by Mila McManus, MD
Many people struggle with constipation or other gastrointestinal maladies. Scientific studies have shown that Kiwi Fruit, a long valued traditional Chinese medicine, has the ability to promote good digestion and to ease chronic constipation. Most medications for chronic constipation are not very successful and have traditionally helped fewer than half of the patients. They are also associated with cramping, bloating, and diarrhea. This makes more natural approaches appealing.
Kiwi is rich in antioxidants and high in fiber. A potent anti-inflammatory, studies show that daily consumption of kiwi fruit improves the softness and bulk of stools, thereby increasing the frequency and ease of bowel movements while reducing uncomfortable straining. Unlike laxatives, kiwi does not cause diarrhea. In one study published in Asia Pacific Journal of Clinical Nutrition, participants diagnosed with irritable bowel syndrome consumed two green kiwi fruit a day for four weeks. The participants experienced significant increases in frequency of bowel movements, less colon transit time, and improved bowel function. In another study, kiwi fruit reduced straining better than psyllium fiber!
Much of Kiwi’s therapeutic power comes from actinidin, an enzyme that helps to promote digestive motility. Kiwi also contains pectin, which adds bulk to the stool and helps to treat both diarrhea and constipation. Actinidin and pectin are both prebiotics, providing food for your friendly gut bacteria that are essential for good gut and immune functions. Researchers compared the effect of kiwi fruit pectin to other commercial prebiotics and found that kiwi was the most effective in reducing the intestinal adhesion (aka stickiness) of disease-causing Salmonella bacteria. Furthermore, kiwi increases the stickiness of good, favorable gut bacteria found in probiotics.
Kiwi is also an excellent source of Vitamin C, E, and potassium, and has 2.1 grams of fiber for an average sized fruit. They contain antioxidant citric and gallic acids as well as vision-boosting carotenoids such as lutein. Kiwi is also rich in glutathione, the body’s most powerful antioxidant that prevents oxidative damage to cells, and recycles vitamins C and E in the body. One kiwi a day has also been shown to lower the risk of stroke, blood clots, and heart disease.
A word of caution: For individuals who are allergic to pollen, rye, avocado, or bananas, you may also find that you react to kiwi fruit. Additionally, those who are prone to kidney stones may want to limit it since they are moderately high in oxalates.
 Chang, Chun-Choa et al.”Kiwi fruit improves bowel function in patients with irritable bowel syndrome with constipation.” Asia Pacific Journal of Clinical Nutrition 2010; 19(4):451-7.
 Bayer, Simone B, et al. Two gold kiwi fruit daily for effective treatment of constipation in adults – a randomized clinical trial. Nutrients 2022; 14(4146). https://doi.org/10.3390/nu14194146