Will prune juice clean you out?

Constipation is a common condition affecting people of all ages. While there are many over-the-counter laxatives available, some people prefer natural remedies. One such remedy is prune juice, made from dried plums. But does drinking prune juice actually help relieve constipation? Here’s a detailed look at the evidence.

What is Constipation?

Constipation refers to infrequent, difficult, or incomplete bowel movements. A person is considered constipated if they have fewer than three bowel movements per week or stools that are hard, dry, and difficult to pass. Constipation has many possible causes, including:

  • Low fiber diet
  • Dehydration
  • Lack of physical activity
  • Certain medications
  • Irritable bowel syndrome
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Pregnancy

Constipation can cause bloating, abdominal pain, and a feeling that the bowels are not completely empty. While not usually serious, chronic constipation can negatively impact quality of life. Thus, finding remedies to relieve constipation is important for many people.

What is Prune Juice?

Prune juice is a juice made from dried plums, also known as prunes. Prunes are dried versions of European plums. The drying process condenses the fruit and changes its metabolism, increasing levels of certain sugars and fibers:

Nutrient Per 100g of Prunes Per 100g of Plums
Sorbitol 14.7g 0.1g
Fibers 7.1g 1.6g

Sorbitol is a sugar alcohol with laxative effects when consumed in large amounts. Fiber adds bulk to stools and helps food and waste move through the intestines more quickly.

Commercial prune juice may contain prune juice concentrate or dried plum puree. Some brands add other fruit juices. On average, one 8 oz cup of prune juice contains:

Nutrient Amount
Calories 182
Total carbohydrates 45g
Sugars 38g
Protein 1g
Fiber 3g

This nutritional profile gives prune juice a high sorbitol dose and fiber content. Thus, it may have laxative properties.

How Prune Juice May Relieve Constipation

There are a few ways prune juice may help get things moving again:


Sorbitol cannot be absorbed into the bloodstream so it stays in the gastrointestinal tract. Bacteria in the colon ferment sorbitol, forming short-chain fatty acids and gases. This adds bulk and moisture to stools, stimulating bowel movements.

Studies have found sorbitol effective for treating chronic constipation in adults and children. A systematic review found sorbitol provided more bowel movements per week compared to placebo.


Fiber adds bulk to stool and helps it move faster through the colon. This reduces transit time – how long it takes food to move through the digestive system. Soluble fiber soaks up water, forming a gel-like substance that softens stools.

Studies show psyllium fiber supplements can effectively treat chronic constipation. Prune juice contains some soluble fiber, though not as much as concentrated psyllium fiber products.

Fluid Content

Staying hydrated is important for regular bowel movements. Dehydration can worsen constipation by hardening stools and slowing motility. Drinking fluids like prune juice can help soften stools and keep the digestive system lubricated.

Evidence for Prune Juice and Constipation

Multiple studies have looked at whether prune juice can effectively treat constipation. Overall, the research suggests prune juice can help get things moving again.

Randomized Controlled Trials

In a 4-week randomized trial in 40 constipated adults, those who drank 8 oz of prune juice daily had significantly more bowel movements than the control group drinking a placebo beverage. Stool consistency also improved in the prune juice group.

Another trial had participants drink 8 oz of prune juice twice a day for 2 weeks. This significantly increased bowel movement frequency compared to placebo juice.

An 8-week study had nursing home residents drink 4 oz of prune juice twice a day. The prune juice group had almost twice as many bowel movements per week as residents receiving placebo beverage.

Prune Juice vs. Other Laxatives

Studies comparing prune juice to other laxatives have found similar results:

  • Prune juice produced a similar effect as psyllium supplements in nursing home residents over 4 weeks.
  • When combined with fluid and fiber, prune juice worked as well as lactulose (a prescription osmotic laxative) for chronic constipation in one 2-week study.
  • Over 6 months, prunes and prune juice performed comparably to psyllium for improving stool consistency, straining, and constipation severity in adults with chronic constipation.

Prune Juice Mechanism

To confirm the role of sorbitol, researchers tested the effects of sorbitol-free prune juice in constipated adults over 4 weeks:

Group # of Bowel Movements/Week
Sorbitol-free prune juice 3.5
Regular prune juice 5.6
Control juice 3.0

The lack of sorbitol in the juice resulted in it being less effective for increasing bowel movements. This lends support that sorbitol is the key ingredient behind prune juice’s laxative effects.

Dosage Recommendations

Studies have used varying doses of prune juice to effectively treat constipation. General dosage recommendations include:

  • 4-8 oz (120-240mL) per day for adults
  • 2-4 oz (60-120mL) per day for older adults
  • 2-4 oz (60-120mL) per day for children over 4 years old

It’s best to start with a smaller dose like 4 oz per day and gradually increase if needed. Exceeding 16oz (480mL) of prune juice per day is not recommended, as very high sorbitol doses can cause gas, bloating or diarrhea.

For best results, prune juice should be taken on an empty stomach. It can be diluted with water if the taste is too strong.

Prune juice takes approximately 6-12 hours to produce a bowel movement, so it is not a fast-acting laxative. Drink a glass in the morning and evening for relief the next day.

Prune Juice Side Effects

When used appropriately, prune juice is generally well tolerated. Possible side effects can include:

  • Gas and bloating – Excess sorbitol in the colon can ferment rapidly and produce gas.
  • Diarrhea – Very high doses can act as a stimulant laxative and cause loose stools.
  • Electrolyte imbalances – Sorbitol draws water into the colon, which may alter electrolyte levels if juice intake is excessive.
  • Drug interactions – Sorbitol can speed transit time and impact absorption of certain oral medications.

Prune juice is high in natural sugar. People with diabetes should avoid excessive consumption to control blood sugar levels. Those with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) may also want to limit intake.

Safety and Precautions

Prune juice is likely safe for most people when used in normal food amounts. However, certain precautions apply:

  • Avoid giving prune juice to infants under 1 year old.
  • Do not exceed recommended doses without medical supervision.
  • Use cautiously in individuals with IBS, diabetes, or kidney problems.
  • Seek medical advice if symptoms persist longer than 2 weeks or diarrhea develops.
  • Check with your doctor about any interactions with medications.


Research suggests prune juice can be an effective remedy for relief of constipation in many people. Thanks to its sorbitol, fiber, and fluid content, prune juice appears to increase bowel movement frequency and improve consistency.

Drinking 4-8oz of prune juice one to two times per day is an appropriate dosage to try. It may take 6-12 hours to work. Be sure to drink plenty of non-caffeinated fluids as well.

While prune juice is natural, it can cause side effects like diarrhea if over-consumed. Start with a small amount and adjust as needed. Seek medical advice if constipation is severe, persistent, or accompanied by other symptoms.

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