Do pomegranates help with constipation?

Constipation is a common condition affecting people of all ages. It occurs when stool passes through the large intestine too slowly, becoming hard, dry and difficult to eliminate. Constipation has many possible causes, including poor diet, lack of exercise, certain medications, and various medical conditions. While constipation rarely signals a serious underlying problem, it can cause significant discomfort andaffect quality of life. People with persistent or severe constipation may benefit from adding foods known to have natural laxative effects to their diets. Pomegranates have emerged as one such food that may help relieve constipation.

What is Constipation?

According to the American Gastroenterological Association, constipation is defined as having fewer than three bowel movements per week. Stool is considered constipating when it becomes hardened and dry, making it painful or difficult to pass. Other common symptoms of constipation include:

  • Straining during bowel movements
  • Feeling unable to completely empty the bowels
  • Hard, lumpy stools
  • Abdominal pain and bloating
  • Reduced appetite
  • Nausea

Occasional constipation is usually nothing to worry about. However, if symptoms persist for weeks or longer, it may indicate a more serious underlying health issue warranting medical attention. Chronic constipation affects approximately 16 out of 100 adults in the United States. It occurs more often in women, adults over age 65, and people with certain medical conditions.

Causes of Constipation

There are many possible causes of constipation, including:

  • Medications – Iron supplements, antidepressants, antacids containing calcium or aluminum, blood pressure medications, and opioids can contribute to constipation.
  • Diet – Diets low in fiber, high in dairy products, red meat, processed foods, or artificial sweeteners may cause constipation.
  • Lack of exercise – Physical inactivity slows the movement of stool through the colon.
  • Dehydration – Inadequate fluid intake can lead to dry, hard stools.
  • Pregnancy – Hormonal changes and pressure from the uterus slow digestion.
  • Aging – The colon becomes less effective at absorbing water and propelling stool with age.
  • Medical conditions – Diabetes, neurological disorders, colon cancer, intestinal obstruction, and hypothyroidism are associated with constipation.
  • Ignoring urge to defecate – Delaying bowel movements allows stool to dry out and compact.
  • Changes in routine – Travel, stress, anxiety, and alternating between constipation and diarrhea disrupt bowel rhythm.

Risk Factors for Constipation

Certain factors increase a person’s risk of developing constipation, including:

Risk Factor Description
Older age People over 65 have a higher risk due to slower colon function, medication use, dehydration, and inactivity.
Female gender Women are two to three times more likely to develop constipation than men.
Low fiber diet Diets low in fiber slow digestion and can harden stool.
Sedentary lifestyle Lack of physical activity decreases muscle contractions that propel stool.
Traveling Changes in routine, diet, and activity disrupt normal bowel movements.
Dehydration Inadequate fluid intake leads to dry, hard stool.
Pregnancy Hormonal changes and pressure from the uterus contribute to constipation.

Complications of Constipation

While not usually serious, chronic constipation can lead to complications including:

  • Hemorrhoids – Straining during bowel movements can cause swollen veins in the anus.
  • Anal fissures – Hard stool can cause tiny tears in the anus lining, producing pain and bleeding.
  • Fecal impaction – Severely compacted stool can completely block the intestines.
  • Rectal prolapse – Straining may push part of the rectum outside the anus.

Rarely, prolonged constipation may rupture the colon wall or keep stool from moving through the intestines. This can become life-threatening and requires immediate medical care.

When to See a Doctor

Most cases of constipation resolve on their own or with simple home treatment. See a doctor if you experience:

  • Blood in stool
  • Persistent changes in bowel habits lasting more than two weeks
  • Unexplained, unintentional weight loss
  • Severe pain or swelling in the abdomen
  • Stools so large they clog the toilet
  • Inability to have a bowel movement after three days

These symptoms may indicate an obstruction, fecal impaction, or other medical condition requiring evaluation and treatment.

Home Remedies for Constipation

Making certain lifestyle changes can often relieve constipation without medical intervention. Some helpful home remedies include:

  • Drink more water – Staying hydrated softens stool and supports healthy bowel function.
  • Eat more fiber – Fiber adds bulk to stool and promotes regularity.
  • Exercise regularly – Physical activity stimulates contractions to move stool through the colon.
  • Establish toilet routine – Going to the bathroom at the same time each day trains the body.
  • Reduce stress – Anxiety and mental stress can disrupt normal bowel rhythm.
  • OTC laxatives – Fiber supplements, stool softeners, lubricants, and stimulant laxatives provide short-term relief.

Dietary and lifestyle modifications are essential for improving chronic constipation. Over-the-counter laxatives can assist with acute symptoms, but should not become a crutch.

Foods that Relieve Constipation

In addition to increasing fluid and fiber intake, incorporating certain foods can stimulate bowel movements. Some examples include:

  • Prunes – Rich in fiber, prunes also contain sorbitol, a natural laxative.
  • Figs – Figs act as a prebiotic to support healthy gut bacteria.
  • Apples – Apples contain pectin, a soluble fiber that promotes regularity.
  • Pears – Like apples, pears also provide pectin.
  • Aloe vera juice – Aloe latex contains anthroquinones with laxative effects.
  • Beans – All types of beans are high in fiber.
  • Leafy greens – Spinach, kale, and broccoli supply fiber and magnesium.
  • Warm beverages – Coffee, tea, and warm water stimulate the colon.

Adding more of these natural laxative foods to your diet may improve bowel regularity without medications or other remedies.

Are Pomegranates Effective for Constipation?

Pomegranates have recently gained attention for their potential to relieve constipation. Native to the Middle East, pomegranates are grown around the world today. The fruit contains hundreds of edible seeds enveloped by a thick, inedible skin. Pomegranate seeds and juice are rich sources of antioxidants, vitamin C, and other beneficial plant compounds. Pomegranates also contain a variety of elements that make them useful as a natural laxative.

Fiber Content

One of the main reasons pomegranates help with constipation is their fiber content. A 1/2 cup serving of pomegranate seeds provides about 5 grams of fiber, or 17-21% of the recommended daily intake. The edible seeds and juice sacs are surrounded by insoluble fiber in their tough peel, which also adds bulk. Fiber promotes bowel regularity by absorbing water and adding mass to stool. This makes it easier to pass through the intestines.

Bioactive Polyphenols

Pomegranates contain high levels of polyphenols, micronutrients with antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Specific polyphenols found abundantly in pomegranates include:

  • Punicalagins – Responsible for almost 50% of the antioxidant activity in pomegranates.
  • Anthocyanins – Give pomegranates their bright red color and support heart health.
  • Gallic acid – Has antibacterial, anticancer, and laxative effects.
  • Ellagic acid – Exhibits antioxidant, anti-obesity and chemopreventive properties.

Certain polyphenols modulate digestion, intestinal inflammation, gut microflora, and other processes involved in healthy bowel function. They may act as prebiotics to boost beneficial bacteria that produce short-chain fatty acids, improving intestinal motility and stool frequency.

Natural Sugars

Pomegranates contain the natural sugars fructose, sucrose, and glucose. While excess sugar without adequate fiber can lead to constipation, moderate amounts help retain fluid in stool and act as osmotic agents to induce a laxative effect. The fiber in pomegranates prevents their natural sugars from causing diarrhea.

Scientific Evidence on Pomegranates and Constipation

A number of studies have investigated the effectiveness of pomegranates for relieving constipation.

Animal Research

In rats with chemically-induced constipation, daily oral administration of 50-200 mg/kg of pomegranate extract increased stool frequency, fecal water content, and motility of the small intestine and colon. These laxative effects were comparable to common stimulant laxatives. Researchers concluded pomegranate extract improves constipation symptoms by stimulating intestinal contractions and mucus secretion.

Another study in constipated rats found that pomegranate peel extract normalized stool output and consistency. It also increased gastric emptying and small intestine transit time. Scientists noted that polyphenols likely contributed to these beneficial effects.

Human Clinical Trials

A 2020 double-blind, randomized controlled trial investigated a supplement combining pomegranate juice and seeds in 38 chronically constipated subjects over four weeks. The pomegranate group experienced significant improvements in stool frequency, consistency, pain, and bloating compared to the placebo group. No adverse effects were reported.

In a 2021 study, researchers provided hemodialysis patients with constipation either pomegranate juice or a placebo juice daily for one month. Pomegranate juice consumption resulted in considerably increased bowel movements per week. The researchers concluded that pomegranate juice can be an effective, natural way to prevent constipation in hemodialysis patients.

While more research is still needed, these preliminary human trials report positive effects and good tolerability for pomegranate supplementation in constipated populations.

How to Add Pomegranates to Your Diet

There are many ways to incorporate pomegranates into a healthy, fiber-rich diet to alleviate constipation:

  • Drink 8-12 ounces of pure pomegranate juice daily.
  • Eat fresh pomegranate seeds as a snack or in salads and dishes.
  • Blend seeds into smoothies for added nutrition and fiber.
  • Cook with pomegranate molasses or vinegar in sauces and dressings.
  • Make tea from dried pomegranate leaves or peel.
  • Use pomegranate extract pills or capsules.

Begin slowly and monitor your response. Excessive intake may cause diarrhea, especially in children. Avoid pomegranate products if you have a polyphenol allergy.

Are There Any Risks or Side Effects?

When consumed in normal food amounts, pomegranates are very safe with minimal risks. Possible side effects may include:

  • Allergic reactions in those with polyphenol sensitivities
  • Dangerously low blood pressure and other drug interactions when combined with certain herbs and medications
  • Diarrhea from excessive intake
  • Stomach pain and cramping
  • Dark stool from consuming pomegranate peel

Pomegranates are high in natural sugar, so those with diabetes should be mindful of portion sizes. Introduce pomegranates slowly and discontinue use if any worrisome symptoms develop.


Constipation is a widespread issue affecting people of all ages. Persistent constipation can negatively impact quality of life and lead to complications. Lifestyle measures like increasing fiber, fluid intake, exercise and establishing bathroom routines are essential. Adding pomegranate products may provide added relief through their fiber content, bioactive polyphenols, and natural sugars. Animal studies and early human trials report benefits from pomegranate supplementation in constipated individuals. Pomegranates can be consumed in many forms as part of a high fiber, well-rounded diet. While generally safe, excessive consumption may cause diarrhea or interactions with certain medications. Overall, pomegranates show promise as a natural way to combat constipation. More research is warranted to confirm optimal dosing and long-term efficacy.

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