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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.
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.
Where Do Prunes Come From?
Prunes are dried plums, but not all plums can become prunes. Usually, sweeter plums like the European plum make the best prunes.
The plums that become prunes are picked at their peak ripeness and dried immediately. Fruits get sweeter as they ripen, and the drying process helps draw out the sugar, making them comparable in sweetness to candy and other desserts.
Drying plums is done on commercial and individual levels. Many companies dry plums, package them, and sell them as prunes, but anyone can make them right in their own kitchen.
Are There Any Side Effects Using Prunes as Laxatives?
Prunes have a lot of health benefits and make excellent laxatives when looking for a natural alternative. Before anyone starts using them, they should consider a few possible side effects.
Prunes Are High in Sugar
The biggest concern with consuming too many prunes is that they may contribute to high blood sugar. Prunes are not unique in this regard, either. Most other dried fruits become sweeter when they are dried. The benefits likely outweigh the risks, however.
Naturally occurring sugars have a low glycemic index compared to refined sugar. Many experts agree that consuming dried fruit in modest amounts is an excellent way to get a boost of nutrients and fiber. The naturally occurring sugar in fruits doesn’t spike insulin as dramatically as refined sugars. As with all things, balance is key.
They Might Cause Gas or Bloating
Apples, peaches, and sugar-free gum also cause bloating and gas due to the high sorbitol content. Bananas, berries, and oranges, on the other hand, help control symptoms like bloat and gas.
It’s Easy To Become Dependant on Laxatives
When people abuse laxatives, it’s easy to become dependent on them. When the muscles in our intestine stop getting used regularly, they lose function, and as a result, more laxatives are needed.
It’s important to recognize when it’s time to see a doctor about symptoms. Chronic constipation could be a sign of an underlying issue.
Who Should Eat Prunes?
Almost anyone can benefit from adding prunes to their diet, even diabetics, with guidance from a doctor. Who else can benefit from eating prunes?
As we age, our bodies often need a little extra help to function properly. Our digestive tracts slow down, so including some natural laxatives in our diets can be highly beneficial and help keep things working.
It likely comes as no surprise that pregnancy can be rough on digestion. A small serving of prunes can ease bathroom-related discomfort and help restore energy levels.
Studies show that the overwhelming majority of adults don’t get enough fiber. Consequently, chronic diseases related to gut health and even some types of cancers are on the rise. With just a few exceptions, such as people with diarrhea, almost anyone can benefit from adding prunes to their diet.
What Else Are Prunes Good For?
Prunes are excellent laxatives, but these highly nutritious fruits have a wide range of benefits. People suffering from constipation aren’t the only ones that should consider adding them to their diet. What other nutritional benefits do prunes provide?
Prunes are delicious and filling. They are high in calories with a low glycemic index, and the significant fiber content helps you feel full. Eating prunes is a good way to boost metabolism without raising blood sugar, leading to easier weight control.
Why Are Prunes Better Than Laxatives?
Everyone is different, so prunes may not be the best option as a laxative for everybody, but there are several reasons natural laxatives might be better than medications. Talking to a doctor and asking about eating more fiber, such as prunes, will likely be encouraged before starting medications.
Medications, although effective at treating constipation, can often be hard on the digestive system. Side effects such as weakness, diarrhea, and nausea are common. Prunes are usually more gentle, with the worst side effects typically being limited to gastrointestinal discomfort.
Prunes are also harder to become addicted to than regular laxatives. They work to improve gut health rather than just clearing the intestines.