Can Almond Milk Cause Constipation?
In recent years, many people have switched from cow’s milk to plant-based alternatives. Almond milk has become a favorite, especially among vegans and those with lactose intolerance. Even meat-eaters and dairy consumers are hopping on the bandwagon, choosing almond milk for its delicious flavor and many health benefits.
If you’re looking to switch from cow’s milk to almond milk, digestion may be a concern for you. Specifically, you may be wondering if there are any almond milk constipation links?
In most cases, there shouldn’t be. Yet despite the drink’s soaring popularity, not everyone tolerates it well. We’re going to go over everything you need to know about almond milk and constipation in today’s article. Keep reading to learn more.
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What Is Constipation?
What constitutes “regular” may look different from person to person, but the definition of constipation is having three or fewer bowel movements per week.
When you’re constipated, stools are typically dry and hard. You may have difficulty passing stool or the feeling that not everything has passed. Constipation is highly uncomfortable, and the culprit is usually changing diet or routine. (If you’ve ever become constipated on vacation, you’re not alone.) Mostly, it happens when you get an inadequate amount of fiber.
Constipation is one of the most common gastrointestinal complaints–and one that most people want to avoid. Certain foods may even make constipation worse, like gluten, alcohol, and red meat. But what about almond milk?
Does Almond Milk Cause Constipation?
It shouldn’t. Natural almond milk doesn’t cause constipation or make it worse. On the contrary; it contains fiber and magnesium, both of which are essential for regular bowel movements.
You might even be surprised to hear that almonds are a known laxative. It would then stand to reason that drinking almond milk regularly would increase the frequency of your bowel movements. However, the process of filtering almonds greatly reduces fiber and magnesium content. Don’t expect your morning cup to work miracles if you need to get things moving.
What you should know about almond milk is that consuming it can lead to certain gut problems in a small subset of the population. When these occur, the most frequent complaints are for:
- Gastric issues
The good news? These issues usually only occur with regular consumption of commercial almond milk. Manufacturers add lots of things to make these drinks seem more like cow’s milk, and not everyone tolerates them well. You can avoid any issues by drinking natural almond milk–in other words, by making your own at home. These recipes are simple and fun to make.
What in Almond Milk Causes Constipation?
Now let’s take a closer look at what in almond milk causes constipation. There are two main culprits: additives and the nuts themselves.
Additives are nothing new. Commercial brands add them to products to increase shelf life and improve flavor. When it comes to almond milk, manufacturers may add any number of things. Sugar, sugar substitutes, thickeners, and preservatives are all fair game. The problem is that they sacrifice better flavor for digestive issues that often lead to constipation.
One of the most problematic additives is carrageenan. Carrageenan comes from red algae and it’s used to thicken non-dairy plant-based alternatives. Though it’s generally considered to be harmless, it may trigger intestinal issues like gas, bloating, and–you guessed it–constipation. Carrageenan has also been linked to stomach ulcers.
Another issue is that cow’s milk is chock-full of calcium, whereas almond milk is not. To make up for the lack of naturally-occurring calcium in plant-based beverages, many manufacturers fortify their drinks with calcium carbonate. Seems harmless, right?
Unfortunately, not all manufacturers go for the good stuff. Instead, they opt for highly concentrated, cheap forms of calcium carbonate. Having too much can cause obstructions–and pretty nasty ones, like kidney stones. Constipation is another problem that can arise, so look for almond milk without calcium carbonate.
And of course, some kinds of almond milk contain lots of added sugar or sugar substitutes. By itself, the sugar in plant-based drinks is not usually enough to cause constipation. But it can indeed tip the scales if you’re also eating lots of sugary sweets or a lot of high-carb foods.
If you experience constipation from almond milk, a tree nut allergy may be to blame. These allergies are among the eight most common food allergies, affecting between 0.5 to 1% of the U.S. population. They include a wide range of nuts, like hazelnuts, pecans, walnuts, and almonds.
Individuals who are only somewhat intolerant may not have a full-on allergic reaction from eating almonds. Clues may be more subtle, like unexplained bloating, gas, and nausea–especially if you only drink almond milk occasionally. But more regular drinkers can find themselves with full-blown constipation.
Can You Avoid Constipation While Drinking Almond Milk?
If you’ve been more constipated since introducing almond milk to your diet, you may be wondering how to avoid this problem.
Thankfully, you can take steps to mitigate constipation if you love almond milk. The secret lies in eating a varied diet focusing specifically on fiber and magnesium. You may also want to try an almond milk alternative, which we’ll discuss in the next section.
If you want to stay regular, eating lots of high-fiber foods is essential. You can probably already name some examples–and chances are a few of these foods are already in your pantry. Things like lentils, chickpeas, oats, avocados, chia seeds, nuts, and apples are naturally full of fiber.
But how much fiber do we need? Women under fifty-one need roughly twenty-five grams daily, while men under fifty-one require about thirty-eight daily grams. Women fifty-two and over should aim for about twenty-one grams daily, and men of this age need about thirty grams daily.
Fiber gets all the attention when it comes to relieving constipation, but getting enough magnesium is also vital. Aside from keeping the organs functioning, this mineral also increases the amount of water in the intestines. And more water in the intestines means better bowel movements.
To keep yourself from becoming deficient, incorporate plenty of magnesium-rich foods into your diet. Many of the high-fiber foods listed above also have lots of magnesium, like chia seeds, avocados, and nuts. But don’t forget things like whole grains, certain fatty fish, leafy greens, and dark chocolate. These foods are also magnesium-rich–and pretty delicious!
Almond Milk Alternatives
What about almond milk alternatives? You might be wondering about them if you suspect you may be allergic to almonds. Or perhaps you just want to expand your plant-based non-dairy beverage horizons.
Whatever the reason, you can now find a seemingly endless amount of alternatives to cow’s milk. Here are some of the best almond milk alternatives.
Soy milk is probably the best choice if almond milk is upsetting your digestion. Although people prefer the flavor of almond milk to soy milk, the texture of soy milk is quite pleasant. You also get roughly the same amount of protein from soy milk as you do from cow’s milk.
Plus, soy milk consumption is beneficial in reducing constipation. One study demonstrated positive effects in children who switched from cow’s milk.
Coconut milk is made by scraping the inner white coconut meat and blending it with water. After churning, the mixture is then filtered through a series of strainers and what is left is the white coconut milk. It has a strong coconut flavor.
But coconut milk varies based on if you buy it by the carton or by the can. Whereas they both are strongly coconut-flavored, canned coconut milk is creamier than its carton counterpart.
Oat milk is another excellent almond-milk alternative. It’s got plenty of dietary fiber to help soften your stool and make bowel movements easier. If you’re actively suffering from constipation, you may want to make the switch.
Plus, people tend to like its flavor more than other non-dairy milk alternatives. Oat milk has a smoother, more neutral taste. It goes well in coffee, and it’s also relatively easy to make at home. So, you can save a little money if you combine a blender, water, and oats.
Finally, you may want to consider switching to rice milk. People with digestive issues tend to tolerate it well. And rice milk has plenty of nutritional benefits to speak of due to fortification. It contains lots of calcium, and it’s chock-full of vitamins A, B12, and D. It also has a ton of magnesium, which you already know is critical for staying regular.
If you want to switch from cow’s milk to plant-based beverages, don’t be afraid to give almond milk a try. Unless you have a nut sensitivity, almond milk constipation is unlikely. And if you make your own at home, you shouldn’t experience any gastrointestinal issues from common additives in commercial versions.