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Are Cucumbers a Cure for Chronic Constipation?

One reader found that eating cucumbers can correct chronic constipation. Have you tried this simple remedy, or do you have other foods you use for this problem?
Are Cucumbers a Cure for Chronic Constipation?
Cucumber background Cucumber harvest. many cucumbers. cucumbers from the field.

Constipation is a common problem–so common, in fact, that a definition is needed. Otherwise, people may mean completely different things when they use the word “constipation.” The usual definition is “infrequent bowel movements.” Even that is open to interpretation; for some people, passing stool every two or three days is infrequent, while for others it may be normal. When the bowel movement is difficult, that too qualifies as constipation. The usual recommendation is to increase fiber and fluid. One reader apparently found both in a garden-variety food, cucumbers.

Can Cucumbers Help Constipation?

Q. In the last few years, I’ve had more or less continual constipation, meaning big, hard BMs that are tough to pass. Recently, a gardener friend gave me a slew of cucumbers. Voila! As long as I eat a few cucumbers each day, the BMs, while still large, pass comfortably and promptly.

I found no mention on your site of this property of cucumbers, and I thought you would be interested. It’s much better than Power Pudding.

A. We don’t know whether this will work for other people with constipation, but cucumbers are certainly safe. Normally, we think of fiber-rich foods as a good way to combat constipation. While cucumbers aren’t particularly high in fiber, they do contain some and they are full of water, which might also be helpful. In addition, an extract of muskmelon, a fruit in the same family as cucumbers, increases intestinal activity (Journal of Ethnopharmacology, June 26, 2012).

Other Foods to Fight Constipation:

Other foods that are full of fiber might be discarded if you didn’t realize their value. How often, for example, have you cut off the crown of the broccoli and tossed the stem? It too is rich in fiber and contains some fluid. You may be interested in learning more about this natural approach to constipation in our radio show #1115. It is hour-long interview with Dr. Robynne Chutkan on how you can conquer constipation. You may also be interested in our free Guide to Constipation.

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About the Author
Terry Graedon, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy radio show, co-author of The People’s Pharmacy syndicated newspaper columns and numerous books, and co-founder of The People’s Pharmacy website. Terry taught in the Duke University School of Nursing and was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is a Fellow of the Society of Applied Anthropology. Terry is one of the country's leading authorities on the science behind folk remedies. .
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