Can eating kiwifruit improve constipation and perhaps positively impact overall gut health? Let’s take a closer look.
Two kiwifruits (one serving) are fiber-rich and provides a nice dose of both vitamin C and E. In fact, one serving of kiwifruit provides 230% of your daily vitamin C needs, 10% of Vitamin E and 4 grams of fiber. Oh…and kiwifruit is low FODMAP! (But, I bet you already knew that!)
For those of you with a sluggish gut… eating kiwifruit might help improve your constipation. Kiwifruit impacts gut function via a number of proposed mechanisms. For instance, the fiber in kiwifruit has a high water holding capacity which seems to play a key role in increasing stool bulk and laxation. Kiwis contain Actinidin: a digestive enzyme that breaks down protein, improves gastric emptying and is thought to facilitate laxation via stimulating receptors in the colon. This enzyme is contained primarily in green Hayward kiwifruit, with reduced levels in the SunGold variety.
William D. Chey, MD, AGAF, FACG, Professor of Medicine, Division of Gastroenterology, University of Michigan Health System, Ann Arbor, Michigan weighs in on the potential for kiwifruit to improve constipation, “There are now a small number of studies from the far east and New Zealand which demonstrate benefits of kiwi for constipation. The precise mechanism by which kiwi improves constipation is unknown but potential reasons include fiber supplementation and prebiotic effects. Other mechanisms are also being studied at present. At University of Michigan, we are planning a randomized, controlled trial which will look at the clinical and microbiome related effects of kiwifruit in US patients with constipation. We hope to get started in 2018.”
A clinical trial which has recently been completed in New Zealand, Japan and Italy, was designed to determine the efficacy of kiwifruit as a treatment for the relief of constipation and for reduction in gastrointestinal discomfort. In each participating country, 20 healthy people, 20 people with IBS with constipation (IBS-C) and 20 people with functional constipation (FC) were recruited. Preliminary research indicates that a daily serving of green kiwifruit helps increase the number of bowel movements per week as well the ease of passing stool. The preliminary findings meet the FDA criteria for being a clinically effective approach to relieve constipation …move over bad-tasting fiber powders and supplements!
Interested to learn more about kiwifruit and health?
Abstracts presented at the 1st International Symposium on kiwifruit have more info on the many health benefits of kiwi and can be accessed here. This review provides numerous research and summary reports about green kiwifruit, gastrointestinal function and overall health suggesting kiwifruit is important to include as part of a healthy diet, with additional benefits for those affected by constipation and IBS-C.
A recent (May 2017) published review of the current evidence on green kiwifruit and gastrointestinal function continues to support its positive role. This article provides a great primer on digestion and pathophysiology of constipation as well. The science nerd in me loved this article! 🙂
So…if you’re troubled by constipation, perhaps ask your dietitian or GI doctor about adding 2 kiwifruits a day to your diet to see if it helps get things moving.
Can kiwifruit help improve gut health beyond constipation relief?
More research is needed but it is possible. Dr. Chey’s study at U. Michigan will be interesting to follow to see what impact kiwifruit consumption has on the microbiome. There are numerous factors that impact our gut health from our genetic makeup, environmental factors and of course, our diet. To better understand the impact of diet on our gut health and our gut microbiome, let’s start with the definition of prebiotic which was recently changed by the International Scientific Association for Probiotics and Prebiotics (ISAPP), an association of academic and industrial scientists involved in research of probiotics and prebiotics. The recently updated definition of a prebiotic is “a substrate that is selectively utilized by host microorganisms conferring a health benefit.”
The news about the prebiotic terminology update is published in Nature Reviews Gastroenterology and Hepatology.
This new definition expands the definition of prebiotics to a more liberalized category to include food components beyond fiber such as polyphenols. Polyphenols are plant-based chemical compounds that act as antioxidants which help protect our cells against damage caused by free radicals and ultimately reduce risk of chronic disease. Polyphenols may act as a substrate utilized by our host microorganisms to provide health benefits. The microbes in our gut convert polyphenols into active and bioavailable metabolites. Animal studies show that the polyphenols in kiwifruit are metabolized by gut microbes. More research in humans is needed. Understanding the impact of diet on our gut microbiome is a complex area of research as we each have our very own gut microbial fingerprint. Other foods with polyphenols include some of my favorite foods: dark chocolate, berries, and yes, kiwifruit. I will be talking about the potential gut health benefits of cocoa and dark chocolate in an upcoming post!
Kiwi is quite delicious dipped in dark chocolate. A great way to up your fiber and polyphenols, right? 🙂
If you have my book, The 21 Day Tummy Diet check out the Grilled Chicken, Sweet Potato and Kiwi Salad recipe for a yummy low FODMAP kiwifruit based dish! Even though the science with gut health is evolving quickly, I have to say the tenets of this New York Times Best Seller, The 21 Day Tummy Diet, published 4 years ago remain spot on! There is so much great info about the role of gut microbes, inflammation, and the low FODMAP diet in this book!
Want some kiwifruit swag? Enter my give-a-way!
Zespri, the world leader in premium quality kiwifruit and a grower-owned company, will provide a fun give-a-way to two of my followers! Two winners will be randomly selected to win Zespri’s swag: A fun fruit infuser water bottle, lunchbox, spifes (knife on one side, spoon on the other) and SunGold Kiwifruit! Just let me know how you enjoy kiwifruit in the comment section and you will be entered to win the Zespri kiwifruit swag. Good luck!