Do grapes help with bowel movements?

Constipation is a common condition that affects people of all ages. It occurs when stool passes through the large intestine too slowly, causing it to become hard, dry, and difficult to pass. Constipation can cause bloating, abdominal pain and discomfort. There are many possible causes of constipation, including not eating enough fiber, not drinking enough fluids, lack of exercise, certain medications, and various medical conditions.

Making dietary and lifestyle changes is usually the first line of treatment for constipation. Increasing fiber intake, staying hydrated, exercising regularly, and establishing a routine for bowel movements can often provide relief. Some people find that certain foods seem to help get things moving more smoothly in their digestive tract. Grapes are one food that is sometimes recommended for helping with constipation, but does the science support this?

Fiber Content of Grapes

One of the ways grapes may help with constipation is via their fiber content. Fiber adds bulk to stool and helps move it through the intestines more easily. Soluble fiber absorbs water, softening stool and making it easier to pass. Insoluble fiber adds bulk and weight to stool, stimulating the intestines to contract and push stool along.

One cup of red or green grapes contains about 1.4 grams of fiber. While this is not a huge amount compared to some other high fiber foods, it can contribute to your daily fiber intake. The recommended daily fiber intake for adults is around 25-30 grams per day.

Other Nutrients and Compounds in Grapes

In addition to fiber, grapes contain other nutrients and plant compounds that may contribute to their potential laxative effect.

  • Water – Grapes are about 80% water, helping to hydrate the colon and soften stool.
  • Potassium – Grapes are a good source of potassium, an electrolyte that helps regulate muscular contractions in the intestine.
  • Magnesium – This mineral helps draw water into the intestines and relaxes muscles for easier bowel movements.
  • Resveratrol – This antioxidant found in grapes may stimulate contractions in the colon.
  • Organic acids – Tartaric, malic and citric acids naturally occurring in grapes may have a laxative effect.

Evidence on Grapes and Constipation

There are not many studies specifically looking at the impact of grapes on constipation. However, some research suggests grapes may be beneficial:

  • A study in rats with constipation found that red grape juice increased stool frequency, moisture, and weight. It also increased gastrointestinal motility and protected the colon lining.
  • Another rat study showed concord grape juice increased stool weight and offered laxative effects compared to a control group.
  • Research on raisins, which are dried grapes, found they increased stool weight and promoted growth of beneficial bifidobacteria in human studies. This suggests a prebiotic effect that could improve bowel regularity.

The fiber, water, and nutrients in grapes all suggest they should help get things moving. However, human data is still limited. More research is needed on exactly how effective grapes are for constipation in people.

Grape Varieties

You can eat seeded or seedless red, green, or black grapes to get these constipation-fighting benefits. Some popular grape varieties include:

  • Red grapes: Red Globe, Crimson, Ruby Seedless
  • Green grapes: Thompson, Flame, Perlette
  • Black/purple grapes: Concord, Black Monukka, Black Seedless

Any type provides fiber, nutrients, and fluids to help alleviate constipation.

Serving Sizes

A serving of grapes is about 1 cup or 126 grams. This provides:

Nutrient Amount
Fiber 1.4 grams
Water 104 grams
Potassium 288 mg
Magnesium 7 mg

Aim for 1-2 servings of grapes per day to help with constipation. They can be eaten on their own as a snack or incorporated into smoothies, salads, baked goods, or other dishes.

Other Benefits of Grapes

Beyond potential effects on bowel movements, grapes offer a number of other health benefits:

  • Antioxidants – Grapes, especially red and purple varieties, are rich in antioxidants like resveratrol, anthocyanins, and catechins. These compounds may help protect cells from damage and lower inflammation.
  • Heart health – The potassium and antioxidants in grapes can help reduce blood pressure and cholesterol levels.
  • Blood sugar – Despite their sweetness, grapes have a low glycemic index. Research suggests they may even improve insulin sensitivity.
  • Brain function – The polyphenols in grapes may delay cognitive decline associated with aging and protect brain cells.
  • Cancer prevention – Compounds in grapes like resveratrol and anthocyanins have been shown to hinder cancer cell growth and tumor formation in animal studies.

Best Time to Eat Grapes

To maximize the constipation-relieving effects of grapes, the best time to eat them is in the morning. Getting a serving of grapes in early in the day helps ensure you get those nutrients working in your digestive system as food moves through. Starting your day with some fiber-filled grapes can set you on the right foot for healthy bowel movements.

You can enjoy grapes on their own as a quick breakfast snack. Another option is to blend grapes into a morning smoothie along with other fiber-rich ingredients like chia seeds, flaxseed, oats, or banana. Grapes also pair well with yogurt, cottage cheese, or nut butter for an easy breakfast bowl.

Grape Juice for Constipation

In addition to whole grapes, drinking grape juice made from Concord or red grapes may also help get things moving. Grape juice provides the same constipation-fighting nutrients and plant compounds found in grapes themselves. And its liquid form may be even more effective at hydrating the body and promoting digestion.

An 8-ounce glass of grape juice contains about 36 grams of the water and 1 gram of fiber found in grapes. Make sure to choose 100% grape juice with no added sugars. The best time to drink grape juice for constipation relief is first thing in the morning or between meals.

Drawbacks of Grapes

Grapes are generally considered safe foods for constipation. However, a few things to keep in mind:

  • Grape skins contain tannins that may cause stomach upset in some people when eaten raw. Cooking grapes can reduce tannins.
  • Grapes are high in natural sugars. People with diabetes should be mindful of portion sizes to manage blood sugar.
  • Too much grape juice may cause loose stools if you’re sensitive to laxative effects.
  • Grapes are higher in pesticide residues than other fruits. Organic grapes are recommended if this is a concern.

Introduce grapes slowly and drink grape juice in moderation to assess tolerance. Discontinue use if grapes irritate your digestive system.

Safety and Drug Interactions

Grapes are considered safe for most people trying to find relief from mild, occasional constipation. Check with your doctor before adding grapes or grape juice to your diet if you have:

  • A grape allergy
  • Diverticulitis or a history of intestinal obstructions
  • Inflammatory bowel disease like ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease
  • Severe or chronic constipation not improved by increasing fiber and fluids

Grapes may also interact with certain medications. Consult your doctor or pharmacist before eating more grapes if you take:

  • Blood thinners like warfarin (Coumadin)
  • Medications that affect blood sugar
  • Lithium
  • Digoxin (Lanoxin)

When to See a Doctor

Making dietary changes like eating more grapes can help relieve occasional constipation. However, chronic or severe constipation requires medical attention. See your doctor if you experience:

  • No bowel movements for 3 or more days
  • Hard, dry stool that is difficult and painful to pass
  • Bloody stool
  • Fever, vomiting, abdominal pain, or weight loss along with constipation

These symptoms could indicate an obstruction, bowel tear, or other medical condition requiring treatment. Work with your doctor to find the cause and an effective treatment plan.

The Bottom Line

Grapes contain fiber, water, and other nutrients that can help stimulate bowel movements. Their laxative effect has been shown in a few animal studies. However, more research is still needed on grapes for constipation relief specifically in humans.

Adding some grapes or grape juice to your diet is generally safe and may be helpful alongside other lifestyle approaches for managing occasional constipation. But be sure to see your doctor if symptoms persist or become severe.

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