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Kiwifruit for Irritable Bowel Syndrome

A kiwi fruit intervention was found to improve bowel function in those suffering from irritable bowel syndrome with constipation. This was accomplished without side-effects such as heart attacks and stroke associated with the primary drug prescribed to treat the condition, tegaserod.

July 17, 2012 |
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Acknowledgements

Images thanks to Karpour/Thomas N., justusbluemer, and Muffet/Liz West via Wikimedia Commons.

Transcript

An estimated 10-20% of the general population suffers from irritable bowel syndrome, accounting for about 4 million doctors’ visits a year. What can we do for people? How about a kiwifruit intervention. Kiwifruit improves bowel function in patients with irritable bowel syndrome with constipation, thankfully in English too: “the impact of a four week kiwifruit intervention on bowel function in patients diagnosed with irritable bowel with constipation. Two kiwis a day for a month in this study funded by, of course, the world’s largest marketer of kiwis—I’m surprised they didn’t have them eating 5 a day. But they did find such a kiwi intervention “shortens colon transit time, increases defecation frequency, and improves bowel function”
Furthermore, “No deleterious effects of kiwifruit consumption on psychological functioning or adverse events were found in these studies.” Uh, I would hope not. What they’re hinting at, though, is tegaserod, the most frequently prescribed drug for irritable bowel, until it was… pulled from the market out of concern it was killing people, increasing risk of heart attack and stroke.
So, I’d stick with the kiwis.

To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring watch the above video. This is just an approximation of the audio contributed by Serena

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Dr. Michael Greger

Doctor's Note

I have a few other videos that mention kiwi fruit, including New Cholesterol Fighters and the Antioxidant Content of 3,139 Foods, but this is the first of a three-video series on the latest discoveries focusing on them. Tomorrow we'll examine the role this fruit can play in protecting and repairing DNA. The role of fruit, fiber, and antioxidants in general may help explain why people eating plant-based diets have improved laxation. See Bristol Stool Scale, Bulking Up on Antioxidants, Bowels of the Earth, Food Mass Transit, and Say No to Drugs by Saying Yes to More Plants.  Remember, bowel movements is only one of the 1,000+ topics covered here on NutritionFacts.org!

For more context, check out my associated blog posts: Kiwi Fruit for Irritable Bowel SyndromeBoosting Gut Flora Without Probiotics, Best Treatment for Constipation, and Cayenne for Irritable Bowel.

  • Michael Greger M.D.

    I have a few other videos that mention kiwi fruit, including New Cholesterol Fighters and the Antioxidant Content of 3,139 Foods, but this is the first of a three-video series on the latest discoveries focusing on them. Tomorrow we’ll examine the role this fruit can play in protecting and repairing DNA. The role of fruit, fiber, and antioxidants in general may help explain why people eating plant-based diets have improved laxation. See Bristol Stool Scale, Bulking Up on Antioxidants, Bowels of the Earth, Food Mass Transit, and Say No to Drugs by Saying Yes to More Plants.  Remember, bowel movements is only one of the 1,000+ topics covered here on NutritionFacts.org!

    • SJ M.D.

      Most people would probably prefer kiwi in stead of a stroke!

      IBS is benign, but annoying, but treating it with drugs with serious side effects is not a good idea.

      Of course a lot of diseases needs pills and/or surgery, but the good doctor knows when to prescribe drugs/performe surgery and when not to.

      Without being a expert in the field, one big contributor is probably SAD (and european!) and shifting to a plant strong diet, would probably improve or even cure the condition.

      So one prescription (plants!) cures/improves/prevents IBS, cancer, stroke, diabetes, kidneydisease………and the list goes on!

    • HemoDynamic, M.D.

      Interestingly Italy is the #1 producer and exporter of Kiwi fruit with the Kiwi Nation (New Zealand) #2.  Wikipedia fun read: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kiwifruit

      But Italy has the highest European rate of IBS according to this study at 11.5%. http://ibscare.org/pdfs/ref_113.pdf

      Maybe they find it more lucrative to export the fruit rather than eat it.

      • SJ M.D.

        Dr D,
        When I think of italian food I think (white) pasta, white bread, cheese, deli-meat and lots of oil.

        • HemoDynamic, M.D.

          Agreed!!  Maybe they should try my lunch.  (Pic Below)
          Spicy Lentil curry, Purple Mashed Potatoes, Mixed Quinoa Salad!

          • SJ M.D.

            Now I`m hungry !

  • Jnaselli

    Dr. Gregor, I have a one year old who is really suffering from IBS. This study is really helpful – thank you!

    Do you know if the study included the patients eating the fuzzy skin on the outside of the kiwi fruit? I’m assuming that it does, just might be harder to get a toddler to eat that…:)
     

    • SJ M.D.

      Without any knowledge of this specific case and I am not a pediatrician - one year old with IBS? Are you sure the diagnosis is correct?

    • Troy

      have you tried blending it? (especially with a high powered blender like vitamix)  i know little ones shouldn’t have too much fibre anyway, i doubt they will miss out by not eating the skin (perhaps check with a nutritionist or pediatrician).  or just conduct your own case study :)

  • Wickedchicken

    I may trial this 2kiwi intervention with my patients. Sometimes it can be 50% placebo effect but hope is what people really need.

    • WholeFoodChomper

      How is the trial going?  What are your findings?

  • Bviolet57

    Interesting – but I can’t find where it is detailed – why just kiwi?  – what is in it that other fibrous fruits and veggies don’t have, to single it out? I don’t think you can grow it in your garden in the Northern U.S.
    But, we can grow a lot of other things that if lots of them eaten every day, we wouldn’t have this epidemic of “IBS”. Instead the Agri-business industry (not in cahoots with the health care industry, that would just be too evil) promotes high-carb, low-fiber, high processed, high sugar or the even more insidious HFCS fried foods, that Americans are conditioned to prefer over real food.
    Why not do an expose on that next?

    I didn’t see any mention of wheat intolerance in this article. I had suffered with IBS for most of my life, and was prescribed a purple pill 20 years ago, which masked some of the symptoms but not all.
    After another 10 years of suffering, I went to an integrated care physician
    who put me on an elimination diet. Upon re-introduction, I tolerated dairy, soy and most protein, but the minute I ate a piece of bread, my symptoms immediately flared.
    As long as I stay away from American wheat, I am fine. When I visit relatives in Germany, I can eat the bread, which is good since that is a lot of the German diet! I’m told that the governments are very strict in Europe about food purity and processing. American wheat is evidently altered chemically somehow in processing, even if it is organic and whole grain, and that increases its inflammatory properties. In me, it is like ninja throwing stars sticking into my intestinal walls.

  • bee

    I think the take home message is:

    Just increase your fruit consumption to combat constipation!

    It was funded by a kiwi producer, so of course they will tout kiwis. Same goes for is this study was funded by Chiquita bananas

    My constipation was fixed immensely by adopting a high raw low fat vegan diet. I have colitis, so the flares havent completely gone away, but let me tell ya, it is light years better!

    Any fruit (and veg) will help with constipation, as long as it is ripe, raw, and isnt one u are allergic to (those with latex allergies would not benefit from eating kiwis! Well, i guess it would solve their poop problems, since ya cant poop when u r 6 feet under…)

    =)

  • Amontgomery7177

    Did anyone notice the newspaper quote refers to Psychological not physiological symptoms. What am I missing?

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000079502489 Kelly Olsen

    While kiwis appear to be helpful, also keep in mind that lactose intolerance presents many of the same symptoms as IBS.  It wasn’t until we transitioned to a whole foods, plant-based (vegan) diet that we realized my spouse’s years of IBS were, in fact, years of dairy (lactose) intolerance. 

  • solson

    I believe that many IBS symptoms can be caused by fructose and other sugars and sugar alcohols aka FODMAPs.  Check out Sue  Shepherd’s work in Australia on fructose malabsorption.  Kiwi has more fructose than glucose.  The fructose causes gas, bloating, diarrhea/constipation, and depression.

  • Vegan613

    Hi Dr. Greger, my wife and I have adopted a whole food plant based diet for about 6 months now. I am 42 yo and my cholesterol is 125 total, BP 107/73, HR 54 and I weigh 158lbs! Your videos have helped us very much and we really appreciate you and want to say thanks. One issue that I’m still struggling with is constipation. I drink 3 liters of water/day and drink green juice every morning without fruit. I’ve tried the kiwi thing and other “remedies” to no avail. I definitely have some good BM days though:) Can you help me become a “regular guy”? Thanks!

  • ruby

    What about those with diarrhea and urgent bowel movement prone IBS? I am trying to eat vegan, but find that most healthy vegetables only result in cramps, gas, urgent BM”s and diarrhea for me. Kale, cabbage, uncooked veggies, etc. “do me in” as does too much raw fruit. I have undergone numerous tests for all kinds of digestive conditions and was finally told I have a “short, rapid transit time” and resulting irritable bowel condition. What natural foods might help me???
    I am a senior suffering with this for 5 yrs. now. Otherwise healthy. No cause established for this. Spicy foods are also a very big problem.

    • http://www.DonForresterMD.com/ Don Forrester MD

      Sorry to hear about your situation. You still don’t have a good diagnosis. I consider IBS a “condition” with many causes. The medical industry will probably not be able to give you one but the tests can help narrow it down and make sure you aren’t missing something that we can treat. An approach which might help you has been described by Dr. John McDougall. I recommend that you go to his website and look up free lectures and view his lecture, The Starch Solution. You could purchase John and Mary McDougall’s book by the same name which also contains alot of recipes that Mary has had success with over the years. I would read two newsletter articles available on Dr. McDougall’s website. Chained to the Bathroom(11/02) and Diet for the Desperate(12/02). Those references should give you some ideas for next steps. There are many likely diagnoses for your condition but what you need to do is find out something that works for you. Good luck.

      • ruby

        Thank you for this quick response. I will look up Dr. McDougall’s website with lectures. I have been seen by a number of gastroenterologists to include being seen at Johns Hopkins in Baltimore. Same diagnosis after many, many testing procedures….IBS-D –a functional disorder, etc. Again, thank you for your recommendation.

        • rbjoe

          Hi I too have this situation “tied to the Bathroom” it’s been suggested that IBS could be related to my FM and I should treat the bowl inflammation by raising the Lyrica level that i’m taken . I now take 25MG and that I should step up top to 50MG which would address the IBS . Any thoughts On this issue?

    • simigirl04

      If I were you, I would try to eat prunes. I heard that you
      can add them to water and they will become juicer if you hate the taste of them. I would also try to eat foods that are high
      in antioxidants. Here is a link to Dr. Greger’s webpage on the cure to constipation, bulking up on antioxidants video,
      and prune vs. metamucil vs. vegan diet video:

      http://nutritionfacts.org/2013/09/17/prunes-metamucil-or-a-plant-based-diet/

      http://nutritionfacts.org/video/bulking-up-on-antioxidants/

      http://nutritionfacts.org/video/prunes-vs-metamucil-vs-vegan-diet/