Does Vegan Cheese Cause Constipation?

 (This post was originally published on Oct 6, 2021 at 17:35 and updated with extra content and sources on May 2, 2022 at 12:17) 

The vegan cheese market has absolutely exploded over the last 5 years and we now have a dazzling array of options on the supermarket shelves. Generally, a plant-based diet will help keep your movements regular but I do see some people asking, “does vegan cheese cause constipation?”. So is there a problem here?

Let’s have a look at the evidence …

Does Vegan Cheese Cause Constipation?

 In a word … no. Vegan cheese is extremely unlikely to cause constipation. Most of the ingredients in the majority of products available have the opposite effect on the digestive system. I’ve laid out the evidence below … 

Cartoon plumber unblocking the toilet

Back in the dark ages when veganism was considered to be some kind of weird cult, the idea of a vegan cheese was barely a glint in some visionary’s eye! These days we’re arguing about being allowed to call it cheese.

How we’ve moved on!

When I was at university many years ago, I stayed with a vegan family and I just thought they were engaging in a peculiar self punishment by excluding all these things from their diet.

But they never lectured me. They never tried to convince me to go vegan. It was a given that there was to be no meat in the house but I seem to remember they were ok with me drinking milk and eating cheese on the premises.

I never really questioned it.

I had no idea what veganism was and I just thought their pantry smelled a bit funny!

But they were early adopters. They had no access to all the plant-based cheeses and other vegan friendly ‘replacement’ products which are everywhere these days.

They just ate lots of vegetables, grains, pulses, nuts, seeds and fruit. They were very healthy too. Looking back, I now have the utmost respect for them and I’m sure they’d be over the moon that I followed the vegan path as well 🙂

I’m sure there were no constipation problems in their vegan household!

Vegan Cheese Ingredients – Can They Bind You Up?

Looking down on grapefruit halves

The point I’m trying to make is back in the day, before the replacements, vegans had little option but to consume fruit and veg. These days we’re spoiled for choice.

There was almost no processed vegan food in the beginning times and as such, I’d wager, no problems with passing stool. It’s well known that fibre in the diet helps with regularity!

… and most vegans eat plenty of fibre.

Is it a coincidence that with the rise of processed meat and dairy replacements, there has been an increase in gastro related problems among vegans? I think not.

One important thing to note is vegan cheese should not be considered as a nutritional replacement for dairy cheese. Many products are based on coconut which has a lot less protein than dairy cheese and unless fortified, the calcium profile would also not match [3].

But don’t worry … as long as you follow a balanced and varied plant based diet, supplementing if you need to, you’ll be getting all the nutrition you need. Plus, some vegan cheeses don’t use coconut like this one from MozzaRisella and it has a very different nutritional make up as a result.

Anyway, back to the constipation …what on earth do they make these plant based cheeses out of? Is there a particular ingredient which might cause constipation?

Is Vegan Cheese Easy To Digest?

One of the most popular vegan cheese products on the market is from Violife. We love the ‘Epic Mature Cheddar Flavour Block’. Let’s take a peek at their selected ingredients …

  • Water
  • Coconut Oil
  • Modified Starch
  • Starch
  • Grounded Sunflower Kernel
  • Mature Cheddar Flavour
  • Lactic Acid
  • Olive Extract
  • Vitamin B12
  • Colour: B- Carotene

At first glance, this all looks fine and dandy. Nothing here which should be causing constipation. I wonder what is actually in the ‘Mature Cheddar Flavour’ and I searched long and hard for the answer but to no avail.

Man holding his stomach

It’s probably a closely guarded secret.

Coconut oil, if anything, has a laxative effect [1] so this ingredient is highly unlikely to cause constipation.

Modified starch (not to be confused with GMO) is a very common ingredient in many processed foods and again, is almost certainly not the cause of your constipation. Same for regular starch.

Of course, if you eat too much starchy food this can cause gastro problems but you’d have to eat an awful lot of vegan cheese to experience constipation.

Sunflower seeds are high in fibre so are more likely to help get the stool moving.

Lactic acid, if anything, increases the frequency of defecation [2] so this ingredient is highly unlikely to cause constipation in healthy people.

The olive extract is more likely to help relieve constipation. Olive oil is used as a remedy for the condition so it’s probably not going to be responsible for binding you up. Same for vitamin B.

So we can clearly see there is not one ingredient in Violife dairy-free cheese which is likely to cause constipation. It’s more probable that it will have the opposite effect!

If It’s Not The Vegan Cheese, What Is Causing The Blockage?

Man leaning over a chair in pain.Constipation is no fun. I probably don’t need to tell you that!

A healthy GI tract should result in 2 or 3 decent bowel movements every day. Constipation is usually characterised by 3 or 4 movements a week … not a comfortable place to be!

It’s going to be something else in your diet causing you problems and the only way to go definitive is to embark on a process of elimination.

One by one, you will need to eliminate the common foodstuffs and products you consume regularly. But make sure you only stop eating one thing at a time. Otherwise you can’t be sure of the culprit.

If you suspect it’s the vegan cheese then start by eliminating that from your diet for a couple of weeks. See if that changes anything.

I doubt it will be responsible due to the reasons listed above but you may be having a reaction to one of the ingredients. So why not rule that out first?

If you want to get serious then many experts recommend a low FODMAP diet which can help to identify the cause and manage your constipation symptoms.

You may want to try a herbal colon cleanse first though just to try and get things moving.

I’d also highly recommend you consult a health professional before embarking on either of these options, just in case you have something more serious.

Colon Cleanse Products For Constipation Treatment

Close up of woman holding her belly

If you eat a lot of ultra processed foods and just regular processed food, your digestive system may have trouble handling it all.

This can lead to constipation and bloating, especially if your dietary fibre intake is low.

Colon cleansing products have become very popular in the last decade or so and there are now a dazzling array of options.

They help a lot of people to initially ‘clear out’ before climbing aboard a new diet regime.

My brother went through an awful couple of years with his IBS and constipation problems. It affected his life so profoundly that he had to give up working for extended periods of time.

He tried all sorts of remedies, although he did have trouble with his will power when it came to excluding certain foods from his diet.

It’s not right for everyone, but he found a once-monthly herbal colon cleanse did the trick. It kept him moving and he was able to re-join the merry-go-round of day to day life!

Again, I should emphasise it’s a very good idea to seek out the opinion of a medical professional before undertaking any self-treatment.

Having said that, most people can use a colon cleanse product without any adverse reactions.

Generally, these products are very high in fibre and they work by kick-starting your GI tract into action. Often it’s that initial movement which is the hardest.

After that, it’s a case of regular maintenance and being aware of what you’re eating on a daily basis.

Constipation Is Common – But Vegan Cheese Is Not The Culprit

Yellow neon sign displaying the words 'say cheese'

I checked the ingredients of many popular dairy free cheeses and they’re all composed of similar ingredients. None of which are likely to bind you up.

I could understand it if you were chomping down a couple of kilos a day but even going to that extreme would probably have the opposite effect!

So it’s almost certainly going to be another element of your diet causing you problems.

Use the elimination diet mentioned above and you’ll eventually isolate the culprit. Who knows? You may get lucky and identify the problem food in the first round!

You will often instinctively know which foods are causing the constipation so learn to listen to your body – a skill many of us have lost through modern life!

Trust what your body is trying to tell you … Go with your gut!

I hope you have enjoyed this article and found it useful. My goal is to educate and inform, based on the facts. Please share with your friends and leave your comments below. I’ll do my best to respond quickly!

Thanks for reading and have a great day!

Rohan.


Sources:

[1] – Gut Health Project. “How Coconut Oil Benefits Digestive Health (Infographic)”. Modi Ramos. August 12, 2015. https://www.guthealthproject.com/how-coconut-oil-benefits-digestive-health-infographic/

[2] – An, Hyang Mi et al. “Efficacy of Lactic Acid Bacteria (LAB) supplement in management of constipation among nursing home residents.” Nutrition journal vol. 9 5. 5 Feb. 2010, doi:10.1186/1475-2891-9-5 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2835640/

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