynthis (L.) Schrad fruits and their anti-inflammatory activities. Food Funct. 2018;9(1):345-356.

7. Paschos GK, Pandou MP, Souroullas K, et al. Effects of dietary supplementation of Citrus aurantium and Opuntia ficus-indica extracts on constipation in rats. Nutrients. 2019;11(6):1237.

8. Bailey DG, Dresser GK, Leake BF, Kim RB. Naringin is a major and selective clinical inhibitor of organic anion-transporting polypeptide 1A2 (OATP1A2) in grapefruit juice. Clin Pharmacol Ther. 2007;81(4):495-502.

Similar Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *