Do apples cause diarrhea or constipation?


Apples are a popular and nutritious fruit that many people eat as part of a healthy diet. However, some people report that apples give them digestive issues like diarrhea or constipation. So what’s the truth – do apples cause diarrhea or constipation?

The effects of apples on digestion can vary between individuals. Some of the factors that influence whether apples cause diarrhea or constipation include:

  • Apple variety – Some types of apples are higher in fiber or fructose than others
  • Ripeness – Unripe green apples tend to be higher in acids and may irritate digestion more
  • Quantity – Eating a lot of apples in one sitting can overwhelm digestion
  • Individual tolerances – People have different sensitivities to fruits and fiber
  • Existing digestive issues – Those prone to diarrhea or constipation react differently

Overall, apples are unlikely to cause diarrhea or constipation in most people when eaten in moderation. But those with sensitivities may experience some digestive discomfort from apples.

Fiber Content of Apples

One of the biggest factors influencing apples’ effects on digestion is their fiber content.

Apples contain both insoluble and soluble fiber:

  • Insoluble fiber does not dissolve in water. It helps add bulk to stool and promotes regular bowel movements.
  • Soluble fiber dissolves in water into a gel-like consistency. It helps slow digestion and nutrient absorption.

The average medium apple contains around 4 grams of fiber, with a mix of both insoluble and soluble types.

The fiber content does vary slightly between different apple varieties. For example:

Apple Variety Total Fiber (grams per medium apple)
Gala 3.3
Granny Smith 4.4
Red Delicious 4.4
Fuji 4.4

As you can see, Gala apples are a bit lower in fiber compared to other common varieties like Granny Smith, Red Delicious, and Fuji. The higher fiber types may be more likely to impact digestion for some people.

Fructose Content

Apples also contain fructose, a naturally occurring fruit sugar. Fructose is a FODMAP, a type of carbohydrate that some people don’t absorb well.

When fructose isn’t properly absorbed in the small intestine, it can ferment in the large intestine causing gas, bloating, and diarrhea.

The fructose content is generally highest in unripe green apples and decreases as the apple ripens. Very ripe apples may be easier to tolerate for those sensitive to fructose.

Amount of fructose per average apple:

Apple Type Fructose (grams)
Unripe green apple 5.9
Ripe green apple 5.7
Sweet ripe apple 5.5

As you can see, even ripe apples contain a significant amount of fructose. Someone following a low-FODMAP diet may need to limit apple portions to 1/4 to 1/2 apple max at a time.

Acidity of Apples

The tartness of apples comes from malic acid, an organic compound that gives them a sour taste.

Unripe apples tend to be higher in acidity. As they ripen, acid levels decrease and sugar levels increase, giving a sweeter flavor.

The higher acid content in unripe or green apples can sometimes irritate digestion. Those with sensitive stomachs may experience more discomfort from eating under-ripe apples.

Apple Type Malic Acid (mg per 100g)
Unripe 808
Ripe 310

Letting green apples ripen before eating can allow some of the excess acids to metabolize, creating a less bothersome experience for delicate digestive systems.

Fiber Effects on Digestion

Now that we’ve looked at some of the compounds in apples that can impact digestion, let’s examine whether the fiber actually causes diarrhea or constipation.

Insoluble fiber from apples helps add bulk and moisture to stools. Eating apples can stimulate bowel movements in a couple ways:

  • The fiber absorbs water, helping prevent constipation and hard stools.
  • The excess fiber stretches the intestinal tract, triggering contractions that push stool along.
  • Insoluble fiber is unaffected during digestion, maintaining stool bulk.

For most people, these effects help promote regularity without causing diarrhea.

However, some people may get loose stools from the increased moisture and bowel contractions. The impact tends to be more profound when a lot of fiber is consumed at once.

Soluble fiber from apples slows down digestion, allowing more water absorption from stool. This can result in softer, bulkier stools.

Soluble fiber forms a gel that delays gastric emptying and intestinal motility. For some people, this slowing effect of soluble fiber can combat diarrhea by allowing more water to be reabsorbed before stool reaches the rectum.

Overall, the fiber in apples tends to stimulate bowel movements – but not usually to the point of diarrhea in most people. Apples are more likely to help relieve and prevent constipation.

Individual Tolerances

While apples provide a healthy mix of soluble and insoluble fiber for many people, some individuals do experience diarrhea or constipation from eating them.

Possible reasons apples may cause diarrhea for some:

  • Fructose malabsorption leading to osmotic diarrhea when unabsorbed sugars pull water into the colon.
  • Imbalance between fluid volume and fiber. Too much insoluble fiber without enough fluid can lead to dehydration and loose stools.
  • Overloading the intestines with too much fiber at once, over-stimulating contractions.
  • Underlying intestinal inflammation like IBS that reacts negatively to high-fiber foods.

Constipation may occur in some people due to:

  • Not drinking enough water. Soluble fiber needs fluid to help bulk up stools.
  • Consuming apples when constipated but not addressing other dietary issues.
  • Slowed motility from soluble fiber, without simultaneous increase in insoluble fiber.

As you can see, the effects really depend on the individual. Factors like your normal diet, hydration, gut sensitivities, and more all play a role.

Tips for Digestive Issues

If you experience diarrhea, constipation, or other digestion problems from eating apples, here are some tips that may help:

  • Drink plenty of water – Fiber requires adequate hydration to work effectively.
  • Eat smaller portions – Limit apple serving sizes instead of overdoing it.
  • Try different varieties – Experiment to see if less acidic or lower fiber types are better tolerated.
  • Enjoy applesauce – The fiber has been partially broken down, making it less irritating.
  • Avoid greens apples – Allow apples to fully ripen to decrease acidity and fructose.
  • Take digestive enzymes – May help proper breakdown of fructose and fiber.
  • Get checked for IBS – Apples may trigger symptoms of an underlying condition like IBS.

Monitoring serving sizes, hydration, and the ripeness of apples you eat can often help minimize unwanted digestive side effects. But some people with chronic issues may need to limit or avoid apples entirely.


For most people, apples provide a healthy mix of soluble and insoluble fiber that promotes regularity. Their fiber content helps prevent constipation by adding bulk to stool and stimulating bowel movements.

However, apples also contain fructose and acids that can aggravate digestion in high amounts. Those with digestive sensitivities may experience diarrhea or constipation from the fructose, fiber, or acids in apples – especially if they eat too many.

Ripening apples to decrease acidity and fructose, limiting portions, staying hydrated, and avoiding greens apples can help reduce unwanted side effects. People with IBS or chronic issues may need to limit or avoid apples if they continue causing problems.

Overall, apples are unlikely to cause constipation or diarrhea in people without sensitivities when eaten in moderation as part of a balanced diet. But they can trigger issues in some individuals, especially when overconsumed. Paying attention to your own reaction to different varieties and portion sizes can help you enjoy apples while optimizing your digestion.

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