The Best Fix for Constipation

Though there is an International Prune Association keeping us all apprised of the latest prune news from around the world, the California prune board successfully pressured the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to change the name from prunes to dried plums. In doing so they hoped to de-emphasize their connection to bowel regularity. Why sell yourself short, though?

Constipation is a common problem that affects up to 20 percent of the world’s population. Nearly 60 million Americans suffer from chronic constipation, which is particularly a problem in women and the elderly. It is a pathological condition that is often severe enough to disrupt daily activities and derange quality of life. It responds poorly to available medical remedies and may prompt sophisticated and potentially harmful surgical procedures. Despite all this, it is still frequently considered a trivial issue and affected individuals tend to self-medicate either using over-the-counter laxatives or ‘natural’ remedies, none of which had been adequately investigated. Until now. Fiber supplements can be inconvenient, taste nasty, and cause bloating—even choking. Prunes could present a natural, convenient, tasty alternative, but do they work?

A randomized clinical trial of prunes vs. Metamucil was recently published. I present the results in the above video. Each dot on the graph represents a complete spontaneous bowel movement. Study participants went from an average of 1.7 a week up to 3.5 on prunes, then back to baseline when prunes were removed. On Metamucil they got up to 2.8 BMs a week. A significantly better stool consistency was also noted when using the prunes, as measured by the famous Bristol Stool Scale.

The researchers concluded that treatment with dried plums resulted in a greater improvement in constipation symptoms than the commonly used fiber supplement. Given their palatability, tolerability, and availability, dried plums should be “considered as a first line therapy for chronic constipation.”

If that’s what adding one plant can do, though, what if all you ate was plants? Vegans average 10.9!

For more on optimizing bowel function, see:

In health,
Michael Greger, M.D.

PS: If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to my videos here and watch my full 2012 year-in-review presentation Uprooting the Leading Causes of Death.

Image credit: OliBac / Flickr

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Fi T.
Fi T.5 months ago

Watch out our diet and lifestyle

Jospeh R.
Jospeh R.5 months ago

I really love your write-ups guys continue the good work.

Shahid A.
Shahid A.about a year ago


Marhaba Ispaghol Husk, which is obtained from Plantago ovata is a harmless product of vegetable origin and a natural source of non-starch highly soluble carbohydrate fiber. It is strongly recommended and particularly intended for the treatment of constipation and bacillary dysentery.

Ernie Miller
william Miller2 years ago


Teresa Garcia
Teresa GarcĂ­a2 years ago

Super interesting article. Thanks! :)

Charlene Rush
Charlene Rush2 years ago

Speaking of prunes, as a teenager, I used to volunteer at a local hospital. My job was to hand out and pick up menus to the patients, in order for them to select their food for the next day.
Some were not up to the task, due to one reason or another, in which case I filled it out for them. If they were elderly, I often ordered them prunes.
Fortunately or unfortunately, I never found out if they thanked or cursed me.

Kelly Rogers
Kelly Rogers2 years ago

How I eat my Prunes. Is I slice them up in stripes or dice them and put them on my cereal.

Liz Janmaat
Liz Janmaat2 years ago

I can't eat prunes they remind me of little cockroaches however I can drink prune juice and do so each night half a glass along with some coloxyl with senna and that is keeping my bowels moving, I don't feel bloated and I am feeling better. I won't have nuts although I love them but I have increased my fiber in other ways.
Sometimes you have to give up something that is yummy for something that is good for you instead and doesn't' cause you discomfort and pain.

Carolanne Powell
Carolanne Powell2 years ago

Im on the Figs at the Mo but will get some prunes tomorrow.

Magdika Cecilia Perez

Love Dr Greger!