An apple a day keeps the doctor away, but can an orange a day keep the constipation at bay?
A woman on Instagram claimed in a viral video that eating an entire orange — peel included — can cure constipation in just minutes.
Instagrammer @lilsipper shared her step-by-step “cure” for constipation, which involves washing the outside of the orange, slicing it into wedges, coating each slice with cinnamon and cayenne pepper “generously” and eating the entire thing including the peel.
“Wait 5-10 minutes and the rest is history!” she wrote.
Bethany, the woman behind the account, explained that this works because “oranges contain naringenin, a flavonoid shown to help with constipation in general, and studies show that naringenin can also have a laxative effect.”
She added in the caption, “Cayenne pepper and cinnamon contain capsaicin, which trigger your TRVP1 receptors (located in your mouth and also throughout your body and GI tract) and stimulate your GI tract—making things move through quite fast!”
But does this zesty concoction really work?
While whole oranges do indeed contain lots of fiber and water — two elements known to help relieve constipation — there’s nothing particularly special about oranges that will make you go to the bathroom, experts said.
“The fiber in orange peels isn’t anything special compared to other fibers,” Amy Brownstein, MS, RD, a registered dietitian and owner of Nutrition Digested, told Health.
Orange peels are generally safe to eat, but harmful substances like pesticides or bacteria can be living on the surface, so be sure to wash the fruit thoroughly.
However, some people might experience negative side effects from the peel.
“For some people, orange peels can cause an upset tummy, so start with small amounts first,” VenHuizen said.
Brownstein added, “The texture and flavor of orange peels may be difficult to tolerate or aggravate any jaw or chewing issues.”
An orange with its peel intact is 82% water and has 7 grams of fiber, which might be a significant amount, but it’s also not likely to send you running to the toilet — especially for those who are vulnerable to constipation, including those who suffer from IBS.
“For a person prone to constipation, there is no way that eating a high-fiber food is going to produce immediate effects. That’s just not how fiber works,” Danielle VenHuizen, MS, RDN, a registered dietitian and owner of Food Sense Nutrition, told Health.
“While fiber can promote regularity, it takes hours for fiber to reach the colon and help alleviate constipation,” she said.
However, Bethany was right about oranges containing naringenin, but the studies that show the antioxidant has a laxative effect have only been performed on animals.
“Unfortunately, there are no studies to date on the use of naringenin for constipation in humans,” VenHuizen said. “While two studies on mice and rats shed some light on how naringenin might support regularity, we cannot apply these same findings to humans.”
Bethany also claimed that cayenne pepper and cinnamon contain capsaicin, which trigger your TRVP1 receptors, which can be true, but some stipulations go along with this claim.
“Both cinnamon and cayenne are high in a compound called capsaicin,” VenHuizen said. “Capsaicin, in high doses, can trigger receptors that tell the intestines to start moving.”
Some people have a bowel movement after consuming cayenne pepper and cinnamon, but it most likely won’t happen quickly — consuming these spices could also make things worse.
“Increasing activation of TRVP1 receptors by ingesting cinnamon and cayenne could contribute to greater GI pain and discomfort instead of directly stimulating the digestive tract,” Brownstein explained.