The modern life takes a toll on our bodies in ways we do not even notice. Approximately 20 per cent of the world’s population suffers from constipation.
We often indulge in binge eating or cannot find enough time for a nutritious meal during a hectic day. Researchers from University of Iowa hospitals and Clinics feel that prunes can be the ideal solution for these problems. Prunes are better than psyllium (the most popular cure for constipation now) for curing constipation. However, while city doctors agree with the study in parts, they argue too much prunes can also lead to trouble.
‘Psyllium is a husk which is used for regulating the bowel movement. It is pure fibre whereas prunes have high amount of fibre along with several vitamins and minerals. Constipation is a grave problem which causes excreta to accumulate in the intestine and in some cases it can lead to infection as well,’ says Geetu Amarnani, nutritionist, California Prune Board.
Forty adults suffering from chronic constipation, were enrolled in an eight week study. Participants got 6 grams of fiber from either 50 grams of prunes which is about 5-6 eaten twice a day or 11 grams of psyllium, that is, 1 tablespoon psyllium taken with water twice a day for three weeks, in a crossover trial with a one-week wash-out period.
‘The stool consistency scores improved significantly with prunes when compared to psyllium’, says Satish Rao MD, PhD, Division of Gastroenterology/Hepatology, Department of Internal Medicine, University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics.
In addition to dissipating constipation, prunes are cholesterol, sodium and fat free. They are high in antioxidants called phenols and are believed to be beneficial for the tissues. They are a rich source of several micro-nutrients involved in bone metabolism.
‘Moreover, unlike apples and other fruits which digest easily, prunes stay in the stomach for longer, reducing urge to eat between meals. It doesn’t have cholesterol and fat so it helps one stay in shape’, adds Amarnani.
‘Psyllium is usually consumed with water, resulting in bloated stomach. This can cause discomfort and in some cases add other problems like gas and cause stomachache,’ says nutritionist Uma Gupta.
‘Prunes are rich in nutrients, minerals and vitamins so patients post surgery, recovering mothers and pregnant women should use prunes rather than psyllium,’ says Gupta.
‘Prunes are also a very good source of iron but one has to watch out for calories. People consume anything that says fat-free but this does not mean that they have no calories. One must watch out for the total number of prunes consumed in a day,’ adds Dr Rekha Sharma, President, Dietetic Society, India.
One can have prunes to deal with constipation. However, their consumption must be regulated.