Skip to content

One Potential Benefit of Eating Dates: Constipation Relief

dates relieve constipation

This article was medically reviewed by Nazlı Gülşah Doğan, (RD).

this-article-medically-reviewed

Dates (date fruit) are tropical sweet fruits that are associated with a variety of health benefits.

As evident from the title of the article; one potential benefit of eating dates is constipation relief.

It is important to label it “potential” because the effects of dates on constipation have not been tested with major studies.

Nevertheless, date fruit contains some particular nutrients and compounds known to help bowel movements.

In this article, we will explain ( by providing all available evidence ) why eating dates might be a good idea when you are constipated.

Diet and Constipation

Reports tell us that about 10 to 20% of the world’s adult population have symptoms of constipation [1, 2, 3].

This common digestive problem occurs due to various reasons; such as medications, illnesses, mental disorders, insufficient fluid intake and a sedentary lifestyle [4, 5, 6].

However, in many cases, constipation happens due to an unhealthy diet, which lacks essential nutrients, especially fibre [7, 8].

This means that following a healthy diet can solve many cases of constipation.

Dates are high in both dietary fibre and potassium, and these two nutrients help bowel movements in different ways.

 

Dates (Date Fruit) and Constipation

The medical community and research confirm that dietary fibre has beneficial effects on constipation because in most cases fibre makes defecation easier [6, 9, 10].

Potassium can also help relieve constipation as this mineral regulates muscle contractions necessary for emptying the bowels [11, 12].

What’s more, dates contain phenolic compounds. According to some studies; phenolic compounds may have laxative effects.

The availability of these nutrients and compounds in date fruit indicates that dates can help combat constipation.

One small-scale study confirms that eating dates on a regular basis increases bowel movements and stool frequency, thus helping to prevent constipation.

Below we will be giving more detail on this study, and also explain how fibre, potassium and phenolic compounds can help empty the bowels.

Before that let’s briefly define constipation.

 

What is Constipation?

Constipation is usually defined as having fewer than three bowel movements a week [13, 14, 15].

However, how often a person defecates varies from person to person. While some people eliminate stool 3 times a day, others “go” only two times a week.

Briefly, everyone has his/her own “normal” when it comes to bowel activity.

Constipation is a common occurrence for some people while others get constipated occasionally. That is to say, the frequency — as well as the severity of constipation symptoms — vary from one individual to another.

Some of the common symptoms of constipation are as follows:

  • Difficulty passing stool
  • Straining while pooping
  • Passing lumpy, hard, or dry stools
  • Feeling bloated
  • Having stomach ache or cramps
  • A sense that not all stool has passed

 

How Do Nutrients in Dates Help Relieve Constipation?

As mentioned above, the fibre, potassium and phenolic content of dates is the main reason why these tropical fruits are associated with constipation relief.

In this section, we will explain how these nutrients and compounds improve digestion and thus can prevent or relieve constipation.

 

Fibre Helps Prevent and Relieve Constipation

According to Mayo Clinic; dietary fibre adds bulk to stool and softens it. This, in turn, makes the stool easier to pass.

Needless to say, the easier the “waste” goes through the colon, the less risk there is for constipation.

Stephen J. Bickston — professor of internal medicine at Virginia Commonwealth University Health Center in Richmond — says: “People who eat a diet high in fibre are less likely to become constipated,” [16].

The American Heart Association recommend eating 25 to 30 grams of dietary fibre a day, from foods not from supplements.

100 grams of dates contain about 7 gr of fibre [17]. This means eating about 5 dates can provide your body’s one-third of daily fibre needs.

Dates contain mostly insoluble fibre and provide only a small amount of soluble fibre [18, 19].

Insoluble fibre adds bulk to the stool and also draws water into it. Thus, it helps the stool pass faster and easier through the digestive system.

Dates are one of the best sources of insoluble fibre among fruits and vegetables. So you may want to consider eating a couple of date fruits when you are constipated.

If you are planning to increase your fibre intake, do it gradually to allow your body to adjust to the change.


Note: if you have chronic idiopathic constipation — a type of chronic constipation that has no obvious cause — talk to your doctor about your fibre intake. Because some studies have shown that eating foods high in fibre may worsen constipation symptoms in people with chronic idiopathic constipation.


 

Potassium is Important for Bowel Movements

Low levels of potassium can make muscle contractions in the digestive system weaker and slow the movement of food in the digestive tract. That, in turn, can lead to constipation [20, 21].

Gina Sam — Assistant professor of gastroenterology at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City — says: ” When your potassium is low, the muscles in your colon don’t move as much and can lead to constipationLuckily, the cure is simple: Add more potassium to your diet, ” [22].

Healthy adults are recommended to consume 3,500 to 4,700 mg of potassium each day from food sources [23, 24].

100 gr dates provide almost 700 mg potassium, which equates to around 20 per cent of your body’s daily potassium need [17].

Eating a couple of dates — which are high in potassium —  can improve the muscle contractions in your digestive system, which in turn may speed up the stool movement and help relieve constipation.

 

Phenolic Compounds May Have Laxative Effects

The phenolic compounds found in dates are another reason why dates may help with constipation symptoms.

This is because according to studies; phenolic compounds can stimulate beneficial gut bacteria and may exhibit laxative effects [25, 26, 27].

If this is the case, eating dates may induce bowel movements because as per studies; they are a good source of natural phenolic compounds [28, 29, 30].

Note that there may be significant differences in total phenolic compounds among date fruit varieties!

Prunes are also a good source of polyphenolic compounds and are therefore considered as a natural remedy for constipation. 

 

A Study On “Date Fruit and Constipation”

Researchers aimed to evaluate the impact of palm date fruit consumption on the growth of colonic microbiota and markers of colon cancer risk.

22 healthy people participated in the study. Each day the participants were given either 37.1 maltodextrin-dextrose ( control group ) or approximately 50 g of dates ( intervention group ) for 21 days.

After 21 days of palm date consumption; a significant increase in bowel movements and stool frequency was measured.

The findings of the study suggest that eating date fruit on a regular basis may prevent constipation and may reduce the risk of colon cancer.

However, we need to see more robust studies to draw certain conclusions about the effects of dates consumption on constipation.

 

How Many Dates to Consume to Relieve Constipation? 

Unless you have kidney disease, you can eat 4-5 dates a day to reap the benefits of date fruits, one of which is constipation relief.

 

How to Consume Dates to Relieve Constipation?

Eating dates as they are will help you overcome constipation. However, leaving dates in water overnight then eating them might be more effective for relieving constipation.

 

Summary

Since dates provide a high amount of dietary fibre, potassium and phenolic compounds, they can help relieve diet-related constipation.

However, as mentioned at the beginning; for the time being constipation relief is a ” potential ” benefit of dates because there is not enough research on this topic.

We need to see more robust scientific studies to understand how eating dates improve constipation symptoms.

Nonetheless, if you are looking for a natural solution to overcome constipation, dates might help you by providing your body with certain nutrients known to help poop.

Important Note: If you experience constipation for an extended period of time, consult your doctor instead of finding natural cures. Because persistent constipation can be a sign of a serious underlying disease.

 



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.