Here's Why Eating Too Many Cherries Makes You Poop
For many of us, fresh cherries are a go-to summertime snack—and as luck would have it, this mouthwatering stone fruit is as nutritious as it gets.
Besides being high in both vitamins A and C, cherries are loaded with anti-inflammatory nutrients called anthocyanins, which are what give them their vibrant dark red and burgundy-purple color, says Suzanne Dixon, RDN, registered dietitian and epidemiologist at Cambia Health Solutions in Portland, Oregon.
Cherries have such potent anti-inflammatory activity that may help reduce the risk of several chronic diseases like cardiovascular disease, diabetes and cancer. "They've even been studied as a way to reduce pain and inflammation associated with osteoarthritis and muscular pain post-workout," says Dixon.
But after eating too many (which is easy to do since they're beyond delish), you may have also noticed another, less appealing talent that cherries possess—Their ability to slingshot through your digestive tract almost as soon as you've swallowed them.
What's behind the havoc that cherries wreak on your insides and how can you stop the madness? Read on to find out what the experts say.
Why do cherries make you poop?
Cherries contain fiber, a known constipation reliever. Depending on the type of cherry, they can contain up to 3 grams of fiber per cup—both soluble and insoluble. "Soluble fiber helps the body digest foods more slowly and control blood sugar levels," says Texas-based registered dietitian Maggy Doherty, RD. Meanwhile, insoluble fiber helps to add bulk to your stool, which helps move waste through the body more efficiently. The result? Fewer intestinal traffic jams.
However, it's probably not the fiber in cherries causing your digestive woes. For most people, cherries don't contain enough fiber to cause a noticeable increase in number-two trips when they eat just a serving or two. To put this into context, one serving is half a cup of cherries, or roughly 1.5 grams of fiber, so not that much. "When people notice a laxative effect from cherries, they may be reacting to two other features of this fruit," says Dixon.
The first is the naturally occurring sugar alcohols that cherries contain. "Most people think of sugar alcohols as only being found in processed food, gum and candy," says Dixon. "But some fruits contain sugar alcohols, too," Dixon adds.
So, if you're sensitive to eats like low-calorie ice cream and diabetic candy that may have sugar alcohols added, odds are you'll be quite sensitive to cherries too. "Even a single serving of cherries will make you poop—and really quickly," says Dixon.
Cherries are also a natural source of salicylates. You may recognize the word because it's uber-similar to salicylic acid, the active ingredient in aspirin. "Salicylic acid is one of many different salicylates," says Dixon. She adds, "Some people are sensitive to these substances and when they take aspirin or eat too many cherries, they end up with major GI upset."
Rest assured that cherries don't contain nearly as much as aspirin but do contain enough to cause a reaction in people who are super-sensitive.
How to enjoy cherries without feeling sick
Not to sound all Captain Obvious, but the best way to enjoy cherries—without bolting to the bathroom afterward—is in moderation. "Most people, even those who are somewhat sensitive to the sugar alcohols and salicylates in cherries, can still enjoy them," says Dixon. The trick is to experiment to find your threshold of tolerance.
To start, stick to one serving (1/2 cup or about 7 cherries, depending on their size), see how your gut reacts, and go from there. Take the time to measure them out, so you're not tempted to keep popping them in your mouth—Otherwise, you may risk your insides retaliating.
Another handy strategy is to avoid combining cherries with other foods you know you don't tolerate well. "If you're sensitive to cherries, you may also be sensitive to other fruits with similar substances in them, especially sugar alcohols," says Dixon. These fruits include watermelon, blackberries, nectarines, pears, apples and avocado. Knowing this, you don't want to eat cherries as part of a big fruit salad with these potentially problematic foods.
On the flip side, enjoy cherries with foods you know you tolerate well. "Diluting the substances found in cherries can lessen their effect on the GI tract," says Dixon. Eating them with other foods, such as part of a typical meal, rather than on an empty stomach as a snack, can make them less likely to cause GI distress.
In addition to using frozen or fresh black cherries in smoothies, like our Anti-inflammatory Cherry-Spinach Smoothie, Doherty suggests adding fresh cherries to Greek yogurt or tossing dried cherries into your trail mix. She says, "All these methods help incorporate this healthy fruit into your diet without overdoing it."
Cherries are full of essential vitamins, antioxidants and fiber—fruits you want to include in your meal pattern. Eating cherries alone or as an ingredient part of a dish (browse our collection of Healthy Cherry Recipes) will not make you poop, unless you're sensitive to the sugar alcohols or salicylates in the fruit. But, if you're super sensitive to either of the two compounds, enjoying them in moderate amounts or sparingly may be your best bet to avoid unnecessary trips to the bathroom.