For folks dealing with constipation-prone gut issues like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and methane-dominant small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO), dairy-free milk substitutes like almond milk are popular alternative options. So lactose is now less of an issue, but a new frequently asked question has started to arise: does almond milk cause constipation?
Unfortunately there’s no simple “yes” or “no” answer (due to bio-individuality).
- In many cases, it’s unlikely that almond milk would be a stand-alone cause or trigger of constipation.
- On the other hand, it’s entirely possible that certain types of almond milk (specifically those fortified with synthetic calcium) can contribute to or worsen constipation, in some cases.
I’ll unpack and explain what’s really going on – and when/how almond milk may sometimes contribute to constipation – in this article.
Disclaimer: This article was written for general educational purposes, not to replace medical and nutritional advice from your doctor and registered dietitian. Make sure you’re consulting your treatment team to receive custom recommendations tailored to your individual needs.
Affiliate disclosure: This article contains affiliate links* (marked with a * symbol). As an Amazon Associate, I will make a small commission on qualifying purchases at no extra cost to you!
Table of Contents
How do I know if I’m constipated?
To be “constipated” means you aren’t moving your bowels frequently enough, and/or you aren’t eliminating enough waste relative to what you’re eating.
- For reference, we should be eliminating at least 6 to 12 inches per day.
In cases of constipation, stools may resemble a “Type 1” or “Type 2” on the Bristol Stool Chart,
Constipated stools can sometimes be long but thin in diameter which indicates some feces are getting impacted, or stuck to the walls of your intestines/colon.
(I know it’s gross, but more common than you might expect! Trust me – I hear about this stuff quite often as a gut health dietitian nutritionist in private practice.)
Stools may or may not also be strained, painful, and/or difficult to pass.
Constipation is also unfortunately often accompanied by symptoms such as gas/bloating.
A deeper look at almond milk’s ingredients
Commercial almond milks
In most cases, commercially-made almond milks on the market are made up of about ~98% water, fillers, and synthetic vitamin/mineral powders… and only ~1 to 2% almonds.
(Ingredients are typically listed in descending order from most to least concentrated. If you take a look at the ingredient list, you’ll notice almonds are typically listed towards the end of most commercially-made almond milk products)
Holistic/homemade almond milks
Holistic brands such as MALK almond milk, Elmhurst “milked nuts”, and of course homemade almond milk are usually made with almonds, water, salt, and sometimes a natural sweetener.
These specific variations of almond milk lack fillers and synthetic vitamin/mineral powders.
(MALK and Elmhurst milk alternatives are featured in my round-up of the best milks and milk substitutes for IBS sufferers, here.)
Now, water aside, let’s take a look at each remaining almond milk ingredient individually (starting with almonds) to see what could be causing so many almond milk enthusiasts to ask this question!
Almond milk ingredients and constipation: the breakdown
Do almonds cause constipation?
Eating large quantities of nuts (even low FODMAP nuts like almonds) have been said to be “binding,” anecdotally.
But there are actually no research studies saying that almonds cause constipation. In fact, almonds are said to be prebiotic and fiber-rich, which in most cases, benefit constipation by promoting microbial diversity in the gut. (1, 2)
Either way, it’s unlikely that almond-rich almond milks (like MALK, Elmhurst, and homemade variations) would contain enough almonds to induce constipation – especially the almonds are blended in water.
Now let’s move onto sugar, which is often found in sweetened variations of most commercially-made almond milk.
Sugar and constipation: sweetened almond milks
Refined sugar or table sugar (aka “sucrose”) is the most common sweetener used in the majority of sweetened milk substitutes on the market, to make them taste delicious.
(Did you know a glass of sweetened almond milk has the same amount of sugar as a candy bar? Cray!)
First and foremost, I don’t endorse table sugar as a “gut friendly” additive or sweetener by any means (more on IBS and sugar here).
And newer studies have correlated frequent consumption of sugary snacks with increased likelihood of constipation. (3)
But still, I don’t believe (and there isn’t any research suggesting or implying) that sugar in and of itself can induce constipation.
(I believe higher intake of sugary snacks is more of an indirect correlation, cause snacking on sugar snacks usually means less fiber intake from veggies, fruits, and whole grains.)
That said, let’s investigate synthetic calcium. Not all almond milks contain synthetic calcium – but most of the stuff you’ll see in grocery stores DO. (This is in efforts to help replace the calcium that people are missing when they opt out of drinking cow’s milk.)
Synthetic calcium: do calcium supplements cause constipation?
When it comes to synthetic calcium supplements and constipation, the research is mixed.
But most studies are pointing to YES – synthetic calcium can cause or worsen symptoms of constipation. For example:
- A 2019 study by the Medical journal of Australia concluded that “calcium supplements cause constipation, bloating, and kidney stones”. (4)
- A 2018 review mentioned that calcium supplements – especially carbonate – would be likely to cause adverse gastrointestinal symptoms (such as constipation), according to a 5-year, double-blind, placebo-controlled study. (5)
- Adverse events were also reported in a 2012 study on calcium supplementation, although they didn’t note the specific form(s) of calcium causing constipation. (6)
While the exact mechanism isn’t well understood, a newer study from 2022 uncovered that calcium carbonate alters the nervous system, inducing “motor dysfunction”. (7)
- This could potentially explain why calcium carbonate is being blamed for slower gut motility in the above studies.
The only exception was a 2016 study which concluded this was not the case among a cohort of healthy women who received calcium carbonate to calcium phosphate for 8 weeks. (8)
- This study is limited. We need more research studies with larger cohorts and for longer periods of time before drawing this type of conclusion about calcium supplements and constipation.
All in all, I believe it’s likely that calcium-fortified almond milk can trigger symptoms of constipation in some people, especially if you’re consuming it in larger quantities (i.e. by the glass, versus a splash in your coffee/tea).
If you’re unsure, consider switching to an almond milk without calcium and see if your constipation improves! (Learn more and check out my top picks below.)
Carrageenan-free almond milk without calcium carbonate
Most of the research studies point to calcium carbonate as the suspected culprit of constipation, but it’s possible this could be happening with other forms of synthetic calcium as well. There isn’t enough available research to confirm or deny this right now.
From a holistic standpoint, it’s also a good idea to avoid almond milks made with added sugar, gums, and carrageenan (a controversial seaweed-derived filler banned in other countries) from a general gut microbiome standpoint.
All of that said, below are my favorite almond milks on the market from a gut health standpoint. Try them out and let me know what you think!
MALK almond milk
- MALK almond milk* is made only with organic almonds, water, salt, and sometimes real maple syrup (if you’re getting the sweetened variation).
- It’s rich and creamy, as long as you shake it very well. You may need to strain some of the pulp with a sieve at some point.
- You can find this almond milk in the refrigerated section at Whole Foods, Sprouts, a natural food store, some mainstream supermarkets, or online.
Elmhurst “milked almonds”
- This very simple version of almond milk by Elmhurst* is made only with almonds and water.
- It goes great in coffee or in bowls of cereal. Just make sure to shake it very, very well first!
- Elmhurst nut milk products are shelf-stable until opened. They’re in the natural plant milk aisle of Sprouts, some natural food stores, or most other local supermarkets as well as online.
Mooala organic simple almond milk
- While other Mooala products do contain small amounts of calcium carbonate, Mooala’s “simple” almond milk* is made only with water, almonds, and a pinch of sea salt.
- I haven’t seen this particular almond milk in stores (yet), so you’d need to order it online.
Homemade almond milk
It’s nice and convenient to buy already-made almond milk.
But the good stuff is expensive, compared to the commercialized stuff! Not to mention who wants a nut milk cut mostly with water, fillers, and fortified calcium & other synthetic micronutrients (vitamins/minerals)? Not me!
The more economical way to enjoy almond milk sans constipation (if calcium was the culprit) is to DIY.
Here are some simple, tasty, calcium-free, carrageenan-free almond milk recipes worth checking out:
- Minimalist Baker’s homemade almond milk, sweetened with dates
- Detoxinista’s 2-ingredient almond milk (with nut milk bag)
- Downshiftology’s homemade almond milk (optional: sweetened with maple syrup)
Best non-dairy food sources of calcium
Okay, so you don’t drink milk (you’ve got a lactose intolerance and/or dairy sensitivity)… and now you can’t get calcium from fortified almond milk… now what?!
You’ve got options, my friend! Here are some of my favorite dairy-free, plant-based food sources of calcium:
- Dark leafy greens (spinach, kale, arugula, mustard greens, collards, Swiss chard, beet greens, etc.)
- Oat straw tea infusions
- Sesame tahini (64 milligrams of calcium per tablespoon according to the USDA)
- Almonds (over 200 milligrams of calcium per 100 gram of almonds according to a 2020 publication)
- Blackstrap molasses
- It tastes pretty bitter on its own. Try blending a tablespoon into your next smoothie!
Just don’t mix calcium-rich foods/herbs with iron-rich foods/herbs or supplements at the same time, since calcium and iron clash. (They compete for absorption into your body at the same sites in the gut!)
When almond milk doesn’t cause constipation: other factors to consider
It’s entirely possible that drinking almond milk has nothing to do with your constipation.
Make sure you’re working with a doctor and registered dietitian who can help you to assess your situation more clinically and holistically.
Know there are LOTS of reasons for constipation that have nothing to do with almond milk or calcium!
- Fiber intake (make sure you’re eating plenty of fiber from fruits, veggies, whole grains, legumes, and nuts/seeds!)
- Fluids (drink at least 8-10 glasses of water or other fluids daily)
- Movement (make sure you’re getting enough movement relative to what your body needs!)
- Stress (did you know stress can induce constipation by altering gut motility?)
- Eating disorders
- Other medical conditions
(If you’re curious, check out my list of 9 common root causes of constipation here.)
Constipation is complex! Unless you’ve isolated calcium carbonate as the exclusive culprit of your constipation, know there’s lots more that could be going on – and a lot you can do about it.
Make sure to check out the following related articles and resources:
- What Causes Constipation? (9 Root Causes to Consider)
- How to Drink Tea For Constipation Relief
- Smoothie Recipe for Constipation Relief
- The Best Milks and Milk Substitutes for IBS Sufferers
- The Best Sweeteners for IBS
- Sample Meal Plan for Constipation
- 7 Foods to Relieve Constipation, According to Experts
- Lactose Intolerance vs. Dairy Sensitivity – What’s the Difference?
The bottom line
So, does almond milk cause constipation? Not inherently.
While the research is sparse, it’s entirely possible that fortified calcium in commercial almond milks could be triggering isolated symptoms of constipation.
Are you consuming calcium-fortified almond milk in large quantities, on-the-reg?
If you’ve ruled out this possibility by opting for a simple almond milk made without any added calcium, sweeteners or fillers, it’s time to consult your doctor and a registered dietitian so you can figure out the root cause!
If you found this helpful and would like to stay in touch, I invite you to join us in my private Facebook community: Whole-istic Living for Better Gut Health with Jenna Volpe!
Here, you can post general questions about nutrition and gut health, share wins/holistic food finds, and connect with other like-minded folks on holistic gut-healing journeys.
Hope to see you there! XO – Jenna