How long does prune juice affect you?

Prune juice is a popular natural laxative made from dried plums, also known as prunes. It contains high amounts of fiber, potassium, and sorbitol, a sugar alcohol with laxative effects. Drinking prune juice can help relieve constipation and promote regular bowel movements. But how long does it take to feel the effects of prune juice, and how long do they last? Here’s a detailed look at what you can expect after drinking prune juice.

When Does Prune Juice Start Working?

Prune juice generally begins working anywhere from 6-12 hours after you drink it. The time it takes to have an effect can vary based on factors like:

  • How much prune juice you drank
  • Whether you drank it on an empty stomach or with food
  • Your individual metabolism and gastrointestinal tract
  • If you’re constipated or have regular bowel movements

On average, most people find that drinking around 8 ounces of prune juice on an empty stomach in the morning leads to a bowel movement later that day. Here’s a general timeline of what to expect:

Time after drinking prune juice Effects
Within 1 hour Prune juice passes through the stomach and small intestine
2-4 hours Prune juice reaches the large intestine and colon
6-12 hours Bowel movement occurs as prune juice acts as a laxative

Of course, the timing can vary from person to person. Some people feel the urge to have a bowel movement within a few hours of drinking prune juice. For others, it may take closer to 12 hours to fully move through the digestive tract.

How Long Do the Effects of Prune Juice Last?

After drinking prune juice, its laxative effects tend to last for about 12-24 hours. But again, the duration can vary.

Prune juice contains two main compounds that act as laxatives in your body:

  • Fiber – Insoluble fiber adds bulk to stools and helps food and waste move through your intestines more quickly.
  • Sorbitol – A sugar alcohol that is poorly absorbed by your body, resulting in more water being drawn into the intestines.

Both fiber and sorbitol contribute to the loosening of stool and stimulation of bowel movements. After you ingest prune juice, these compounds take around 6-12 hours to make their way through your digestive system. By drawing water into your colon, they help soften stool and trigger contractions to start bowel movements.

Most people find this laxative effect lasts for about 12 hours or more after drinking prune juice. So if you drink a glass in the morning, you’ll likely feel the results throughout the day.

However, sorbitol and fiber can take longer to fully clear from your system. The laxative effects often last closer to 24 hours before subsiding. This means you may experience longer-lasting digestive effects like:

  • Soft or loose stools
  • Mild diarrhea
  • More frequent bowel movements

Furthermore, if you consume prune juice daily, these effects on your digestive system can be prolonged with continued use.

Factors That Influence Duration of Effects

Several factors can affect how long prune juice keeps working in your body:

Factor Influence on Duration
Amount consumed Larger amounts have longer-lasting effects
Frequency of use Consuming more often leads to prolonged effects
Severity of constipation May need longer action in those very constipated
Medications Effects can be altered by some medications
Gastrointestinal issues GI conditions can influence digestion and transit time
Diet and hydration Healthy diet and good hydration support regulate bowel movements

Understanding how these factors influence the duration and severity of effects can help guide how and when you use prune juice.

Amount of Prune Juice Consumed

The more prune juice you drink, the longer and stronger its laxative effect will be. Drinking 4-8 ounces is often recommended as a starting point.

Consuming very large amounts could cause diarrhea that lasts for longer. Moderating your serving size allows you to control the duration based on your needs.

Frequency of Use

Routinely drinking prune juice, such as once a day, may lead to longer-lasting laxative effects even after you stop. Your body and digestive system can become dependent on its compounds over time.

It’s typically recommended to use prune juice as needed for occasional constipation relief rather than as a daily laxative. Take breaks from using it frequently to avoid prolonged dependence.

Severity of Constipation

If you’re very constipated and have hard, dry stools, it may require a longer acting laxative effect to adequately soften the stool and stimulate bowel movements.

In these cases, it’s not uncommon for the effects of prune juice to last closer to 24 hours or longer. Mild constipation may be relieved sooner.


Some medications can slow digestion and affect how long prune juice takes to work. For example, narcotic pain meds are constipating. Antacids may alter absorption of compounds in prune juice.

If you take any medications regularly, the duration of effects could be increased or decreased. Talk to your doctor if concerned.

Gastrointestinal Conditions

Underlying GI conditions like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) or inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) can impact how quickly food and fluids move through your gut.

Those with diarrhea-predominant IBS may find the laxative effects don’t last as long. In those with chronic constipation, the effects may be prolonged.

Diet and Hydration

Eating a fiber-rich diet with adequate hydration promotes regularity. If your overall diet lacks fiber or fluids, this can prolong the time it takes for prune juice to work.

Drinking prune juice along with water while following a balanced diet full of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains allows its effects to align with your body’s natural rhythms.

Tips to Regulate Duration of Effects

You can help control how long prune juice affects your body by:

  • Starting with a small 4-ounce serving
  • Drinking it diluted with water
  • Only using it every 2-3 days if needed
  • Eating prunes as an alternative
  • Staying well hydrated
  • Avoiding other sources of sorbitol
  • Increasing dietary fiber gradually

Be patient when first using prune juice and adjust your dosage and frequency based on your personal response. Pay attention to your body’s signals.

See your doctor if you have severe or prolonged diarrhea after drinking prune juice, as this could lead to dehydration or electrolyte imbalances.

How Long It Lasts in Your Colon

After you consume prune juice, its laxative compounds directly enter your digestive tract. Fiber and sorbitol pass through your small intestine intact before reaching your large intestine and colon.

They typically arrive in your colon within 2-4 hours after ingestion. Prune juice can then interact with your colon to soften and loosen stool for approximately 12-24 hours.

The soluble fiber and sorbitol pull water into your colon to add moisture and bulk to stool. They also stimulate contractions to propel intestinal contents forward.

Your colon and rectum act as a reservoir, allowing you time to make it to the bathroom. Most people feel an urge to have a bowel movement several hours after drinking prune juice when compounds reach the rectum.

After your system is clear, any remaining fiber and sorbitol are eliminated in your next few stools or reabsorbed.

Lasting Impacts on Bowel Function

Research shows prune juice can have lasting impacts on your bowel function when consumed regularly. Studies found that:

  • Drinking 8 ounces of prune juice twice a day for 2 weeks significantly improved stool consistency, constipation severity, and quality of life compared to no treatment.
  • In 40 constipated adults, drinking 8 ounces of prune juice per day for 4 weeks increased bowel movement frequency, made stools softer, and improved symptoms more than a placebo juice.
  • Obese adults with constipation had improvements in constipation severity, stool consistency, and other symptoms after drinking 8 ounces of prune juice daily for 12 weeks in one study.

The researchers noted that these improvements persisted throughout the several week study periods. This indicates frequent prune juice consumption can have lasting positive effects on bowel habits once you stop drinking it.

However, you don’t want to become dependent on prune juice every day. Periodic use as needed is recommended, along with a high fiber diet, exercise, and hydration for lasting relief.

Safety and Side Effects

For most people, moderate amounts of prune juice are safe to use as a laxative. Potential side effects can include:

  • Diarrhea
  • Cramping
  • Bloating and gas
  • Loose stools
  • Nausea (when consuming large amounts)

Start with 4-6 ounces diluted with water and increase slowly. Excessive use can lead to mineral deficiencies and electrolyte imbalance from diarrhea.

Those with irritable bowel syndrome or recent gastrointestinal surgery should use prune juice cautiously under medical guidance. Avoid giving to children under age 6.

Only use foods and beverages with sorbitol in moderation if you have sorbitol intolerance, which causes digestive distress.

Seek medical advice if you experience severe diarrhea, vomiting, dizziness, or other negative side effects after drinking prune juice.


Prune juice offers a gentle, natural way to relieve occasional constipation. Its effects typically start within 6-12 hours and can last for up to 24 hours. Factors like dose, diet, medications, and underlying conditions influence the duration of action.

Be aware that routine use can cause dependence. To safely maximize the benefits, drink modest amounts diluted with water and combine with fiber, fluids, and exercise. This allows for lasting improvements in bowel function without overdoing the laxative effects.

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