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Prune Juice Laxative

Prune juice is well known for its laxative effects, but few people know the details. How does prune juice get to our kitchens? What is the mechanism behind prune juice laxative? Read on to learn everything you've ever wanted to know about the famous prune juice laxative.

How Is Prune Juice Laxative Made?
Prunes are dehydrated plums. Farmers have grown plums (Prunus domestica) since ancient times. They brought European plums to America where the farmers in 23 states now raise them. Plums grow on trees that vary in height depending on the cultivar. Plum trees grow better on slopes and hilltops, because the soggy soil in low lying areas are not good for their roots. Farmers in colder climates paint the trunks of their plum trees with latex paint to protect them from winter temperatures. After harvesting plums, food producers turn them into prunes by dehydrating them for 18 hours in air that is close to the boiling point of water. Further processing turns prunes into prune juice. Although prunes are a good source of fiber, the fiber is filtered out of prune juice before it is bottled. Prune juice laxative works, because prunes and prune juice contain sorbitol.

How Does Prune Juice Laxative Work?
Sorbitol is a simple sugar. Like glucose, it has a 6-carbon backbone with hydrogen atoms and hydroxyl attached to that backbone. Sorbitol is sometimes used as a natural sweetener in soft drinks and candies due to its sweet taste. While sorbitol does have calories, the body absorbs sorbitol more slowly than it does regular table sugar. Sorbitol is an osmotic laxative, which means it works by drawing water into the stool from the surrounding tissue through osmosis. Osmosis is  when water passes through a semipermeable membrane. In this case, the semipermeable membrane is the lining of the large intestine. Osmosis always moves water from an area with a lower concentration of dissolved molecules to an area with a higher concentration of dissolved molecules. Sorbitol is one of the many dissolved molecules in stool. Its presence helps drive the osmosis of water into the stool. This water makes the stool more flexible so that is passes through the large intestine more readily. H2GO, a hyperosmotic laxative, also works by bringing water into the stool through osmosis. Although sorbitol is a good remedy for constipation, it has a couple of side effects. If taken in excess or by a person without constipation, sorbitol can cause diarrhea. Sorbitol can also contribute to intestinal gas, because it is a food source for the microbes in the large intestine. H2Go, taken as directed, should not  have these side effects

Fun Facts about Prune Juice Laxative
•    Prune Juice Laxative Comes from Plums
•    Farmers Brought Plums from Europe to America
•    Prune Juice Laxative Has No Fiber
•    Sorbitol Makes Prune Juice Laxative Work
•    Sorbitol Is an Osmotic Laxative

Prune juice laxative is a natural remedy for constipation. Prune juice laxative is made from plumbs, but it does not contain the fiber that plumbs have. Sorbitol in prune juice laxative is responsible for its laxative effect. It is also responsible for the diarrhea and intestinal gas that can result from prune juice laxative.

References:

1. Chemical Composition and Potential Health Effects of Prunes: A Functional Food?
by PubMed
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11401245

2. Gas in the Digestive Tract
by National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse
http://digestive.niddk.nih.gov/ddiseases/pubs/gas/

3. Sweeteners
by Medline Plus
http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/002444.htm

4. HortAnswers
University of Illinois Extension
http://urbanext.illinois.edu/hortanswers/plantdetail.cfm?PlantID=494&PlantTypeID=11

5. Management of Constipation in Residents with Dementia: Sorbitol Effectiveness and Cost.
On PubMed
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15890292

6. Slow-transit Constipation
on PubMed
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11469989

7. Plant Profile for Prunus domestica
By the USA Department of Agriculture
http://plants.usda.gov/java/profile?symbol=PRDO