Advertisement
Baby health

Does Apple Juice for Constipation Actually Work?

Some parents swear by apple juice as a tried-and-true method for getting kids to go. But does it actually work?

Does Apple Juice for Constipation Actually Work?

iStock

When kids can't go, they (and their parents!) want relief as quickly as possible. Maybe you've heard apple juice can be a sweet way to get things going in the bathroom. But does apple juice for constipation actually work? We took a look.

Does apple juice for constipation actually work?

There is not much quality research into apple juice and constipation, but it's a remedy that parents have used for decades. Anecdotally, parents and physicians report that it can work for occasional constipation.

"Apple juice is commonly used to relieve constipation in young children because of its natural laxative effect," says Edwina Clark, M.S., R.D., a registered dietitian in San Francisco. "Apple juice has a high fructose-to-glucose ratio and naturally contains a sugar alcohol called sorbitol, both of which promote laxation."

Apple juice stimulates bowel movements in three ways in the digestive system, explains Jason Levee, M.S., R.D., C.D.N., founder and registered dietitian at Whole Family Health in New York City.

Dehydration is a top cause of constipation for kids and adults; juice can help hydrate. "Water is typically reabsorbed in the colon," Levee says. But if there's not enough water in the body, your stools will harden, making it much harder to pass."

Next, apple juice contains sorbitol— a type of sugar alcohol our body doesn't absorb well, Levee adds. Sorbitol stays in the intestine and draws water into the G.I. tract, which helps to add more water to the stool to soften it.

Lastly, the higher ratio of fructose to glucose plays a role. Both are naturally occurring sugars found in apples and other fruit. The leftover fructose hangs out in the digestive tract and pulls water to it, which also makes poop softer and easier to pass, Levee says.

What are the benefits of drinking apple juice?

Advertisement

Apple juice can help bump up that fluid consumption for the day and get kids who don't love water to drink more when constipated. Water softens stools to make them less difficult to pass.

However, the experts warned about juice's high sugar content. "You can dilute that juice with water, so basically cut it by half," Levee says, "and that will help to make the water taste a little bit more appealing."

The sorbitol in apple juice has a gentle laxative effect, so be careful not to give kids too much. "Work with your pediatrician for individual recommendations," Clark says. "Too much apple juice can lead to diarrhea."

young girl drinking a glass of apple juice iStock

What simple trick empties your bowels immediately?

While no quick fix will work for every kid every time, there are some ways to get things moving.

"Movement can also help relieve constipation," Clark says. "For older kids, that might mean going to the playground to let them run around. For babies, gently pedaling their legs and incorporating tummy time throughout the day can help loosen things up."

How long does it take juice to help constipation?

Advertisement

"There isn't a solid research basis for it, but anecdotally, folks report anywhere between 15 minutes and an hour after drinking juice, they typically have a bowel movement," Levee says.

But apple juice doesn't work for everyone every time. If a child hasn't pooped after an hour of giving juice, give them water to drink. Take them for a walk, have them run outside, or do jumping jacks or other exercise to get things moving, Levee recommends.

FAQs

What can parents do to encourage regular bowel movements in kids?

Adequate fluid, fiber, and movement can help prevent and relieve constipation in kids," Clark says. A good rule for children one or older is to offer them water during meals and snacks and incorporate high-fiber foods such as fruits (with skin), whole grains, and veggies at every meal."

Fiber is important because it adds bulk to the stool and encourages gut motility. "Think about it like a broom sweeping," Levee says, "and that helps move everything through."

One easy way to remember how much fiber kids need is to add 5 to their age—so a 5-year-old should get 10 grams of fiber per day.

Advertisement

Apples are great sources of both soluble fiber and insoluble fiber. A medium apple (with skin) has roughly 3 grams of fiber. Other sources of dietary fiber are vegetables, beans, seeds, legumes and nuts, Levee says.

Getting kids to drink more water can be challenging. Levee recommends allowing them to choose a colorful water bottle or twisty straw to make drinking fun. To give the water more flavor, add chopped or mashed berries or other fruits. Some kids prefer cold water, while others prefer room-temperature water.

"For children ages 1 to 3, aim for 4 cups of water per day; for children ages 4 to 8, about 5 cups, and 7 to 8 cups per day for older kids, at minimum," he says. If you have active children or live in a warm climate, increase that amount.

glass of apple juice with apples on a table iStock

What other juices can help with constipation?

The two most common ones, in addition to apples, are pear and prune juices. These juices also have high fructose-to-glucose ratios, fiber, and sorbitol content.

"Apple juice tends to be the most gentle, while pear and prune juice are higher in sorbitol and fiber and may offer more relief for some," Clark says.

Advertisement

Look for 100% apple, prune or pear juice with no added sugar. "Fruit juices with added sugar may be lower in fructose, fiber, and sorbitol, and therefore less effective," Clark says.

"Chronic consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages is associated with various health issues and should generally be avoided."

No-sugar or less-sugar electrolyte beverages may also be an option.

How much apple juice should kids drink when they're constipated?

Levee doesn't recommend giving juice to babies under age 1. "At that age, kids should only be having breast milk or formula or some limited amounts of water, as well."

Levee recommends no more than four ounces of juice daily for older kids and adults because of its sugar content. Younger kids will need less than that.

Advertisement

Experts

This article was originally published on Apr 11, 2024

Weekly Newsletter

Keep up with your baby's development, get the latest parenting content and receive special offers from our partners

I understand that I may withdraw my consent at any time.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

Advertisement
Advertisement