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Is Kiwi Fruit Good for IBS Patients?

Both anecdotal evidence and scientific research suggest that kiwi fruit can relieve constipation in otherwise healthy people. Intrigued by these observations, a group of Taiwanese researchers wanted to explore whether regular consumption of kiwi fruit would also offer benefits for people with irritable bowel syndrome.

Irritable bowel syndrome, or IBS for short, is a common functional disorder of the gastrointestinal system. It is characterized by abdominal discomfort or pain and changes in the pattern of bowel movements without any evidence of damage due to a disease [1]. The discomfort or pain can be accompanied by frequent bouts of constipation or diarrhea, or alternating diarrhea and constipation. If constipation is the most common symptom along with abdominal pain or discomfort, then the disorder is called constipation-predominant IBS, or IBS-C.

Published in the December 2010 edition of the Asia Pacific Journal of Clinical Nutrition, the Taiwanese study examined the effects of kiwifruit intervention in patients diagnosed with IBS-C. The study involved 54 people with IBS-C and 16 healthy people, and it consisted of three phases: a one-week baseline phase, a four-week dietary intervention period, and a one-week post-intervention phase. Forty-one IBS-C patients and all healthy adults ate two regular green kiwis (Actinidia deliciosa var Hayward) daily during the intervention period, while the remaining thirteen IBS-C patients took placebo capsules.

All study participants were asked to complete daily defecation records. In addition, colon transit time, or the time it takes for ingested food to travel through the colon, was measured immediately prior to and following the intervention period.

Kiwi Fruit

After the four-week intervention period, the frequency of bowel movements as well as colon transit time increased significantly in the IBS-C group of participants who consumed kiwifruit. The researchers concluded that kiwifruit consumption for four weeks appears to improve bowel function in adults with constipation-predominant IBS. [2]

So, what it is that makes kiwi fruit help keep IBS-C patients and other people regular? At the moment, scientists are not sure. They believe the fiber profile of kiwi fruit might have something to do with its constipation-relieving effects, but they think a number of other substances found in kiwi fruit are likely to play role as well [2, 3].

Actinidin, in particular, has received a lot of attention in this context. Also spelled actinidain, actinidin is an enzyme that naturally occurs in kiwi fruit and a few other fruits. It is classified as a proteolytic enzyme, which means it breaks down proteins into amino acids. It is important to be aware that not only has actinidin been researched for its health benefits, it has also been researched for its allergenic potential. Kiwi fruit is considered a significant food allergen, and actinidin has been identified as the major allergen in kiwi fruit [4, 5]. Given the allergenicity of kiwi fruit, it may not be a suitable for all IBS patients.

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