What is the time to eat dates for constipation?

Constipation is a common condition affecting people of all ages. It occurs when stool passes through the large intestine too slowly, becoming hard, dry and difficult to eliminate. Constipation has many possible causes, including poor diet, lack of exercise, various medications, dehydration and ignoring the urge to have a bowel movement. Fortunately, making dietary and lifestyle changes can often relieve constipation. One potential home remedy is consuming dates.

What are Dates?

Dates are the fruit of the date palm tree, which is grown commercially in many tropical regions of the world. Dates have been a staple food in the Middle East for thousands of years. There are several different varieties of dates, ranging in color from bright red to bright yellow. Medjool and Deglet Noor dates are among the most popular varieties. Nutritionally, dates are high in fiber, potassium, magnesium, copper, manganese and various antioxidants. About 66-75% of a date’s weight comes from carbs, mostly in the form of sugars like fructose and glucose. Fiber makes up about 6.7–11.5% of dates. Additionally, dates contain small amounts of protein and healthy fats. Given their sweet taste, high nutrient content and easy portability, dates are a convenient, healthy fruit that can be enjoyed as a snack.

Why Do Dates Help With Constipation?

There are a few reasons why eating dates may relieve constipation:

  • Fiber content – Dates contain soluble fiber that helps form stool and promotes regularity.
  • Sorbitol – Dates contain the natural sugar alcohol sorbitol, which has a laxative effect.
  • Fluid content – The high fluid content in dates helps soften stool.

Let’s explore these factors in more detail:

Fiber Content

A single date contains about 1.6 grams of fiber, which equates to roughly 6% of the daily fiber recommendation for adults. About 70-80% of the fiber in dates comes from insoluble fiber, while 20-30% comes from soluble fiber. Soluble fiber absorbs water in the intestines to form a gel-like substance. It helps regulate bowel movements and prevent constipation by softening and adding bulk to stool, allowing it to move smoothly through the intestines. Even insoluble fiber can contribute to reducing constipation because its roughage helps stimulate contractions to move stool along.


Dates contain the natural sugar alcohol sorbitol, albeit in small amounts. Sorbitol pulls water into the large intestine, which helps keep stool soft and promotes bowel movements. Studies have found sorbitol to have a laxative effect and be useful for managing constipation.

Fluid Content

Dates are comprised of about 75-80% water. This high fluid content helps hydrate the intestines and colon, further softening stool. Dehydration is a common cause of constipation, so improving hydration through foods like dates can help get things moving again.

When is the Best Time to Eat Dates?

The optimal time to eat dates for constipation relief depends on each individual’s bowel habits and daily routine. Here are some general guidelines on when to consume dates to ease constipation:

  • Morning – Eating a few dates first thing in the morning can help stimulate bowel movements later in the day. Try adding dates into breakfast foods like oatmeal.
  • Evening – For some people, eating dates in the evening helps promote bowel movements the next morning. This works well if you have a regular morning bathroom routine.
  • Before bed – Snacking on dates right before bedtime allows time for the fiber, sorbitol and fluids to reach the colon overnight and take effect in the morning.
  • Between meals – Eating dates as a snack between meals, especially between lunch and dinner, may regulate digestion and prevent constipation.

Pay attention to when your body typically has bowel movements and aim to consume some dates leading up to that time of day. Keep in mind that it takes 4-12 hours for foods to move through the colon, so the beneficial effects of dates may not be felt until the next day.

How Many Dates Should You Eat for Constipation?

There is no set number of dates that will definitely alleviate constipation. The amount needed depends on the individual and severity of the constipation. Some general guidelines for how many dates to eat for constipation relief include:

  • 3-4 dates – Eating 3-4 dates once or twice a day, such as morning and night, may be enough for mild constipation.
  • 5-7 dates – For more stubborn constipation, aim for 5-7 dates one to two times per day.
  • 8-12 dates – Severe constipation may require 8-12 dates per day, split into smaller portions throughout the day.

Keep in mind that excessive consumption of dates can cause diarrhea, so stick with a moderate amount. It’s best to introduce dates slowly and adjust your intake based on results. Also aim to drink plenty of fluids when eating dates to enhance their constipation-relieving effects.

What’s the Best Way to Eat Dates for Constipation?

Dates can be eaten and enjoyed in many different ways. Here are some preparation tips to get the most constipation relief from dates:

  • Raw, whole dates – Eat pitted dates raw and whole for the most concentrated source of fiber, sorbitol and fluids.
  • Date paste – Pit and simmer dates in a small amount of water to make a paste. The sorbitol concentration increases as the dates break down.
  • Chopped dates – Chopping dates into small pieces makes it easier to eat larger portions. Sprinkle over oatmeal, yogurt or salads.
  • Blended dates – Blend dates with a little liquid into smoothies or baked goods like muffins or breads.
  • Soaked dates – Soak dates overnight in water to soften them before eating.

For best results, aim to eat the skins/flesh of the dates in addition to the syrupy flesh inside. The skins provide extra fiber. If dates are overly dry or tough, try soaking them first. Adding dates to dishes like oatmeal, trail mix and salads can aid in constipation relief while also providing a flavor boost.

Other Tips for Eating Dates to Relieve Constipation

Here are some other tips for maximizing the constipation benefits when eating dates:

  • Drink plenty of water – Stay well hydrated after eating dates to enhance the effects.
  • Increase your fiber gradually – Suddenly increasing fiber intake can backfire and cause gas or bloating. Slowly work up to higher amounts.
  • Choose pitted dates – The pits are a choking hazard for some. Pitted varieties are easier to eat.
  • Avoid sweetened dates – Dates dusted with sugars or syrups won’t provide the same benefits. Opt for plain.
  • Eat mindfully – Savor the taste and stick to the recommended portions. Don’t overdo it.
  • Combine with exercise – Light physical activity helps get things moving as well.

Potential Side Effects of Eating Too Many Dates

Dates are considered safe for most people when eaten in moderation. However, there are a few potential side effects to be aware of if you eat too many dates:

  • Diarrhea – Excessive fiber and sorbitol from too many dates may lead to loose stools or diarrhea.
  • Blood sugar spikes – The carbohydrates in dates may cause blood sugar spikes in diabetics.
  • Weight gain – Dates are calorically dense, so overeating leads to extra calories and potential weight gain.
  • Tooth decay – The sugars in dates may promote cavities if proper oral hygiene is not practiced.
  • Allergic reactions – Tree nuts are a common allergen and may be processed alongside dates. Allergy is rare but possible.

To avoid these effects, stick to the recommended portions of 3-12 dates per day max, drink sufficient water and maintain proper dental hygiene. People with diabetes should monitor their blood sugar carefully when adding dates to their diet.

Is Eating Dates Enough for Constipation?

While dates can certainly help ease constipation, they may not be enough to fully resolve chronic constipation on their own. The causes of constipation vary, and underlying medical issues may need to be addressed. It’s important to also consider:

  • Increasing fiber from other foods – Fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts and seeds are great options.
  • Staying hydrated – Aim for the recommended minimum of 8 cups of fluids per day.
  • Getting regular exercise – Physical activity stimulates the bowels.
  • Establishing bathroom routines – Going at the same times trains the body over time.
  • Managing medications – Talk to your doctor about constipation as a medication side effect.
  • Seeing a doctor – Rule out any underlying illness causing persistent constipation.

Dates can provide symptom relief for occasional constipation. But if the problem becomes chronic, work with your healthcare provider on a more comprehensive diet, lifestyle and treatment plan.


Incorporating a few dates into your daily diet can be an effective natural remedy to help relieve constipation. The fiber, sorbitol and high water content in dates work together to soften and add bulk to stool. Eating 3-12 dates per day, depending on the severity of your constipation, can promote more regular bowel movements. The optimal time to eat dates is in the evening or before bed to take effect the next morning. Dates are versatile and can be eaten whole, chopped, blended into smoothies or cooked into oatmeal and other dishes. While very safe in moderation, excessive consumption may lead to diarrhea or other adverse effects. For chronic constipation, be sure to address any underlying causes with your doctor as well.

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