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.
However, dates contain 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
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
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?
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 — varies 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 aches 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,” .
The American Heart Association recommends 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 . This means eating about 5 dates can provide your body’s one-third of daily fibre needs.
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
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 constipation. Luckily, the cure is simple: Add more potassium to your diet, ” .
100 gr dates provide almost 700 mg of potassium, which equates to around 20 per cent of your body’s daily potassium need .
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 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.
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 date fruit 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.
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.