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How does juicing affect bowel movements?

Juicing has become an increasingly popular way for people to increase their intake of fruits and vegetables. Proponents claim that juicing can provide health benefits, including improved digestion and regularity. But what does the research say about how juicing actually affects bowel movements?

What is juicing?

Juicing involves extracting the liquid from fruits and vegetables. This is typically done by putting chunks of produce into a juicer machine that spins and crushes the food to separate the juice from the pulp.

The resulting juice contains most of the vitamins, minerals and plant chemicals from the fruits and vegetables, but excludes the fiber content. For example, a glass of orange juice contains the vitamins and antioxidants from oranges, but none of the fiber.

People juice fruits and vegetables for a few key reasons:

  • To increase intake of nutrients, phytochemicals and antioxidants
  • To reduce overall calorie intake compared to eating whole fruits and vegetables
  • To “detox” or flush toxins from the body
  • To stimulate digestion and relieve constipation

Juicing removes fiber from fruits and vegetables

The main drawback of juicing is that it concentrates the sugars from produce but removes the fiber content. Whole fruits and vegetables have a relatively low glycemic index, meaning the sugars are absorbed slowly into the bloodstream. But fruit juices are considered a high glycemic food.

Additionally, the fiber content plays a key role in the digestive process. Soluble fiber dissolves into a gel-like consistency and helps food move through the digestive tract. Insoluble fiber adds bulk and acts as a natural laxative.

Juicing extracts most of the fiber, so you lose out on the benefits for digestion. The remaining sugars in the juice are absorbed very rapidly into your bloodstream without the fiber content to slow it down.

How fiber affects bowel movements

Fiber has a significant impact on your gastrointestinal health. It affects how quickly food moves through your system as well as stool bulk and regularity. The daily recommended intake of fiber is around 25-30 grams.

There are two main types of fiber:

  • Soluble fiber – Found in oats, lentils, beans, peas, nuts, and some fruits and vegetables. It dissolves into a gel-like texture and slows digestion.
  • Insoluble fiber – Found in foods like wheat bran, vegetables, and whole grains. It does not dissolve and adds bulk to stool.

Insoluble fiber in particular has a laxative effect and increases stool bulk, which can relieve constipation. Soluble fiber helps food and waste pass smoothly through the digestive tract. Having a balance of both soluble and insoluble fiber is important for regular, healthy bowel function.

Juicing and constipation

Because juicing removes most of the fiber content from fruits and vegetables, it likely does not help relieve constipation in the same way that whole fruits and veggies do. The fiber content of produce is what adds bulk to stool and stimulates the bowel contractions that allow waste to move smoothly through the intestines.

There is little research directly examining the impact of juicing on constipation. But we know fiber is a key nutrient lacking in the juice. One study found that adults who consumed orange juice daily had worse symptoms of constipation compared to adults who consumed whole oranges.

If you already struggle with constipation, juicing large amounts could make your symptoms worse. The liquid can temporarily increase bowel movements, but over time you may become dependent on enemas or laxatives.

Some sources argue that juicing can help relive constipation if you juice the right combination of produce. But there’s no evidence that juiced produce provides the same benefits as whole fruits and vegetables.

Produce that can relieve constipation when juiced

Certain fruits and vegetables are more effective when it comes to stimulating bowel movements. If you do choose to juice portions of your produce intake, these are some of the best options for relieving constipation:

Produce Benefits
Apples Rich in fiber. Apples also contain sorbitol, a natural laxative.
Pear High fiber content. Also contain sorbitol.
Prunes Contain natural laxatives. Dried plums are very effective for relieving constipation.
Spinach High in insoluble fiber. Spinach helps add bulk to stool.
Kiwi Contains actinidain which is a natural enzyme that helps stimulate digestion.
Cucumber High water content hydrates the body and colon.
Celery Rich in insoluble fiber. Also contains a lot of water.
Beets Contain nitrates that may stimulate contractions in the colon.

Keep in mind that juicing these foods removes most of the beneficial fiber. But they can still provide nutrients and compounds that promote bowel regularity in juice form.

Tips for juicing to relieve constipation

If you want to use juicing as a natural solution for constipation, here are some tips that may help:

  • Include peeled whole fruits like apples and pears. Blending keeps some fiber in.
  • Juice most vegetables raw to maximize nutrients.
  • Drink the juice slowly rather than gulping it down.
  • Avoid juicing large amounts of fruit high in fructose like mangos and grapes.
  • Combine fruits and vegetables to balance sugar content.
  • Add herbs like parsley and cilantro for extra nutrients.
  • Try using a blender rather than a juicer if you want to retain some fiber.
  • Drink juice in moderation as part of a high fiber diet.

Incorporating some juicing into your routine can provide some variety and extra fruits and veggies. But rely on whole produce as your main source of fiber. And be sure to drink plenty of fluids.

Other natural remedies for constipation relief

Besides getting adequate fiber, staying hydrated is key for healthy bowel function. Here are some other natural ways to relieve and prevent constipation:

  • Drink plenty of water – Proper hydration keeps stool soft and bowel movements regular.
  • Eat more high-fiber foods – Fruits, vegetables, beans, lentils, whole grains and nuts help add bulk.
  • Exercise regularly – Physical activity stimulates contractions in the intestines.
  • Establish bathroom routines – Going at the same times trains your body.
  • Take probiotics – Healthy gut bacteria improve digestion and regularity.
  • Consider magnesium supplements – Magnesium helps relax the intestinal muscles.
  • Try herbal teas – Some ingredients like senna stimulate bowel movements.

Be sure to speak with your doctor if lifestyle changes are not helping manage constipation. They can rule out any underlying conditions and help develop an effective treatment plan.

Potential downsides of juicing

While juicing might seem like a easy way to pack in extra fruits and veggies, there are some drawbacks to consider:

  • Missing out on dietary fiber, which is essential for good digestion.
  • Juice is high in sugar without anything to balance it out.
  • Not as filling due to lack of protein and fiber.
  • Nutrients are often depleted during the juicing process.
  • Not chewing produces leads to less saliva production, which aids digestion.
  • More expensive and time consuming than just eating whole fruits and veggies.

For these reasons, it’s best to enjoy produce in its whole food form whenever possible. Use juicing in moderation to supplement your fruit and vegetable intake.

Conclusion

Juicing can provide a big dose of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants from fresh produce. But it eliminates the fiber content which is what makes fruits, vegetables and other plants so beneficial for digestion. The fiber in whole foods gives stools bulk and weight, stimulates contractions in the colon, balances out sugar absorption and helps maintain regular bowel movements.

While drinking juice from high fiber produce may offer some benefits, the research shows that the fiber itself is what’s critical for relieving and preventing constipation. Juice in moderation as part of a fiber-rich diet. Focus on whole fruits, vegetables, beans, lentils, nuts and whole grains as your primary source of fiber.