Have you been feeling confused about what foods you should avoid or add to your diet to help your constipation?
Maybe you’ve switched from cow’s milk to a plant-based milk, like almond milk. Have you wondered whether this is helping or hurting your constipation?
There is so much information out there around what could help with constipation struggles.
In this article, we will explore the relationship between almond milk and constipation, its nutritional benefits, and whether you should include this fluid in your daily diet practices.
We will also dive into other foods that can contribute to constipation and some natural ways to relieve constipation.
Let’s get going!
Almond Milk's Rise in Popularity
This creamy and slightly nutty flavor has attracted more and more popularity as the years have gone on.
Currently, 12% of consumers keep a non-dairy milk in their house which is a comparable number to the amount that utilizes 1% cow’s milk. One in three consumers drink non-dairy milk weekly. (3)
The popularity of almond milk is projected to continue to grow. This growth is based on the health benefits of almond milk, and the ease of obtaining raw materials to produce the milk. (4)
The Controversy Surrounding Almond Milk
While almond milk is loved by many, it also comes with some concern around constipation. Let’s take a closer look at constipation and its contributing factors.
What is Constipation?
Constipation is a fairly common problem in the United States. Many refer to constipation as a symptom, rather than a disease itself.
It is defined as having less than 3 bowel movements a week. Several other symptoms can occur with constipation.
Factors That Contribute To Constipation
There are so many things that can contribute to constipation including: medical conditions, medications, poor diet, dehydration, lack of exercise, and even stress.
Why is Constipation a Problem?
Ask anyone who has suffered with constipation, and they will tell you- it's just not comfortable. Many people experience extreme pain due to hard stool.
Constipation can become a big problem and lead to other medical complications including:
Hemorrhoids- swollen veins located in and around your rear end,
Anal fissures- a tear in your anal canal,
Fecal impaction- large, hard stool stuck in your rectum,
Rectal prolapse- when part of your large intestine slips into the anus (5).
Your Diet and Constipation
If you currently struggle with constipation or have chronic constipation, working with your medical provider is vital to make sure all issues are being addressed.
However, if you are not currently suffering from a case of constipation, there are easy and simple changes you can make to your diet to help keep your bowels regular.
From adding fiber to your diet, drinking enough water, these small things add up to big results. Take a look at our 5 ways to prevent constipation on a previous blog post.
Cooking food at home can make a huge difference to your health. Each month here at Idaho Nutrition we send out monthly meal plans to make it easier to create healthy meals.
Join our Meals in Minutes email list to get new meal plans in your inbox each month!
Food Sources That Contribute to Constipation
There are several types of foods that can contribute to constipation. These include:
Fatty Foods- fried foods, sweets, fast food,
Processed Foods- chips, crackers, cereals, white breads,
Gluten- bread, pasta, cereal, etc.,
Dairy- not only milk, but cheese, yogurt, and ice cream,
Coffee and Alcohol- can cause you to more easily become dehydrated, not allowing stool to pass through your intestines.
Take inventory of your diet to see where these specific items can be avoided. This could be a great place to start reducing your constipation.
Almond Milk: A Nutritional Overview
Before we discuss whether almond milk is a cause or cure for constipation, let’s talk about its nutritional profile.
What is Almond Milk?
Almond milk is made from crushing or blending almonds and then straining the liquid out from the pulp. Almond milk is easily found at the grocery store and usually fortified with vitamins and minerals. You can also make almond milk at home.
Nutritional Composition of Almond Milk
Almond milk contains several benefits nutritionally in comparison to animal or other plant milk varieties. The unsweetened varieties are fairly low in calories and in fortified versions of almond milk, it is a great source of calcium and vitamins A, D, and E.
Nutrition facts in 1 cup of unsweetened almond milk:
Total Fat: 3.5g
Saturated & Trans Fat: 0g
Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g
Monounsaturated fat: 2.5g
Total Carb: 1g
Dietary Fiber: 1g
Total sugars: 0g
Calcium: 35% of the daily value (DV)
Vitamin D: 10% of the DV
Vitamin A: 15% of the DV
Vitamin E: 30% of the DV
When almond milk is sweetened with flavors, the sugar content increases in these versions. All almond milk is also low in protein.
If you’re making almond milk at home, it is important to know that the fortified vitamins and minerals will not be present. So don’t count on homemade almond milk to help you reach vitamin D or calcium goals for the day.
Health Benefits Associated with Almond Milk Consumption
Almond milk contains several positive nutritional components that are beneficial for our health. These include:
Vitamin E which helps protect our cells from being damaged,
Low in calories and fat. This could be good if you need to lose weight but is not beneficial for infants under 1 year old,
Fortified versions have more calcium and vitamin D which helps to increase bone health,
Vitamin A which aids in immune health, eye health, and cell growth and reproduction.
Popular Uses of Almond Milk
Almond milk can be used as a replacement anywhere you use cow’s milk or any other milk alternative. Some ideas include:
In your coffee
With your cereal
Who Should Drink Almond Milk?
Some people who utilize specific diets because of health conditions or allergies may benefit from almond milk, for example:
People trying to lose weight- due to almond milk’s low calories,
People with diabetes- due to almond milk’s low sugar and carbohydrate content,
People with kidney disease- due to almond milk’s low phosphorus and potassium content (both are hard to process when the kidneys aren’t functioning correctly),
People with lactose intolerance- due to almond milk not containing lactose.
The Almond Milk Debate
Now let’s get into both sides of this discussion on whether almond milk causes or helps to relieve constipation.
Does Almond Milk Cause Constipation?
There is literature that suggests a link between cow’s milk protein and chronic constipation in people (6). Perhaps this is why we ask the question of whether almond milk could cause the same results.
However, there hasn’t been any evidence-based research that has shown that almond milk causes constipation.
If you have experienced constipation and you feel almond milk may be the cause, it could be due to calcium carbonate or the preservatives in commercial almond milk. Too much calcium carbonate is a known cause of constipation. (7)
Almond milk is also low in fiber. So, it is not helping to prevent further constipation with its lack of fiber content. Consuming too many food and beverage items with little fiber is known to contribute to constipation.
Can Almond Milk Relieve Constipation?
A crossover dietary trial study conducted research on whether cow's milk or soy milk would resolve children’s constipation.
When the children received soy milk instead of cow’s milk, 68% of them had their constipation resolved. However, none of the children on the cow's milk had resolution of their constipation (8).
This might suggest that plant milk could aid in decreasing constipation. But this study just looked at soy milk, not almond milk. More research needs to be done on the effects of almond milk on relieving constipation.
Almond does contain magnesium, which is a natural bowel regulator. Adding this to a diet that does not usually consume any milk products may help to increase bowel movements.
Should You Drink or Avoid Almond Milk?
If you suffer from constipation, almond milk may be worth considering adding to your diet in place of cow’s milk.
While the low fiber content of almond milk will not help to prevent constipation, the fluid intake of almond milk may help to add to hydration in general. As well as other potential bowel benefits like magnesium.
As with any food item, too much is usually not a good thing.
Drinking almond milk moderately, no more than 2-3 cups per day, in addition to consuming a healthy fiber-rich diet is usually tolerated without any constipation.
A fiber-rich diet includes a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables, protein-rich foods like meat or fish, and whole grains.
Almond milk has been a topic of debate as to whether it can help to resolve constipation or whether it contributes to constipation.
Constipation is a big concern for many people with various symptoms and potential for further medical complications.
Many factors contribute to constipation occurring. What you eat is one area that can play a big role in causing or alleviating constipation.
Almond milk has been found to have several positive nutritional components like low calories and relatively high calcium and vitamin D content (in commercially fortified varieties).
Despite the nutritional aspects, there has been little research evidence that almond milk either causes or relieves constipation.
If you’re suffering from constipation and drink cow's milk, there may be a benefit to switching to almond milk or another plant-based milk.
As with any food item, use moderation and variety as a rule of thumb. Incorporating almond milk into a diet that is full of fresh fruits and vegetables, lean meats, and whole grains is the best way to gain optimal health benefits.
There are many options to use natural remedies or foods to help to alleviate or prevent constipation.
Working with our dietitians at Idaho Nutrition is the best way to get comprehensive care and support you through your constipation or other gut concerns. Contact us today to meet with a dietitian!