- TikTok users are warning people that eating too many cherries can cause gastrointestinal issues.
- Though cherries do contain fiber, it's more likely that their sugar alcohols are giving people diarrhea.
- To avoid stomach issues, stick to eating a single serving or two of cherries in one sitting.
It’s peak cherry season in the U.S., and TikTok users are here with a warning: The fruit could give you diarrhea.
TikTok is packed with posts from people discussing how having too many cherries could lead to gastrointestinal issues. “It’s cherry season, so it’s a good time to remind you that if you eat an entire bag of cherries, you will likely have diarrhea, stomach pains, be bloated, feel very uncomfortable,” registered dietitian Erin Judge said in one video. “So, spread them out.”
Fellow TikToker @bananacowgirl jokingly shared a video of herself dancing around her living room while eating cherries and spitting out the seeds, writing in the caption, “POV I eat the whole container and get diarrhea.”
TikTok isn’t always known for being a reliable source of health information, but posts like these may have you wondering: Can cherries actually make you poop more than usual? And if so, why?
Here’s what you need to know about your favorite stone fruit.
Cherries Can Have a Laxative Effect
It turns out there’s something to the TikTok claims. “Cherries contain sorbitol and xylitol, both of which are sugar alcohols,” Deborah Cohen, DCN, associate professor in the Department of Clinical and Preventive Nutritional Sciences at Rutgers University, told Health. “When consumed in large amounts, they can have a laxative effect.”
Sugar alcohols are a group of low-calorie, sweet-tasting compounds that occur naturally in some foods and are also commonly used in sugar-free products like gums, candies, and energy drinks.
Unlike regular sugar, the intestines don’t absorb sugar alcohols, Ilana Kersch, RD, a clinical nutritionist at NewYork-Presbyterian/Columbia University Medical Center, told Health. “Instead, [they draw] water into the gut, which can soften hard stool and increase the muscle contractions that move the stool along,” Kersch said.
Cherries also contain insoluble fiber, another element that can speed up stool movement through the gut, Kersch said. Insoluble fiber “is found in most kinds of fruit, and especially in the skin and peel,” she added.
However, the fiber in cherries “is not considered excessive,” Cohen said. (For reference, one cup of cherries has three grams of fiber, while raspberries have eight grams and oranges have four grams.)
The sugar alcohols are likely the primary reason why cherries can make you poop, stressed Cohen. However, she acknowledged that you’d need to eat an excessive amount of cherries to get to the point where you’d need to run to the bathroom. The exact amount varies by person, though, and includes factors like your personal sensitivity to sugar alcohols and whether you have any underlying gastrointestinal conditions like irritable bowel syndrome, she said.
In addition to their fiber and sugar alcohol content, cherries are also a source of salicylates, or a group of chemicals derived from salicylic acid.
Plants have natural salicylates as part of their defense system against pathogens or environmental stress, but synthetic salicylates are commonly found in medications like aspirin.
Some people can be sensitive to salicylates—known as salicylate intolerance or sensitivity—that can cause symptoms including asthma, rhinitis, nasal polyps, chronic gastrointestinal irritation, or urticaria after ingestion.
But cherries have some essential vitamins and minerals to humans as well, including vitamin C, potassium, and manganese.
Other Fruits That Can Make You Poop
Like cherries, many fruits contain fiber and sugar alcohols, both of which keep your bowels running smoothly.
Kersch said that fruits that have similar levels of sorbitol to cherries include:
Watermelon doesn’t contain sorbitol, but it does include mannitol, another sugar alcohol that acts like sorbitol in your gut, Kersch said.
Just like eating a typical serving of cherries won’t have you chained to the toilet, Kersch said chowing down on a reasonable amount of other fruits containing fiber and sugar alcohols probably won’t give you tummy troubles either. The same goes for vegetables such as mushrooms, cauliflower, and snow peas, which also contain mannitol.
Tips for Eating Cherries
If you’re constipated and eyeing cherries as a possible remedy, it’s worth a try—as long as you don’t overdo it.
In general, you can help constipation by ramping up consumption of dietary sources of sugar alcohols and fiber. According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, the average adult should aim to have about 28 grams of fiber a day for a 2,000-calorie diet.
Cohen suggested making fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds, and legumes a large part of your diet. She also recommended drinking a lot of water and limiting intake of dairy and meat, which contain little fiber and can be harder to digest.