Kiwis for constipation

By: Nechama Newman, MS


Not necessarily known for any particular health benefit, kiwifruit are commonly eaten for their delicious taste and high nutrient content. Recently, though, studies have investigated kiwi’s effect on gut health, specifically as an aid for constipation.1, 2, 3 Sound interesting? Read on.

All of the studies investigating kiwi’s effect on relieving constipation have found it to be very effective. This unanimous finding creates a very compelling case for the humble kiwifruit, giving it newfound status. In fact, the results of one 4 week study3  suggests that only 2 kiwifruits daily can significantly increase bowel movement frequency when compared with baseline in adults with constipation. In another study, the number of bowel movements doubled per week by eating 2 fresh kiwifruits.2

In New Zealand, a major producer of kiwifruit, it is a common practice to give kiwifruit juice to patients in hospitals and elder care homes as a means to relieve and prevent constipation. Providing this nutrient dense fruit to those who are prone to constipation is really the ideal form of intervention. Not only do you avoid the  side effects and risk of dependency of some constipation medications, kiwifruit are loaded with vitamins, minerals and unique phytonutrients.

But, there’s more to it. Clinical evidence has found that consumption of kiwifruit ALSO relieves symptoms of indigestion and bloating.4 An unusual feature for a fruit, kiwis contain an enzyme called actinidin, which is a protease (hydrolyzes proteins). An in vitro study4 found that protein digestion efficiency can be increased by consuming a kiwifruit with a protein meal. However, this effect was only significant when gastric pH was elevated, i.e. not enough stomach acid. The addition of kiwifruit to the meal, when gastric pH was elevated, doubled the rate of meat protein hydrolysis! This explains why kiwifruit is so helpful in relieving two common symptoms of incomplete protein digestion, indigestion and bloating.

And, to end off, I’ll just briefly mention one last benefit of kiwifruit on gut health. Ingestion of kiwifruit has been found to have a positive effect on intestinal microbiota populations. Although kind of short in duration, one study5   found that consumption of kiwifruit for four days increased growths of beneficial lactobacilli and bifidobacteria populations.

What a great food to add to the diet to improve digestive efficiency! Who’s putting kiwis on their shopping list? Or, better yet, who’s going to the supermarket RIGHT NOW??



  1. Udani JK, Bloom DW. Effects of kivia powder on Gut health in patients with occasional constipation: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study. Nutrition Journal. 2013;12:78. doi:10.1186/1475-2891-12-78.
  2. Chan AOO, Leung G, Tong T, Wong NY. Increasing dietary fiber intake in terms of kiwifruit improves constipation in Chinese patients. World Journal of Gastroenterology : WJG. 2007;13(35):4771-4775. doi:10.3748/wjg.v13.i35.4771.
  3. Chang CC, Lin YT, Lu YT, Liu YS, Liu JF. Kiwifruit improves bowel function in patients with irritable bowel syndrome with constipation. Asia Pac J Clin Nutr. 2010;19(4):451-7. Accessed September 28, 2016
  4. Donaldson B, Rush E, Young O, Winger R. Variation in Gastric pH May Determine Kiwifruit’s Effect on Functional GI Disorder: An in Vitro Study. Nutrients. 2014;6(4):1488-1500. doi:10.3390/nu6041488.
  5. Lee YK, Low KY, Siah K, Drummond LM, Gwee K-A. Kiwifruit (Actinidia deliciosa) changes intestinal microbial profile. Microbial Ecology in Health and Disease. 2012;23:10.3402/mehd.v23i0.18572. doi:10.3402/mehd.v23i0.18572.

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