Almond milk is a popular and healthy alternative to dairy milk. Almond milk is made by grinding almonds and water together in a blender and then straining out the solids, leaving a tasty liquid behind. Almond milk is low in cholesterol and rich in proteins, vitamins, calcium and other vital minerals. What’s not to love?
Well, almond milk can have some unpleasant side effects, so it’s a good idea to know what they are before indulging in this creamy dairy alternative. Some of the side effects only apply to commercial milks sold in stores while other side effects are due to the composition of the almonds themselves.
This list that I’ve put together takes some of the healthy sheen off this dairy milk alternative, but as I always say it’s better to be safe than sorry.
Here we go…
1. Allergic Reaction If You’re Allergic To Nuts
Well, this side effect is pretty obvious, but there are some people who aren’t too clever when it comes to identifying the source of their food products. So I’m going to err on the side of caution and spell this out, just in case.
Almonds are NUTS. Those things that grow on trees and cause problems for people who are allergic to NUTS.
Okay then. I’m sorry to insult the intelligence of 99% of the readers of this article. I know that you’re all smart cookies, but for the benefit of the blissfully ignorant 1%, I had to point out the painfully obvious.
Nut allergies can be life threatening, so please don’t drink almond milk if that applies to you.
2. Almond Milk Can Have A Negative Effect On Your Thyroid Gland
Almonds are a goitrogenic food, which means that they contain substances that can negatively affect the function of your thyroid gland. Almonds can affect the steady stream of iodine that your thyroid needs to operate efficiently. Your thyroid gland is responsible for telling every cell in your body how much energy to use.
When you replace your dairy milk consumption with almond milk you are adding an awful lot of almonds to your diet. Lot’s of plant based foods can have an adverse effect on your thyroid gland but a heavy consumption of almond milk could tip the balance.
3. If You Are Lactose Intolerant Almond Milk Can Also Cause You Problems
Plant based milks seem like the perfect solution to an intolerance for lactose (milk sugar). And often they cause no problems. But sometimes they can have horrendous side effects for the lactose intolerant. For one woman the symptoms were so severe that her doctor thought that she could have Ovarian cancer.
For some of those who are lactose intolerant, the problem may not actually be a true allergy, but rather a nerve sensitivity. That’s the informed opinion of Dr. Kevin Ghassemi, a gastroenterologist in the division of digestive diseases at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA.
“I do see patients who can’t tolerate milk substitutes, I don’t think those people generally have an allergy, but more of a nerve sensitivity. Something in those substitutes is causing the nerves going to the bowels to be irritated.”
Ghassemi goes onto say that the improvements that lactose intolerant people experience when they switch to milk substitutes could initially be due to a placebo effect. Or that it could just take time for the body to become sensitized to the protein in the milk substitutes.
Incidentally the placebo effect is very real and it’s quite a problem for pharmaceutical companies, because a lot of the drugs that they have spent hundreds of millions of dollars developing perform no better than a sugar pill. People taking the sugar pills experience healing effects that can’t possibly be attributed to sugar. And those healing effects make the drugs look weak. Our minds are extraordinary things!
4. Almond Milk Can Cause Skin Outbreaks
Consuming almond milk, natural or commercially processed, can lead to skin reactions like itching, eczema and hives. These reactions commonly appear within 10 minutes to 1 hour of consuming almond milk, and can usually be alleviated with Benadryl, unlike the more severe reactions associated with Nut allergy.
5. Almond Milk Can Cause Digestive Issues
Many people who suffer from Crohn’s disease have found that drinking almond milk causes a painful flare up in their symptoms.
Additionally the thickener used in many brands of almond milk is linked to ulcers and other digestive distress.
6. Almond Milk Can Lead To Breathing Difficulties
In people with existing breathing problems like asthma, and those who suffer from allergies, the proteins in almond milk can trigger reactions that cause wheezing and difficulty breathing.
7. Drinking Almond Milk Can lead To A Calcium Deficiency
The majority of calcium in the standard American diet comes from milk and other dairy products. Few people today are calcium deficient because dairy foods are popular and inexpensive, but if you switch away from dairy because of a lifestyle choice or a health need, then you could find that you aren’t getting an optimum intake of calcium.
The most obvious problem with a calcium deficiency is a decline in the health of your bones and your teeth, but calcium also plays a vital role in maintaining stable blood pressure, giving the blood the ability to clot, communication between cells and normal brain function.
While calcium is available in a wide variety of plant foots, you need to make sure that you eat plenty to come close to the amount of calcium is just one glass of milk.
Adult males and females both need 1000 mg a day for good health and in older women that need rises to 1200 mg.
A 200ml serving of dairy milk provides 240 mg of calcium, which is almost one quarter of your daily needs. But the same amount of almond milk only contributes 90 mg.
The best source of non dairy calcium for the lactose intolerant is sardines, which provide 382 mg in a 100g serving.
For those following a vegan diet the best plant source of calcium is actually cress, with 120 g providing 188mg.
8. Commercially Produced Almond Milk Contains A Harmful Thickener
In order to get a nice creamy consistency for their product, manufacturers thicken almond milk with something called Carrageenan. Carrageenan comes from seaweed, and when it’s in its food form it is perfectly harmless. However, when carrageenan is isolated and added to other products, it has a controversial reputation where safety is concerned.
A petition was presented to the FDA in 2008 to ban carrageenan from food products, but the FDA denied the petition and carrageenan is still in the generally recognized as safe category. However the research study that the FDA relied on to form that opinion, was funded by the manufacturers of carrageenan.
Other studies have found that carrageenan can cause damage to the cells in the digestive tract, ulcers and tumors.
Carrageenan may also cause low levels of chronic internal inflammation, and such inflammation is linked to disorders such as diabetes, atherosclerosis and arthritis.
If you’re worried about carrageenan check your food labels. Some almond milk manufacturers have altered their formulas in light of these concerns, while others still use it because it has the FDA seal of approval.
Carrageenan isn’t only found in almond milk either, it’s used in other non dairy milks like coconut milk and soy milk as well as many processed foods.
9. Almond Milk Can Make Migraine Headaches Worse
Almonds and almond milk products are rich sources of tyrosine. Tyrosine is a non-essential amino acid and is vital for overall health. Non essential means that it’s one of the amino acids that our bodies can manufacture from other substances. However, too much tyrosine in the diet is linked to chronic migraine. Almonds aren’t the only source of dietary tyrosine, with chicken, turkey, fish, milk, yogurt, cottage cheese, cheese, peanuts, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, soy products, lima beans, avocados, and bananas all providing small amounts.
10. Almond Milk Can Aggravate Irritable Bowel Syndrome
The proteins in almond milk can trigger symptoms in susceptible people. If you already suffer with irritable bowel syndrome, almond milk might not be a good choice for you.
11. Almond Milk Can Trigger Cold Like Symptoms
While dairy milk is well known to trigger thick mucus production and breathing difficulties is some people, almond milk can have the same effect. If you seem to have a cold and have been drinking almond milk, it might not be a real cold. Additionally, drinking almond milk could make the symptoms of a true cold much worse, so if you have a cold it might be wise to lay off almond milk until you are better.
12. Synthetic Vitamin A In Commercial Almond Milk Brings A Wide Range Of Problems
The synthetic version of vitamin A is associated with birth defects and bone fractures. It is also a form of the vitamin that your body is unable to make use of. So while it looks like your almond milk is giving you some healthy vitamin A it really isn’t doing that at all.
Other known side effects of this synthetic form of vitamin A include tumor growth, joint problems, osteoporosis, dry mouth, eyes, and skin, enlargement of the liver and the spleen, irritability, drowsiness, fatigue, insomnia, abdominal pain, blurred vision, headache, hair loss, muscle pain with weakness, menstrual abnormalities, seizures, nausea, and immune suppression.
Consuming too much synthetic vitamin A can result in vitamin toxicity.
A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that “the acute and chronic effects of vitamin A toxicity are well documented in the literature. Emerging evidence suggests that sub toxicity without clinical signs of toxicity may be a growing concern, because intake from preformed sources of vitamin A often exceeds the recommended dietary allowances (RDA) for adults, especially in developed countries.
13. The Form Of Vitamin E Added To Almond Milk Increases the Risk Of Prostate Cancer
This isn’t the same vitamin E that you find in natural foods. The form of vitamin E that is used to fortify almond milk and other foods is derived from petroleum. And this form has been shown to increase the risk of prostate cancer.
Dr. Marc Garnick, an oncologist at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, a clinical professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, and the editor in chief of Harvard’s Annual Report on Prostate Diseases, warns all of his patients to completely avoid any dietary supplement containing vitamin E.
Studies have shown that when you consume natural vitamin E your body holds onto it and uses it, but when you take in synthetic vitamin E your body works hard to get rid of it.
A protein in your liver recognizes natural vitamin E, but synthetic vitamin E goes unrecognized and is excreted as quickly as possible.
The list of health problems related to synthetic vitamin E includes skin rashes, GI irritation, blurred vision, breast enlargement in males and females, diarrhea, dizziness, flu-like symptoms, headache, nausea, stomach cramps and weakness.
14. Commercial Milk Raises The Risk of Osteoporosis And Kidney Stones
Some almond milk is fortified with a synthetic form of calcium called calcium carbonate. It’s actually chalk. While calcium is necessary for health, it has to be taken in conjunction with magnesium. When calcium occurs naturally in foods that magnesium is usually present. In commercial almond milks it often isn’t. This means that instead of calcium finding its way to your bones, it is deposited in your soft tissues, where it causes problems.
15. The Vitamin D Added To Almond Milk Is Toxic
Natural vitamin D is made by your skin when it is exposed to sunlight. Because vitamin D is necessary to process calcium in your body it is added to many foods to promote healthy bones.
But, this fortification is done with a form of vitamin D called vitamin D2.
D2 is a problem for several reasons. Firstly it is very poorly utilized by your body. So you would need a lot of D2 to make up for the natural formed vitamin D from your skin. It’s also a lot less bioavailable than another better form of supplemental vitamin D, which is called vitamin D3.
The other problem with vitamin D2 is that it is a toxic substance.
Dr. Brian Clement states, in his book, Supplements Exposed, that one single dose of 50mg or greater is toxic for adults. You can see how this is a problem when you eat lots of processed foods that have been ‘fortified’ with vitamin D. This goes for cow’s milk too by the way. And a 50 mg toxic dose for adults translates to a much smaller toxic dose for children.
The immediate effects of vitamin D toxicity include abdominal cramps, nausea, vomiting, headache, muscle weakness and bone pain, but Dr Clement warns that, the toxicity can continue over time leading to “a buildup of irreversible deposits of calcium crystals in the soft tissues of the body that damage the heart, lung and kidneys”
When doctors prescribe vitamin D supplements, they prescribe the D2 form. And the prescription supplement Drisdol carries this warning:
“Dosage levels must be individualized and great care exercised to prevent serious toxic effects. In vitamin D resistant rickets the range between therapeutic and toxic doses is narrow.”
Another frightening study has been carried out on children who consume vitamin D2 and vitamin D3. In the study, blood levels of these vitamins were measured when the children were 9 years old and then again when the children were 12 years old. The children were also assessed for the presence of psychotic experiences like hearing voices and seeing things that weren’t there.
The researchers found that children with higher levels of D2 experienced more psychotic episodes over the following 3 years, while those consuming D3 experienced less.
These types of psychotic experiences are associated with a higher risk of developing schizophrenia later in life.
16. Your Natural Healthy Milk Could Be Full Of Sugar and Artificial Sweeteners
To make their products more palatable in order to appeal to the sugar loving taste buds of the American consumer, many manufacturers add sweeteners to their almond milk, and in the process turn something that is marketed as a health food into just the opposite.
Some manufacturers use sugar cane juice, while others use the very problematic high fructose corn syrup, which is implicated in a host of disease conditions and obesity. High fructose corn syrup should be avoided at all costs by anyone with an ounce of concern for their health.
Other brands use artificial sweeteners in their low calorie almond milks, and these brands may contain toxic sweeteners like aspartame, sucralose or acesulfame.
If you would like to learn more about the dangers of aspartame there is an excellent documentary about the topic called Sweet Misery, which you should be able to find on youtube.
17. Some Brands Of Almond Milk Are Mostly Water And Chemicals
Surprisingly some brands of almond milk contain very few almonds, with as little as 2% of the product weight coming from almonds. The rest of the product is water and the various chemicals that are added to simulate the flavor and texture of almond milk.
Obviously products like this aren’t a nutritious addition to your diet, and many of the artificial additives are harmful in one way or another.
So what’s the takeaway from all of this?
Homemade almond milk should be fine as long as you don’t have nut allergies or other food intolerances. You should be careful if you suffer from headaches, or have a low functioning thyroid because of the naturally occurring substances in almonds. Additionally you will need to ensure that you are getting adequate calcium intake from other foods in your diet.
The biggest problems come with commercial products. This is true for a wide range of processed foods. Manufacturers adulterate their foods with whatever they can get away with in order to make the biggest profits.
Undoubtedly there are some quality brands out there but you will have to read the labels carefully to be sure that you are buying something that is good for your health and not detrimental to it. And it would be wise to avoid any foods that have been fortified with synthetic vitamin A, D2 and E.