How Effective Are Prunes as a Laxative?

Prunes.
Prunes can be added to a sweeter apple juice.
A glass of prune juice.
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  • Written By: Rebecca Harkin
  • Edited By: Lauren Fritsky
  • Last Modified Date: 01 July 2014
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Prunes as a laxative are considered highly effective. The laxative effect comes from the prunes' ability to draw water into the intestines, the fruit's high concentration of insoluble fiber and a compound they contain called dihydrophenylisatin. When consumed in a reasonable serving size, prunes as a laxative are typically safe and have minimal side effects.

There are three reasons for the efficacy of prunes as a laxative. First, these dried plums are concentrated with the simple sugars fructose and sucrose. These sugars are not easily broken down in the digestive tract and, as a result, the undigested sugars pull water from the body and concentrate it in the stool. The extra water softens the bowel movements and eases the passage of fecal matter.

The insoluble fiber prunes contain increases the bulk of a bowel movement, which helps to move the fecal matter more quickly through the body. The high fiber content also helps to improve the regularity of bowel movements. The dihydrophenylisatin contained in prunes serves as a compound that promotes the contractions in the intestine needed to pass fecal matter.

There are a variety of ways to increase the amount of prunes in the diet. Prunes can be eaten whole, added to salads or meat-containing dishes and eaten with cheese. If the taste of whole prunes is not tolerable, prune juice can be ingested or mixed with apple juice once or twice a day.

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The recommended daily amount of prunes is four to five whole prunes per day or about 1 cup (237 ml) of prune juice for an adult. When someone suffering from constipation starts to use prunes as a laxative, he should start with a small quantity. This quantity would be one to two prunes or about one quarter cup (59 ml) of prune juice. Once the body has become used to the effects of the prunes as a laxative, the amount taken per day can be raised or held as it is if the lower dose is effective. If the recommended daily dose is used right from the start, the constipated person may experience cramping and diarrhea.

Besides prunes, there are many other foods that can be used as natural laxatives to relieve constipation. Fruits, such as apples, melons and oranges, with their high water content, can help constipation. Vegetables, such as carrots, broccoli and cauliflower, are high in fiber, helping fecal matter to move though the intestines. Raw apple cider vinegar is also touted as a good natural laxative, promoting the growth of the natural flora in the gut and easing constipation.

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Discuss this Article

anon939206
Post 13

In 36 hours I have eaten 20 prunes and haven't seen an effect yet!

anon360112
Post 12

Are they good for long term use? I have had chronic constipation for years.

anon341591
Post 11

What kind of prunes have you guys been eating? I wish it didn't have a laxative effect, I could go through a whole bag if I could.

anon318955
Post 10

I love stewed prunes. And they're the easiest food on the planet to cook: put in water, heat, simmer till done.

anon313456
Post 9

So I got these bunch of dried fruits which happened to be dried prunes. I didn't know that and ate like 10 -- not a happy day.

anon311234
Post 8

Funny reading how many people don't like prunes. I love them. They are very mild and fruity.

anon293728
Post 7

I don't like the taste of prune juice. But a little a day goes a long way. Although I found having it mixed with milk (preferably organic) is actually very tasty and sweet. My daughter needs help "going" sometimes and that's the remedy I give her. No laxatives!

discographer
Post 6

@SarahSon-- The apple cider vinegar sounds interesting. But I'm not sure what you mean when you say "the mother."

I don't know why but natural laxatives that are dried fruits never taste good. Prunes, dried apricots, dried figs are all natural laxatives. Just have a few pieces first thing in the morning followed by a glass of warm water and you'll never be constipated. But, they don't taste good! I guess neither does medication.

I have prunes regularly as a laxative. First, because they work amazingly well. Second, because they're natural and third, they're easily found and affordable. Even though I don't enjoy eating them, I think of it as medicine and force myself if I have to. And considering all the potential health problems I can have in the long term because of constipation (like bowel cancer), I think I prefer prunes.

stoneMason
Post 5

@John57-- I like the taste of prunes, but I cannot stand the taste of prune juice, so I know how you feel.

I know that prunes are recommended over plums as a laxative. But plums have a similar amount of fiber, so I don't think it's a bad idea to have plums instead if you can't stand prunes. I love having dark, sweet plums in the summer. So I know that they help regulate bowel movements just as prunes do.

Another option could be using chopped prunes along with nuts and oatmeal to make cookies. The other ingredients should hide the flavor of prunes well and you'll still be getting some prunes in your diet.

SarahSon
Post 4

Eating prunes for constipation is one of those remedies that has been around a long time. Both of my parents have commented on how this is what their parents used for constipation problems.

It is interesting how some of the older, natural remedies like this work best. Many of the newer products on the market have side effects and ingredients that I would prefer not to have.

Another thing that works just as well as prunes for constipation is apple cider vinegar that has 'the mother' in it. This is different than the processed cider vinegar you find in most stores.

I find this works just as well, and like the taste of this better than eating prunes or drinking prune juice. If you are drinking a juice like this for constipation, I have found that adding a little bit of honey to prune juice or apple cider vinegar really helps.

golf07
Post 3

When someone suggested I eat some prunes to help with constipation, I found out that you really do want to start out with just a few.

I really was tired of being miserable, so I ate about 5 prunes one night before going to bed. They worked the way they were supposed to, but I think it would have been better if I had started out with just one or two and worked my way up.

This was the first time I had ever eaten a prune and wondered if I would like the taste or not. For me, they don't really seem to have that much of a taste. I don't find them tasty or offensive either way, but just know they work well and try to make sure I eat some every day.

John57
Post 2

I really can't handle eating prunes and find myself almost gagging on them. Even though prunes are dried plums, to me, there is a huge difference in taste. I actually like the taste of a fresh plum, but won't touch a prune.

My dad will drink prune juice mixed with apple juice or grape juice. I tried this once and even had a hard time getting that down.

Thankfully, I have enough fruits and vegetables in my diet that I don't have a problem with constipation. On the rare occasions when I need some extra help, I will rely on an herbal supplement.

If the only natural choice I had for constipation was eating prunes, I still don't know if I would be able to do it. They would have to somehow be disguised or mixed in with other food in order for me to get them down.

honeybees
Post 1

Although this is a conversation many people are embarrassed to have, it is helpful to know what works as a natural laxative. I have tried several things and finally went back to using what my grandmother has used for years to help with constipation.

I really don't mind the taste of prunes and have no trouble popping a couple in my mouth a few times throughout the day. I have found if I do this on a regular basis, I have fewer problems than I do when I get lazy and forget about eating them.

I know not everybody likes the taste of prunes, but for me, they aren't a bad snack, and often times I will eat them with some crackers and cheese for some variety.

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