Many people experience constipation from time to time, and it can be uncomfortable. When you need relief, you may wonder what you can do at home to help. Although it might seem simple, sipping certain juices may get things moving again. Take a moment to learn more about constipation, which juices help relieve it, and when to contact your doctor.
What are the symptoms of constipation?
Constipation is usually defined as having fewer than three bowel movements per week, according to the Mayo Clinic. Even if you’re going to the bathroom somewhat regularly, trouble passing your stools may be another sign of this condition.
The symptoms of constipation include:
- infrequent bowel movements
- hard or lumpy stools
- straining to have bowel movements
- feeling blocked up or like you cannot fully empty your bowels
- needing help to empty your rectum, such as with your hands or fingers
What are the complications associated with constipation?
Occasional bouts of constipation usually aren’t a cause for concern. But when constipation occurs frequently or lasts for several weeks or longer, other complications can arise. The complications of constipation can include:
- anal fissures
- fecal impaction
- rectal prolapse
What causes constipation?
Diagnosing the cause of constipation isn’t always easy. In general, occasional constipation occurs when waste moves through your digestive system too slowly. It can build up and become hard and dry, making stool difficult to pass.
Causes of chronic constipation include:
- blockages in either the colon or rectum
- nerve issues in either the colon or rectum
- problems with pelvic muscles
- hormonal disturbances, which could include diabetes, pregnancy, hypothyroidism, or hyperparathyroidism
If you notice a sudden change in your bowel movements, it’s a good idea to see your doctor for a checkup, especially if the change is ongoing or causing you discomfort.
What are the risk factors for constipation?
Some people are at higher risk of constipation, including:
- older adults
- people who are dehydrated
- people with poor diets
- people who don’t get enough exercise
- people who are taking certain medications, such as sedatives and narcotics
How can juice help and who can sip it?
In a study in the Journal of the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners, researchers found that certain juices can help increase the water content and frequency of bowel movements. These juices contain sorbitol, which is a nonabsorbable carbohydrate.
Juice can be a convenient remedy to try at home. Most pasteurized juices have the potential to help alleviate constipation. But juices that contain naturally-occurring sorbitol, including prune, apple, and pear juices, may be your best bet for constipation relief.
Juice is a good option for people of most ages but not necessarily for infants. Constipation in infants typically starts to happen after the introduction of solids. Contact your baby’s pediatrician for instructions on what you can give to your baby if they’re constipated.
Juices and dosage
If you decide to try drinking juice to relieve constipation, keep in mind that a small amount of juice may be all you need. For best results, the Cleveland Clinic recommends adults drink just a half to a full cup of juice, once per day, preferably in the morning. You should also aim to drink eight or more cups of liquid each day to help stay regular.
The most popular juice to relieve constipation is prune juice. Each 8-ounce glass contains about 2.6 grams of fiber. That’s 10 percent of your daily requirement. While the fiber may bulk up your stools, the sorbitol in the prune juice helps soften them, making them easier to pass. Prune juice is also a good source of vitamin C and iron.
Apple juice may provide you with a very gentle laxative effect. Apple juice is often recommended for children who have constipation because it has a relatively high ratio of fructose to glucose and sorbitol content. But for this reason, it may also cause intestinal discomfort in large doses.
You might think that eating applesauce would help constipation, but that’s not the case. Applesauce contains a higher level of pectin than apple juice. Pectin is a substance that will add bulk to your stool. It becomes firmer and more difficult to pass, making it a better choice after episodes of diarrhea.
Another great option is pear juice, which contains four times more sorbitol than apple juice. This juice is also often recommended for children who have bouts of constipation. Pear juice isn’t as rich in vitamins as prune juice, but many kids prefer its flavor.
You may also get some relief from mixing a squeeze of lemon juice into a glass of warm water. Other beverages that may help include coffee, teas, and warm or hot fluids in general. It’s best to stay away from carbonated drinks until your constipation clears up.
Potential side effects
Speak with your doctor if you’re constipated but have concerns about drinking juice. If you have a condition that requires you to follow a restricted diet, juice may not be a good option for you. If you have diabetes, your doctor or dietician might advise you to avoid beverages that contain sugar, including juice. If you have diabetes but still drink juice, the American Diabetes Association suggests choosing juices that are 100 percent juice with no sugar added. On average, 4 ounces, or about half a cup, of juice contains about 15 carbohydrates and 50 or more calories.
In general, it’s a good idea to limit your juice intake. An excess of the sugars contained in juices, such as fructose, can cause abdominal troubles due to malabsorption. Children under age 10 are particularly vulnerable to gastrointestinal distress. It often presents as diarrhea and stomach pains.
Monitor your bowel movements to see if the juice is helping. Even if you don’t notice a difference, it’s best not to increase your intake. Drinking more juice could lead to diarrhea and other types of abdominal discomfort.
You should tell your doctor if your constipation symptoms persist for three months or more. You may have chronic constipation. It’s a good idea to let your doctor know if you have notable and persistent changes in your bowel habits.
Tips for preventing constipation
Along with consuming more fluids and fruit juices, you can make other lifestyle changes that may help your constipation:
- Try getting more exercise, like walking, most days of the week.
- Eat plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables to ensure you get enough fiber.
- Don’t hold in bowel movements. If you feel the urge to go, head to the bathroom as soon as you can.
- Sprinkle a few tablespoons of unprocessed wheat bran on your cereal, smoothies, and other foods.
If lifestyle choices don’t help, contact your doctor. You may have an underlying issue that’s causing your constipation. Your doctor may also talk to you about treatment options to help you become regular again.