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Do cherries have a laxative effect?

Cherries are a popular summer fruit packed with nutrients like vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Some people claim that cherries have a natural laxative effect and can help relieve constipation. In this article, we’ll explore the evidence behind this claim and whether cherries truly have laxative properties.

The Nutrients in Cherries

Cherries contain a number of nutrients that could potentially contribute to a laxative effect:

  • Fiber – One cup of cherries contains 3 grams of fiber. Fiber adds bulk to stool and helps food and waste move through the digestive tract more quickly.
  • Sorbitol – Cherries naturally contain sorbitol, a sugar alcohol that acts as a natural laxative by drawing water into the large intestine.
  • Anthocyanins – These antioxidants give cherries their red color. Some research suggests they may stimulate digestion.
  • Quercetin – This anti-inflammatory flavonoid in cherries may help relieve constipation.
  • Vitamin C – With 10 mg per cup, the vitamin C in cherries may help soften stool.

Research on Cherries and Constipation Relief

Several studies have looked at whether cherries and cherry juice can help relieve constipation:

Study Design Results
2008 study in Nursing and Health Sciences 15 elderly patients drank 200mL of cherry juice twice per day for 4 weeks Significant increase in bowel movements vs. placebo juice
2019 study in Food & Function Rats fed dried cherry powder for 14 days Increased stool output and weight, softened stools
2021 review in Nutrients Analysis of 5 human clinical trials Cherry juice improved constipation symptoms and stool frequency

This research suggests drinking cherry juice regularly may help stimulate bowel movements and relieve symptoms of constipation. The fiber, sorbitol, and other nutrients in cherries appear to contribute to these effects.

Other Potential Constipation-Relieving Effects of Cherries

In addition to their nutrient content, cherries may relieve constipation in other ways:

  • Improved gut motility – Compounds in cherries may encourage contractions to move stool through the bowels.
  • Increased fluid intake – The juice provides fluids that help soften stool.
  • Prebiotic effects – Cherries contain polyphenols that feed beneficial gut bacteria tied to regularity.
  • Anti-inflammatory effects – The antioxidants in cherries may improve constipation caused by inflammation.

By improving intestinal function and fluid balance, cherries can get things moving again. The prebiotic fiber nourishes probiotics for a healthy gut environment.

Recommended Intake for a Laxative Effect

Research indicates that around 200mL (about 1 cup) of pure cherry juice taken twice daily may provide constipation relief. Dried cherries or cherry juice concentrate can also be effective, in amounts equivalent to 1 cup of juice.

To experience laxative effects, experts recommend:

  • 1 cup of pure cherry juice – Provide 3 grams of fiber and sorbitol.
  • 1 ounce of dried cherries – Equivalent to 1⁄2 cup juice.
  • 1 tablespoon cherry juice concentrate – Mix with water to make 1 cup.

Taking this amount 1-2 times per day will maximize the amount of sorbitol and fiber from cherries. This produces stool-softening and laxative effects.

Other Tips for Using Cherries as a Laxative

Here are some other tips for using cherries to relieve constipation:

  • Drink cherry juice on an empty stomach – This allows nutrients to reach the intestines undiluted.
  • Combine with prune juice – For additional fiber and sorbitol.
  • Enjoy cherries as whole fruit – To get fiber from the skin.
  • Drink plenty of fluids – Helps cherry nutrients promote bowel movements.
  • Avoid added sugar – Stick to unsweetened cherry juice products.

Making cherries part of a high fiber diet and staying hydrated is key. Focus on unsweetened products to avoid extra sugars that could worsen constipation.

Are Cherries Effective for Relieving Constipation?

Research indicates that drinking cherry juice and eating cherries can help get things moving again and provide constipation relief. The nutrients in cherries, especially sorbitol and fiber, appear to have mild laxative effects.

However, keep in mind:

  • Effects may vary – Results can depend on the individual and severity of constipation.
  • Other remedies may work better – Such as magnesium, prune juice, or laxative supplements.
  • Results require consistency – Daily intake is needed to maintain results.
  • Not a cure-all – Cherries compliment other lifestyle measures to support regularity.

While cherries can definitely stimulate bowel movements, their effects are generally mild. Make sure to speak to your doctor if severe or chronic constipation persists.

Safety and Side Effects

For most people, cherries are a safe and healthy way to help relieve occasional constipation. However, some precautions are needed:

  • Sorbitol can cause gas or bloating – Start with small amounts and increase slowly.
  • Excess sorbitol acts as a diuretic – This can lead to loose stools and diarrhea.
  • Some people have sorbitol intolerance – Causing significant gastrointestinal distress.
  • Dangerously high potassium levels (hyperkalemia) are possible in those with kidney impairment.
  • Cherries are high in oxalates – Those prone to kidney stones should enjoy in moderation.

Discontinue use if any worrisome side effects develop. As with any constipation remedy, see your doctor if problems persist longer than a week.

The Bottom Line

Cherries appear to have mild natural laxative effects when enjoyed regularly, thanks to nutrients like sorbitol, fiber, and anthocyanins. About 1-2 cups of cherry juice or an equivalent amount of whole or dried cherries daily may help stimulate bowel movements and relieve symptoms of constipation. While cherries can assist with occasional constipation, their effects are modest, and other remedies are likely required for chronic issues. Speak to your doctor to find the right solution for your needs.