An apple a day keeps the doctor away, but can an orange a day keep constipation at bay?
A woman on Instagram claimed in a viral video that eating a whole orange – including the peel – can cure constipation in minutes.
The video, originally posted in December 2022, recently went viral after he reposted it in December 2023, garnering a total of 23.6 million views.
Instagrammer @lilsipper shared her step-by-step ‘cure’ for constipation, which involves washing the outside of an orange, slicing it, coating each slice ‘generously’ with cinnamon and cayenne pepper and eating it whole 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 that seems to help with constipation in general, and studies show that naringenin can also have a laxative effect.”
He added in the caption, “Cayenne pepper and cinnamon contain capsaicin, which activates TRVP1 receptors (located in your mouth and also throughout your body and GI tract) and stimulates your GI tract – getting things moving a lot quickly!”
But does this tasty concoction really work?
While whole oranges do contain a lot of fiber and water — two elements known to help relieve constipation — there’s nothing special about oranges that will make you go to the bathroom, experts said.
“The fiber in orange peels is nothing special compared to other fibers,” Amy Brownstein, MS, RD, registered dietitian and owner of Nutrition Digested, told Health.
Orange peels are generally safe to eat, but harmful substances such as pesticides or bacteria may live on the surface, so be sure to wash the fruit thoroughly.
However, some people may experience negative side effects from the peel.
“For some people, orange peels can cause an upset stomach, so start with small amounts first,” VenHuizen said.
Brownstein added, “The texture and taste of orange peels can be difficult to tolerate or aggravate any jaw or chewing problems.”
An orange with its peel intact is 82% water and has 7 grams of fiber, which may be a significant amount, but it’s also unlikely to send you running to the bathroom — especially for those 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 will have immediate results. That’s just not how fiber works,” Danielle VenHuizen, MS, RDN, 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 relieve constipation,” she said.
However, Bethany was right about oranges containing naringenin, but the studies showing that the antioxidant has a laxative effect have only been done in animals.
“Unfortunately, there are no studies to date on the use of naringenin for constipation in humans,” said VenHuizen. “While two studies in mice and rats shed light on how naringenin can support normality, we cannot apply these same findings to humans.”
Bethany also claimed that cayenne pepper and cinnamon contain capsaicin, which activates TRVP1 receptors, which may be true, but some conditions 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 eating cayenne pepper and cinnamon, but it probably won’t happen quickly – eating these spices could also make things worse.
“Increasing activation of TRVP1 receptors with cinnamon and cayenne intake could contribute to greater pain and discomfort in the gastrointestinal tract rather than directly stimulating the digestive tract,” Brownstein explained.