Does prune juice clean out your colon?

Prune juice has long been touted as a natural laxative that can help relieve constipation. Some people even believe that drinking prune juice can help cleanse or detox the colon. But is there any truth to these claims? Let’s take a closer look at what the research says.

What is prune juice?

Prune juice is a juice made from dried plums, also known as prunes. It contains high amounts of dietary fiber, sorbitol, and phenolic compounds. The sorbitol acts as an osmotic laxative, drawing water into the colon to stimulate bowel movements. Meanwhile, the phenolic compounds provide antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects.

Compared to whole prunes, prune juice contains higher levels of sorbitol because the drying process converts the fruit’s natural sugars into sorbitol. A typical 8 oz glass of prune juice contains around 120 calories and 7 grams of dietary fiber. It also provides small amounts of potassium, vitamin A, vitamin C, and vitamin K.

Does prune juice relieve constipation?

There is good evidence that prune juice can help relieve constipation in the short term. Multiple studies have found that drinking prune juice increases stool weight and frequency compared to placebo juice or liquids containing dietary fiber like psyllium.

For example, a 2010 study had 40 participants with chronic constipation drink 8 oz of prune juice, pear juice, or grape juice daily for 3 weeks. The researchers found that only the prune juice significantly improved constipation symptoms, including stool consistency, stool frequency, and ease of defecation.

Additionally, a 2017 meta-analysis looked at 5 randomized controlled trials on prune juice involving a total of 197 participants. It concluded that prune juice consumption significantly increases stool frequency and softens stool consistency compared to placebo or fiber supplements.

How does prune juice relieve constipation?

Researchers believe prune juice relieves constipation in a few key ways:

  • Sorbitol: Sorbitol is indigestible to humans and pulls fluid into the large intestine by osmosis, acting as an osmotic laxative.
  • Fiber: Prune juice contains 2-3 grams of dietary fiber per 8 oz serving. Fiber adds bulk to stool and makes it easier to pass.
  • Phenolics: Phenolic compounds like neochlorogenic acid promote secretion of fluid into the colon.

The synergistic effects of these compounds allow prune juice to soften stool, add bulk, and stimulate bowel movements through its laxative actions.

What’s the appropriate dose?

Most studies have found that around 8 oz (240 ml) of prune juice per day can help relieve constipation. Effects may be seen within 12-24 hours, but it may take 2-3 days of consistent consumption for maximum results.

Some research also suggests that taking prune juice in divided doses, such as 4 oz twice a day, may be more effective than a single large dose.

It’s best to start with a small 4-6 oz serving and gradually increase to 8 oz or more if needed to avoid problems like diarrhea, gas, or abdominal discomfort.

How long does it take to work?

Prune juice can start working in as little as a few hours, but it may take 2-3 days of continued use to fully relieve constipation. A review of several studies found that most people experienced a laxative effect within 6-12 hours of drinking prune juice.

However, results can vary quite a bit. Some people may have a bowel movement within a few hours, while for others it may take closer to 48 hours for prune juice to work.

How long do the effects last?

Research shows the beneficial effects of prune juice last about 6-12 hours. This is the typical time it takes to pass through the digestive system. The laxative effects of prune juice also seem to be short-lived.

In studies, people who drank prune juice had improvements in constipation symptoms over 2-4 weeks, but regular consumption was required to sustain the benefits. Once prune juice intake stopped, its laxative effects went away within a few days.

Does prune juice cleanse the colon?

There is no evidence that drinking prune juice can “cleanse” or detox the colon. The colon is designed to naturally eliminate waste, so laxatives are typically not needed for cleansing.

Some sources claim prune juice flushes out toxins or internal waste from the colon. However, these notions of toxins and waste buildup are unproven. And since prune juice’s effects are temporary, it cannot “cleanse” the system long-term.

With that said, staying well hydrated and maintaining a high fiber diet can support overall colon health. Prune juice may assist by promoting bowel regularity in the short term.

Is prune juice safe to drink regularly?

For most people, drinking a moderate amount of prune juice each day is safe and healthy:

  • 8-12 oz per day is a commonly recommended amount.
  • Can be taken in divided doses, such as 4-6 oz twice per day.
  • Best to drink with meals to slow absorption.

However, there are some risks associated with drinking too much prune juice regularly:

  • Excess sorbitol can cause gas, bloating, diarrhea.
  • High potassium levels may be unsafe for those with kidney issues.
  • Can result in dependency on laxatives for bowel movements.

Overall, prune juice is likely safe if consumed in moderation as part of a balanced diet. But it should not be relied on as a daily laxative due to side effects and risk of laxative dependency.

Are there alternatives to prune juice?

If you find prune juice ineffective or poorly tolerated, there are several alternatives to consider:

  • Prunes – Provide similar benefits without the high juice content.
  • Other fruit juices – Apple juice and pear juice also contain sorbitol.
  • Warm liquids – Sipping warm water, tea, or coffee can help stimulate bowel movements.
  • Exercise – Physical activity encourages muscle contractions in the colon.
  • Probiotics – Can improve gut health and regularity.
  • Magnesium supplements – Draw water into the colon to soften stools.

Making dietary changes like eating more fiber, staying hydrated, and establishing bathroom routines can also improve constipation in the long run without relying on laxatives like prune juice.

The bottom line

In conclusion, evidence suggests prune juice can provide short-term relief from constipation thanks to its sorbitol, fiber, and phenolic content. However, claims that prune juice cleanses or detoxes the colon are unproven.

To enjoy its benefits safely, limit intake to 8-12 oz per day, take with meals, and avoid drinking prune juice too frequently to prevent possible side effects and laxative dependency. While prune juice can temporarily improve bowel function, developing healthy lifestyle habits leads to lasting constipation relief.


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