A natural alternative to laxatives

By: Lisa Costa Bir Naturopath

Bowel movements are a topic that make most people squirm but considering that a large percentage of people suffer from constipation its something that needs to be discussed, particularly as there's a fruit in season right now that appears to help if you are one of those people that suffers from constipation. Yes, I'm talking about the kiwi fruit. Originally known as the Chinese Gooseberry and native to southern China (not New Zealand as many people think) the kiwi fruit has been shown in a number of clinical studies to be helpful at alleviating constipation.


Kiwi fruit is rich in an enzyme called actinidin. Actinidin has been found to promote a bowel movement by stimulating receptors in the colon, facilitating colonic motility. One also cannot deny the presence of fibre in the kiwi fruit and its skin (there's about 8 grams of fibre in 2 large kiwi fruits with skin- that's about the same as there is in a bowl of All Bran cereal!). Choose a kiwi fruit that is juicy and ripe as the cell walls within a ripe kiwi fruit swell 3-4 times the size of cells in an unripe fruit. This suggests that the dietary fibre within kiwi holds a lot of water, this in turn will help to produce a stool that is softer and easier to pass.

Can I eat the skin?

Yes, in case you were wondering, you can eat the skin of the kiwi fruit but do wash it first. It may taste a little rough at first but you soon get used to it. In a fully matured kiwi fruit, one study showed that the skin as much as tripled the fibre content of the fruit. In addition, as many of the vitamins are stored immediately under the skin, leaving the skin intact greatly increases the vitamin C and bioflavonoid content consumed by eating a single piece of kiwi fruit when compared to eating it peeled.

How many kiwi fruits do I have to eat?

Consumption of 2 kiwi fruits per day in constipated patients has been shown to improve satisfaction with bowel habits and decrease the number of days of laxative use. There was also an improvement in stool transit time (which is often delayed in constipation). Since laxatives are often associated with a lazy bowel and uncomfortable side effects, kiwi fruit consumption offer a nutritious alternative that can be consumed long term without any concerns.

Kiwi fruit for Irritable Bowel Syndrome?

Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) that is constipation predominant (know as IBS-C) is a common disorder of the gut characterised by abdominal pain and constipation. People with this condition have been shown to benefit from kiwi consumption. Patients with IBS-C consumed 2 kiwifruits a day for 1 month and completed a "defecation diary". At the end of the study, researchers observed a significant decreased stool transit time, increased defecation frequency & improved bowel function, highlighting the benefits of kiwi fruit for IBS-C .

Kiwi fruit for the elderly

The elderly often suffer from constipation due to the body slowing down however a couple of kiwi fruits each day may help to prevent this. Thirty-eight healthy adults of age > 60 years consumed their normal diet, with or without one kiwifruit per 30 kg bodyweight for three weeks, followed by a 3-week crossover period. Consumption of kiwi fruit was found to significantly enhance laxation and lead to a bulkier and softer stool, as well as more frequent stool production.

Kiwi gold (a kiwi fruit with golden, yellow flesh) was developed in the 1970's and is also in season now. It has a slightly different flavour to its green fleshed counterpart but has the same actions when it comes to its effects on the bowels. Choose kiwi fruit that is unblemished with uniform skin. A kiwifruit is ripe when plump and slightly soft to the touch with a fragrant smell.

Lisa Costa Bir is a Naturopath & freelance writer. She maintains a clinical practice in Caringbah South Sydney and lectures at Endeavour College of Natural Therapies Sydney.


Jun 5 2014 9:52PM
The easy availability and ready prescribing of drugs for reflux has almost removed the role of gastric acid in the digestive process.
This is especially relevant in middle aged women, whose acid levels are waning anyway. Once gastric acid is prevented from doing what nature has intended, constipation invariably results. So, look at a herbal option like slippery elm for any indigestion or reflux, and constipation won't bother you. Add kiwi fruit as above, prunes, pears....your tummy will be grateful!
Comment by: Gerald
Sep 20 2015 2:05PM
have suffered from constipation for 30 years, becoming chronic over past three years or so,
Started 3 hard greeen kiwi fruit about a month ago. have been constipation free since then. Miracle
Comment by: Ian

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