Would You Eat A Whole Orange (Rind & All) To Alleviate Constipation?
Whether you've been traveling recently, haven't been eating healthfully as you're used to, are suffering from hormonal fluctuations, or it simply hits you at random, we've all experienced constipation—and it ain't fun. Whether it's causing you physical discomfort, bloating, or worse (holy hemorrhoids!), when you can't go to the bathroom, it's a problem you want to remedy as quickly as possible.
So when influencer Bethany Ugarte—better known to her 317,000 Instagram followers as @lilsipper—posted her go-to constipation remedy, the internet's reaction was as swift as a sufferer's digestive tract was not. Ugarte's solution was shockingly simple and involved just three ingredients: "Slice an orange and generously coat with cayenne pepper and cinnamon," she wrote in the post's caption. "Eat the entire thing (rind and all—the skin contains essential oils that facilitate). Be sure to wash the outside prior to slicing. Organic oranges are preferred."
According to Ugarte, "It's been something I've done forever. If I had to even guess where I heard it from, it would have to be my holistic doctor many years ago." She's quick to point out the science behind the snack, though. "Oranges contain naringenin, a flavonoid shown to help with constipation in general1, and studies show2 (in rats at the moment) that naringenin can also have a laxative effect. 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!"
There are actually even more reasons the remedy might work, according to registered dietitian and mbg Collective member Jessica Cording: "Which specific foods help alleviate constipation can vary widely from person to person, but generally speaking, having enough fiber (current recommendations are 25 to 35 grams per day) and fluid in the diet helps build stool bulk and keep things moving through the GI tract," she says. "Oranges provide a good combination of fiber and water (exactly how much depends upon the type and size of the orange). Eating the skin seems a little excessive because you'll still get a lot of extra fiber from eating the white membranes in the orange. Regardless, washing it is important." Beyond that, she agrees that the studies about naringenin and constipation appear promising, and the spicy toppers already have proven therapeutic effects. "Cayenne and cinnamon have also been studied3 for their role in supporting healthy digestion," Cording says.
Since she posted her secret, Ugarte has received hundreds of "messages, direct messages, videos of people doing it in their own home, and even people reposting on their own IG stories and pages saying that it's worked like a charm."
Even the flavor combination, which might seem strange at first, isn't actually that out of left field. "It's actually quite common to add spice to fruit in other parts of the world. In South America, I know it's common to sprinkle avocado with sugar—so always have an open mind!" says Ugarte (in Morocco, oranges with cinnamon are actually a common treat).
The bottom line? "If someone saw this on social media and wanted to try it, as long as they were washing the orange skin well, I wouldn't tell them not to," says Cording. She does urge people to look into the reason for their constipation rather than simply seeking a remedy for it. "It would be valuable to address the underlying causes of that person's constipation, especially if it's a regularly occurring issue," she says.
Liz Moody is an author, blogger and recipe developer living in Brooklyn, New York. She graduated with a creative writing and psychology degree from The University of California, Berkeley. Moody has written two cookbooks: Healthier Together: Recipes for Two—Nourish Your Body, Nourish Your Relationships and Glow Pops: Super-Easy Superfood Recipes to Help You Look and Feel Your Best. She also hosts the Healthier Together Podcast, where she chats with notable chefs, nutritionists, and best-selling authors about their paths to success. Her work has been featured in Vogue, Glamour, Food & Wine & Women’s Health.