Foods play important roles in different bodily functions, including metabolism and digestion. Fiber-rich foods such as pumpkin may help improve bowel movements, preventing gastrointestinal issues such as constipation.

Pumpkin is a plump, highly nutritious vegetable that people can consume in different forms.

Its leaves, seeds, and skin are also edible and contain nutrients such as fat, protein, carbohydrates, vitamins, and folate.

This vegetable has many health benefits. It is anti-inflammatory, promotes prostate health, and reduces the risk of developing chronic conditions.

This article discusses how pumpkin affects the digestive system and whether it can help with constipation and diarrhea.

A tray of roasted pumpkin, which may be good for constipation. -2Share on Pinterest
Lilechka75/Gettty Images

Pumpkin may help relieve constipation as it is rich in fiber, a type of nondigestible carbohydrate found in food.

Pumpkin contains soluble and insoluble fibers, which play significant roles in digestion:

  • Soluble fiber: This is soluble in water and gastrointestinal fluids and dissolves into a gel-like substance in the gastrointestinal tract. Soluble fiber slows down digestion and can help make a person fuller. It can help reduce LDL cholesterol — also known as “bad” cholesterol — and help regulate blood sugar levels.
  • Insoluble fiber: This is insoluble in water and does not dissolve in the gastrointestinal tract. It adds bulk to stools and pulls water into the digestive tract, helping food pass quickly through the intestines. This type of fiber can be beneficial for relieving constipation.

While most studies on pumpkin focus on its nutritional content, some include information on how it may affect digestion and bowel movements.

Nevertheless, several studies have shown that dietary fiber can help improve gut health and motility.

Since pumpkin contains soluble fiber, it can help loosen stool, preventing and relieving constipation.

The fibers in pumpkin are also prebiotics that helps the growth and balance of the typical gut microbiota. An imbalance of the microorganisms in the gut may contribute to constipation, according to a 2019 study.

Fresh pumpkin

Fresh pumpkin contains fats, proteins, and carbohydrates, is low in calories, and rich in fiber.

A fresh pumpkin retains all its nutritional value — including fiber — and is beneficial for gut health.

Canned pumpkin

Canned pumpkin is convenient for preparing foods such as soups or pumpkin desserts all year round.

Canned pumpkin may also help relieve gastrointestinal issues such as constipation, as it also contains enough fiber and a low amount of sodium.

According to current guidelines, 1 cup of canned pumpkin contains about 7.1 grams (g) of dietary fiber.

However, before purchasing canned pumpkins, it is advisable to check their ingredient labels. For instance, fresh, canned pumpkin vs. a pumpkin pie mix can contain varying amounts of pumpkin and sodium.

While the body needs sodium to maintain a regular fluid balance, over time, a high amount of sodium can cause high blood pressure and gastrointestinal diseases.

Pumpkin seeds

With a low fat and high protein content, pumpkin seed is an important part of the pumpkin plant and may also help with constipation.

A 2022 study on the characterization and food application of different pumpkin parts revealed that pumpkin seed powder could substitute white flour to increase the nutritional quality and fiber content of biscuits.

The study also indicated that pumpkin seeds contain more protein, fat, and fiber than pumpkin flesh and peel.

While pumpkin is generally considered good for gut health and motility, it may be advisable to eat it in moderation.

This is because how the body digests food varies from person to person. For some people, eating too much fiber from pumpkin may worsen constipation rather than relieve it.

A 2017 study associated a high fiber diet that limits fluid intake with intestinal constipation. If a person is eating a lot of fiber, it may be best to increase their fluid intake by drinking plenty of water.

This can prevent or alleviate constipation.

How much dietary fiber should an individual have?

According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2020–2025, most healthy adults ages 19 years and older on a 2,000-calorie diet need between 28 to 31 g of fiber.

As pumpkin contains soluble and insoluble fiber, it may help with diarrhea.

Insoluble fiber can help slow down digestion, reducing frequent bowel movements.

A 2017 study indicated that both soluble and insoluble dietary fibers are important for regulating stool form and can help treat both constipation and diarrhea.

Here are some questions people often ask about the effect of pumpkins on gut motility.

How fast does pumpkin work for constipation?

How fast high fiber foods such as pumpkin will work for constipation depends on the digestive-absorptive process.

A 2020 study shows unabsorbed food residues — including fiber — start arriving in the large intestine about 100 minutes after ingestion.

In the colon, the insoluble fiber from the meal adds bulk to the stool and pulls in water into the digestive tract, making it easier to have a bowel movement.

It is also important to drink enough water to aid digestion.

How much pumpkin can I eat for constipation?

There is no standard amount of pumpkin a person should eat for constipation.

Most adults ages 19 years and above need between 28 and 31 g of fiber daily as part of a 2,000-calorie diet.

However, if a person has constipation, it is best to speak with a doctor to properly diagnose and treat the cause.

Pumpkin is highly nutritious and has many health benefits, including regulating blood sugar and reducing the risk of chronic conditions such as heart issues.

Pumpkin is rich in fiber and contains prebiotics, which can help improve digestive system health and bowel movement. It may help relieve constipation and diarrhea in some people.

However, if constipation or diarrhea persists, a person should consult a doctor.