Does orange juice have laxative effect?


Orange juice is a popular beverage enjoyed by many for its refreshing taste and vitamin C content. Some people drink orange juice in the morning to help them wake up and start their day. Others enjoy it as a snack or drink it for the potential health benefits. One commonly asked question is whether orange juice has a laxative effect.

The answer is not straightforward. Some research suggests orange juice may help promote regular bowel movements in certain situations while other studies show no significant impact. Let’s take a deeper look at the potential laxative effects of orange juice.

What’s in Orange Juice That Could Cause a Laxative Effect?

Orange juice contains compounds that may help explain why some people experience loose stools after drinking it. Here are a few of the key components:

  • Fiber – Orange juice has both soluble and insoluble fiber. Soluble fiber helps absorb water in the intestines, which softens the stool. Meanwhile, insoluble fiber adds bulk.
  • Fructose – Orange juice has a high fructose content. Fructose is not as easily absorbed in the small intestine compared to other sugars. Unabsorbed fructose draws water into the colon, acting as an osmotic agent.
  • Organic acids – Citric and other acids naturally found in oranges can have a mild laxative effect by stimulating intestinal secretion and motility.
  • Sorbitol – Orange juice contains some sorbitol, a sugar alcohol that can draw water into the large intestines.

The combination of these compounds may help loosen stools and encourage bowel movements in some individuals. However, the levels in orange juice are relatively low compared to other fruits and juices.

What Do Studies Say About Orange Juice and Laxative Effects?

Several studies have looked at whether orange juice intake impacts bowel function:

Fiber Study in Healthy Adults

A 2012 study published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition examined how a fiber supplement made from orange pulp affected healthy adults.[1]

  • 23 healthy men and women drank orange juice with or without added orange pulp for 2 weeks in a crossover trial.
  • The orange pulp provided an additional 3.8 grams per day of mainly insoluble fiber.
  • Adding fiber from orange pulp significantly increased bowel movement frequency.
  • The researchers concluded orange pulp fiber promotes healthy laxation.

Study in Constipated Elderly Patients

Research in 2012 investigated using orange juice to treat elderly patients with constipation.[2]

– 68 constipated patients over 65 years old drank 200ml of orange juice or a placebo juice 3 times per day.
– After 3 weeks, the orange juice group had significantly higher bowel movement frequency.
– Stool consistency also improved in the orange juice group.

The researchers concluded orange juice appears effective at treating constipation in elderly patients.

Fruit Juice Study in Constipated Toddlers

A small 2007 study examined the impact of fruit juice on constipation in toddlers 1 to 5 years old.[3]

  • 45 constipated toddlers were given 120-180 ml of orange juice or pear juice per day.
  • After 12 days, both orange juice and pear juice significantly increased stool frequency.
  • The researchers concluded fruit juice with sorbitol can help treat functional constipation in young children.

Sorbitol Supplement Study

A study looked specifically at sorbitol from orange juice.[4]

  • Adults drank orange juice with or without sorbitol added twice per day for 2 weeks.
  • The sorbitol dose was equivalent to 240-360ml of orange juice.
  • Sorbitol supplementation significantly increased stool weight and bowel movement frequency.
  • Researchers concluded sorbitol from orange juice acts as an effective laxative.

Overall, these studies suggest orange juice can promote bowel movements in constipated individuals, especially with higher intakes. The results in healthy adults are more mixed.

Orange Juice Components That May Reduce Laxative Effects

Despite the potential laxative effects, orange juice also contains compounds that could counteract its impact on bowel movements:

  • Calcium – Orange juice is fortified with calcium, which firms up stool.
  • Potassium – Orange juice has high levels of potassium, an electrolyte that promotes water absorption in the colon.
  • Antioxidants – Vitamin C and other antioxidants help neutralize acids and prevent damage to the GI tract.

The balance of these positive and negative influences on bowel function may help explain why laxative effects only seem to occur at higher intakes.

Individual Factors Influencing Bowel Responses to Orange Juice

Not everyone responds the same way to orange juice’s effects on the digestive system. Some individual factors that may determine if orange juice has a laxative effect include:

  • Gut microbiota – The unique population of gut bacteria impacts how compounds are metabolized.
  • GI sensitivity – Those with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) may be more prone to loose stools from compounds in orange juice.
  • Dietary fiber intake – People who consume less fiber overall may notice more of an impact.
  • Hydration status – Well hydrated people may experience less water movement into the colon.
  • Medications – Some medications like diuretics could influence hydration and GI function.

Overall gut health and differences in nutritional status likely affect individual responses to orange juice.

What Is Considered a Laxative Dose of Orange Juice?

Most research showing laxative effects provided orange juice doses of around 16 ounces (500ml) or more per day.

Smaller amounts like a standard 8 ounce (250ml) glass do not seem to significantly impact bowel function in most healthy people. However, those with constipation or sensitive digestion may react even to lower intakes.

Here is a summary of orange juice amounts that may produce laxative effects:

  • 8-12 ounces (250-375ml) – possibly in sensitive individuals
  • 16+ ounces (500ml+) – more likely to affect bowel function
  • 24+ ounces (750ml+) – higher probability of loose stools

Drinking orange juice only occasionally likely won’t cause issues. But regularly consuming larger amounts could promote looser stools, especially if you’re prone to GI issues.

Tips for Preventing Orange Juice Diarrhea

Here are some tips to help prevent orange juice from causing diarrhea or loose stools:

  • Limit orange juice to 8-12 ounces (250-375ml) per day.
  • Drink orange juice with meals to slow absorption.
  • Avoid drinking orange juice on an empty stomach.
  • Reduce intake if you have irritable bowel syndrome.
  • Stay hydrated with water throughout the day.
  • Increase dietary fiber to help firm up stools.
  • Avoid large amounts if taking diuretics or laxatives.

Diluting orange juice with water or mixing it with yogurt may also help minimize any GI issues in sensitive people.

When Is Orange Juice Most Likely to Cause Diarrhea?

Orange juice is most likely to cause loose stools under these circumstances:

  • Drinking it first thing in the morning, especially on an empty stomach.
  • Consuming more than 16 ounces (500ml) in a day.
  • Eating a low fiber diet otherwise.
  • Having a digestive condition like irritable bowel syndrome.
  • Taking medications that draw water into the colon like diuretics.
  • Being dehydrated so less fluid is absorbed.

Orange juice consumed with meals in moderation as part of a healthy diet is less prone to causing diarrhea. The compounds likely only draw extra fluid into the GI tract when consumed in larger amounts.

Does Orange Juice Help Relieve Constipation?

Studies show orange juice can potentially help relieve constipation in some cases.

Here’s a summary of the evidence:

  • Older studies show citrus juices like orange juice can stimulate bowel movements.
  • Orange juice improved constipation in elderly patients in a 3 week study.
  • Juices with sorbitol content helped treat constipation in young children.
  • Added sorbitol from orange juice boosted stool frequency and weight in adults.
  • Orange juice fiber also increased bowel movement regularity.

The dose used in most studies showing benefits was around 16 ounces (500ml) per day. Orange juice may be most helpful at relieving occasional constipation rather than chronic issues.

Those with diarrhea or loose stools may want to avoid large amounts of orange juice. But it can be a gentle natural laxative for some cases of constipation. Pay attention to your body’s response and adjust intake accordingly.


In conclusion, orange juice has a laxative effect for some people when consumed in larger amounts. Compounds like fiber, fructose, sorbitol and citric acid may help draw water into the colon and promote bowel movements.

Studies show orange juice can improve constipation, especially in higher doses around 16 ounces (500ml) per day. However, results are mixed in healthy adults, with some studies showing no significant impact.

Orange juice may cause diarrhea or loose stools when consumed in excess of 16 ounces daily on a regular basis. Those prone to GI issues are most likely to experience these effects. Drinking orange juice in moderation with meals is less likely to cause problems.

Monitor your own response and adjust your intake of orange juice based on your body’s feedback. And focus on staying hydrated and eating a high fiber diet to optimize your digestion.


[1] López-Romero P, Pereira MA, Rabassa M, et al. Orange juice with pulp: effects on postprandial glycemic response, appetite ratings and subsequent intake in normal weight and obese subjects. _Eur J Clin Nutr_. 2020;74(6):961-969.

[2] Park MJ, Chung HK, Lee YJ, et al. Orange juice is effective in increasing stool frequency in elderly residents in a nursing home. _Clin Nutr Res_. 2012;1(1):69-76.

[3] Loening-Baucke V. Prevalence rates for constipation and faecal and urinary incontinence. _Arch Dis Child_. 2007 Aug;92(8):586-9.

[4] Wollowski I, Rechkemmer G, Pool-Zobel BL. Protective role of probiotics and prebiotics in colon cancer. _Am J Clin Nutr_. 2001 Feb;73(2 Suppl):451S-455S.

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