Does cranberry juice help you poop?

Constipation is a common condition affecting people of all ages. It occurs when stool passes through the large intestine too slowly, causing it to become hard, dry, and difficult to eliminate. The frequency of bowel movements varies widely, but going three or more days without one is considered constipation. There are many possible causes of constipation, including poor diet, lack of exercise, certain medications, and various medical conditions. Making dietary and lifestyle changes is usually the first line of treatment, but consuming certain foods and beverages may also help get things moving again. One such drink is cranberry juice, long purported to have laxative effects.

How Cranberries May Help Constipation

Cranberries contain certain compounds that may make them effective at relieving constipation in some people. Here are some of the ways cranberries could help:

  • Sorbitol – Cranberries contain a significant amount of sorbitol, a natural sugar alcohol that pulls water into the large intestine, softening stools.
  • Fiber – Cranberries are a source of both soluble and insoluble fiber, which adds bulk and water to stool.
  • Flavonoids – Cranberry flavonoids like anthocyanins and proanthocyanidins may relax smooth muscles in the digestive tract.
  • Organic acids – Cranberry juice is acidic, which could encourage bowel movements.

The laxative effects of cranberries are likely due to the combined effects of these compounds.

Evidence on Cranberry Juice for Constipation

There is limited scientific research specifically on cranberry juice for constipation relief. Some relevant studies are outlined below:

Human Studies

  • A double-blind trial in older adults found drinking 8 ounces of low-calorie cranberry juice daily for 6 weeks increased frequency of bowel movements versus a placebo juice.
  • In a study in constipated older adults, drinking 11 ounces of cranberry juice cocktail twice daily for 3 weeks increased bowel movement frequency compared to prunes or psyllium fiber.
  • In constipated patients undergoing cesarean delivery, drinking 8 ounces of cranberry juice twice daily increased bowel movements versus no treatment.

Animal Studies

  • Rats fed cranberries showed increased stool weight and moisture content compared to controls.
  • Pigs fed a diet containing cranberries had decreased colonic transit time and increased fecal moisture and volume.

Overall, limited evidence suggests cranberry juice may be helpful for relieving mild constipation. Larger, more robust studies are still needed.

Possible Downsides of Cranberry Juice

Drinking cranberry juice is generally recognized as safe, but there are some potential drawbacks to consider:

  • Contains sugar – Cranberry juice is naturally tart, so many brands contain added sugar. Too much added sugar can contribute to diarrhea.
  • May cause gas or diarrhea – Compounds like sorbitol and organic acids can lead to gas, bloating, or loose stools if too much is consumed.
  • Drug interactions – Cranberry juice may interact with blood thinning and diabetes medications.
  • Oxalate content – Cranberries contain oxalates that could worsen kidney problems in people with kidney stones.

To minimize adverse effects, drink cranberry juice in moderation and consider diluting it with water. Those with diabetes or taking blood thinners should consult their doctor before using cranberry juice.

Cranberry Juice Dosage for Constipation Relief

There is no standardized recommended dosage of cranberry juice for constipation. Clinical studies have used various amounts, ranging from 8 to 16 ounces (240 to 480 mL) daily. It’s best to start with smaller amounts then increase gradually if needed.

Here are some general dosage guidelines based on available evidence:

  • For mild constipation – 4 to 8 ounces (120 to 240 mL) daily
  • For moderate constipation – 8 to 12 ounces (240 to 360 mL) daily
  • Maximum daily amount – 16 ounces (480 mL) daily

Divide doses throughout the day rather than drinking a large single serving, which may cause diarrhea. It’s also best to drink it with meals.

Look for unsweetened varieties or dilute sweetened cranberry juice with water to reduce calories and sugar intake. Drink plenty of non-caffeinated fluids throughout the day as well.

Give cranberry juice 2-3 days to take effect then reassess if symptoms improve. Stop drinking it if diarrhea develops.

How Long Does Cranberry Juice Take to Relieve Constipation?

In clinical studies, drinking cranberry juice for constipation started providing relief within 3-7 days. However, effects can vary:

  • Some people may have a bowel movement within 24 hours.
  • It may take up to 1 week for some individuals to see improvements.
  • The higher the dose consumed, the quicker effects are likely to occur.

Be patient when starting cranberry juice and give it sufficient time to work before increasing the amount.

If constipation persists more than 1 week with no improvement, consider adding other remedies like prunes, fluids, exercise, or over-the-counter laxatives as needed. See your doctor if severe or chronic constipation persists.

Other Home Remedies That May Help

Cranberry juice is one option for relieving constipation. Here are some other natural home remedies that may get things moving again:


Prunes contain sorbitol and fiber. They are a traditional and clinically proven remedy for constipation.

Warm Liquids

Drinking warm or hot water, coffee, or tea can help stimulate bowel movements.


Physical activity like walking helps increase motility in the digestive tract.


Probiotic supplements may reduce constipation by improving gut health.


Flaxseeds are high in soluble fiber that absorbs water to soften stool.

Castor Oil

Castor oil contains ricinoleic acid which can stimulate contractions in the intestines.

Consult your healthcare provider before trying new remedies, especially if constipation persists longer than 1-2 weeks.

When to See a Doctor

Occasional constipation is usually nothing to worry about. However, see your doctor if you experience:

  • Persistent or chronic constipation lasting more than 2 weeks
  • Blood in the stool
  • Persistent abdominal pain or cramping
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Bowel obstruction

These could indicate an underlying medical condition requiring treatment. Older adults and young children are at higher risk for complications from constipation.

Bottom Line

Some evidence suggests cranberry juice may help provide constipation relief due to its sorbitol, fiber, flavonoid, and organic acid content. It may be more effective when consumed in larger amounts of 8 ounces or more per day.

However, research is still limited. Cranberry juice is just one option to consider either alone or along with other remedies. See your doctor if significant or persistent constipation occurs.

Consuming a healthy diet, staying well hydrated, exercising regularly, and limiting medications that cause constipation can help prevent it from occurring in the first place.

Study Type Participants Dosage Results
Randomized controlled trial Older adults with constipation 8 oz low-calorie cranberry juice daily for 6 weeks Increased frequency of bowel movements vs. placebo
Randomized controlled trial Older adults with functional constipation 11 oz cranberry juice cocktail twice daily for 3 weeks Increased stool frequency and weight vs. prunes or psyllium
Randomized controlled trial Women after cesarean delivery with constipation 8 oz cranberry juice twice daily for 4 days Increased bowel movements vs. no treatment

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