Wouldn't it be awful if coconut milk caused diarrhea? Well the truth is that it can!
People often switch over to non-dairy milk alternatives to avoid feeling bloated, cramping, and having diarrhea. Of course there are other reasons, such as if you are a vegan. But if you are, or already have, switched over to coconut milk to avoid diarrhea, it might not be the greatest choice.
Coconut milk is actually considered by some as a high FODMAP product, which means that it has compounds likely to trigger irritable bowel syndrome.
Now you don't have to have irritable bowel syndrome to have diarrhea, but the fact that it is considered a product that might trigger such a problem definitely isn't a good sign.
Types of Coconut Milk
There are different variations of coconut milk, such as that of thick and thin.
Thick coconut milk is made by simply squeezing coconut pulp through a cheesecloth. The process is very simple and rudimentary, which natural health enthusiasts should be a fan of.
Thin coconut milk is made by taking the pulp that has already been squeezed, soaking it in water and then repeating the process.
The difference is that thick coconut milk has a lot more actual coconut milk it it. It is more concentrated and higher in nutrients while thin coconut milk is a more watered down version.
You will hear all sorts of terms being used on the market. "Lite" refers to a thin version of the milk, "whole fat" refers to a thick version, and so on.
One of the main reasons that some people opt for the thinner versions is because they are much lower in fat. Thick coconut milk can range from around a 20-22% fat content while thin ranges between 5-7% generally, with a thick cup of milk proving a whopping 57g of fat.
5 Reasons It Might Cause Diarrhea
#1. Fructose Digestion Problems
Fructose malabsorption is a condition, which many people don't even know they have, where fructose isn't easily absorbed by the body, which creates digestive issues. This has to do with how it is metabolized, which is completely different from glucose.
Even people without fructose malabsorption shouldn't eat more than 20-25g of this sugar per sitting.
And unfortunately you can't escape fructose in coconut milk. Even the unsweetened kinds still have a little.
#2. Guar Gum
Guar gum comes from guar beans and is known to cause GI problems in some people, including diarrhea. This is used in some coconut milk products.
It's not dangerous or anything to be concerned about, but some people do have problems digesting it, resulting in frequent trips to the toilet.
If you do think this could possibly be the problem you could always try out a different brand of milk that doesn't have this ingredient.
#3. High In Fat
As mentioned earlier, coconut milk is very high in fat. One cup of raw milk will provide you with about 57g, and of this about 50g is saturated fat (Source: SelfNutritionData).
Diets that are too high in fat are another common cause of diarrhea. This is why people who jump on the keto diet (high in fat) often experience it first-hand.
Fat that isn't absorbed properly goes into the colon and small intestine where it causes more water to be drawn in, resulting in loose and watery stool.
Diets that are too high in fat can also disrupt the healthy balance of bacteria living in your gut, which can lead to diarrhea and other issues.
This is probably something most people don't have to worry about, but if your diet is already extremely high in fats it could tip the scales a bit too much.
#4. Too Much Fiber?
One cup of raw coconut milk has about 5.3 g of dietary fiber, which is about 21% of the daily value you need if on a 2,000 calorie per day diet.
Dairy milk has no fiber at all, so if you substitute coconut milk in for dairy this might make your fiber intake a bit too much for your body to handle that way the rest of your diet is.
Too much fiber like this can cause too much water to be brought into the colon, resulting in watery stool.
Having a coconut allergy would be extremely rare. There have been very few cases ever reported so this probably is not the problem.
That said, an allergic reaction could cause symptoms such as upset stomach, bloating and diarrhea. If this is the case you would likely get irritated around the mouth as well and reactions would be noticeable almost instantly.
How To Be Sure Coconut Milk Is The Problem
If you are experiencing diarrhea and suspect coconut milk to be the culprit then the easiest way to go about determining whether or not it really is would be to do an elimination diet.
Basically what you will do here is take the foods/beverages out of your diet that you think might be causing problems, see if the problems go away, and then reintroduce the foods back into your diet one by one to pinpoint the cause. You can find more information about doing this the right way here.
If you find out that the milk is definitely the culprit then you may want to look at the ingredients and see if there are healthier alternatives. Are there any that are lower in sugars, fats, and don't have gum guar? Maybe give those a try.
A Good or Bad Alternative?
There are lots of different milk varieties out there. The whole vegan and animal-rights movement brought on a lot of this, which is a good thing. However, not all alternatives are equal and everything has at least some downsides.
Most people will more than likely be able to enjoy their daily glass of coconut milk without any problems, but there are always going to be those that aren't so lucky. This could be due to other areas of one's diet and the addition of coconut milk providing too much of certain nutrients, or it could be due to some problem like fructose malabsorption where your body just isn't performing up to par in some areas.
Overall coconut milk isn't a bad choice. It might not be as healthy a choice as one would hope, but not too shabby either. Even the most popular alternative to dairy milk, almond milk, can give some people diarrhea.
Often the problem has to do with additives. So give the most raw and natural coconut milk you can find a go and see how that works out.