Can I Take Whey Protein Powder If I Have IBS?

Is whey protein powder the way to go when it comes to protein powder? If you have irritable bowel syndrome, you shouldn’t do it (IBS). Whey protein powders and smoothies should be avoided by people with IBS since they often include chemicals that might induce IBS symptoms. Instead, choose for entire meals that are high in protein.

Protein is an essential ingredient that aids muscle development and tissue repair during exercise, according to the National Library of Medicine (NLM). It’s no wonder, therefore, that protein drinks have become increasingly popular as a workout supplement over time.

Protein shakes, on the other hand, should not be confused for a complete protein supply since they lack the dietary fiber, antioxidants, and other critical nutrients found in full protein-rich meals, according to NorthShore University HealthSystem. According to the National Library of Medicine, most individuals get enough protein from their diets, frequently too much, thus protein supplements like shakes are typically unneeded in the first place.

Protein Shakes And IBS

Irritable Bowel Syndrome

According to Elena Ivanina, DO, a gastroenterologist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City, protein drinks and powders comprise a wide range of items, some of which are bad for your stomach and others which are acceptable. Most protein smoothies and powders, however, should be avoided by those with IBS, according to Dr. Ivanina.

“Protein powders and supplements are dietary supplements. As a result, the ingredient list may not be completely accurate “she explains. “Protein powders may have extra sugars, superfluous calories, artificial colors and flavors, emulsifiers and thickeners, and excessive vitamins and minerals, all of which can have a negative influence on gut health and symptoms.”

Dr. Ivanina further mentions that the Clean Label Project, a non-profit organization, produced a report on contaminants in protein powders in 2020. Heavy metals such as lead, arsenic, cadmium, and mercury were discovered in some of the samples. Pesticides, bisphenol-A (BPA), a plasticizer, and other pollutants associated to cancer and other illnesses were also discovered.

However, certain more natural or gut-friendly protein powder alternatives may be acceptable.

“There are more healthy and natural protein shake choices,” Dr. Ivanina explains. “However, if you have irritable bowel syndrome, avoid powders and blends that include numerous components and instead stick to wholesome natural foods.”

She also recommends avoiding meal replacement shakes. “There is currently no clear evidence that meal replacement shakes are beneficial to patients with IBS. The best IBS treatment involves working with a gastroenterologist, nutritionist, and therapist to address dietary triggers as well as the gut-brain axis, which is so important to address with IBS.”

What Is IBS?

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a common GI illness that can be controlled by nutrition. Most IBS sufferers follow the low FODMAP diet, which involves avoiding foods that cause symptoms.

Fermentable oligo-, di-, mono-, and polyols (FODMAPs) are carbohydrates that are ubiquitous in the American diet. They’re present in things like wheat and milk, and they’re known for causing bloating, gas, and stomach pain in people. A low FODMAP diet simply eliminates items that are rich in FODMAPs.

Is Protein Powder Beneficial To Those With IBS?


The majority of protein supplements are bad for IBS. Protein powder is many things, but one of them is not simple to digest. A quick glance at a typical ingredient list should reveal why. The usual protein powder has a lot of components that don’t look like food and are high in FODMAPs. If you have IBS or simply a sensitive stomach, stay away from the following protein powders when shopping.

Physiological Function Of Protein

Protein is a vital dietary component since it is found in all of our body’s cells, is used to generate critical hormones and enzymes, and is required for muscle repair and regeneration. Protein differs from the other macronutrients in the diet (carbohydrates and fats) in that it cannot be stored. Proteins, on the other hand, are broken down into amino acids (protein building blocks) and continually turned over in the body. Proteins are constantly being built and broken down in our bodies, and any extra dietary protein is primarily expelled in the urine.

Who Needs To Use Protein Supplements?

The majority of people get adequate protein from their diet alone and don’t need to augment with supplements or protein powders. The elderly, people following a vegan/vegetarian diet, some athletes, pregnant and breastfeeding women, and for specific medical reasons (i.e. post-surgery/wound healing/infections) all require more protein due to greater protein requirements or being at higher risk of nutritional deficiency.

There is no evidence that having IBS causes increased protein needs or that adopting a low FODMAP diet has a substantial influence on protein consumption. Many protein sources (beef, eggs, and chicken, for example) are naturally low in FODMAPs, and a recent study indicated that protein consumption remained similar after switching from a high-FODMAP diet to a low-FODMAP diet.

Protein Powders & Fodmaps

In our testing of protein powders, we discovered that extracting pure protein is difficult for food makers, and that these products are frequently rich in FODMAPs. While these products can contain anywhere from 70 to 90% protein, IBS sufferers only need a tiny level of FODMAPs to have symptoms. Ingredient lists might be full of unknowns, making it difficult to anticipate FODMAP levels just on a label without a laboratory study of the product. Our general advise is to stick to food alternatives first for protein consumption unless a health expert recommends otherwise (see table below).

When Buying Protein Powder, Keep The Following In Mind:

Check the ingredients list for polyols, which are low-calorie sweeteners such as xylitol, sorbitol, and mannitol. Polyol levels employed by food makers can be far higher than what we consider to be a safe serving, posing a risk to people who are sensitive to sugar alcohols.

Plant-derived proteins (e.g., soy, pea) are notoriously difficult to purify and frequently contain FODMAPs (eg. GOS and fructan).

Lactose can be found in whey protein powder products. When comparing whey protein isolate to whey protein concentrate, isolates go through more processing, resulting in a higher-protein end product. As a result, whey protein concentrates have a reduced protein content and a greater carbohydrate content, such as lactose.

Avoid protein powders and supplements with the term “prebiotic” on the label. Prebiotic is a name that is interchangeable with FODMAPs, and it might produce symptoms in certain people. Ingredients such as inulin, chicory root, and Jerusalem artichoke should be looked for on the ingredients list.

Request a sample if you’re unsure. Many websites provide free protein powder samples. You may try this product on yourself before buying it, and then go from there based on your symptoms.

Dietary Sources Of Protein

Although protein powders are quite popular, it is vital to initially focus on high-quality dietary protein sources. Meat, fish, eggs, dairy products (lactose-free if necessary), and vegetarian sources such as tofu, nuts, seeds, and legumes are all examples (check the app for serve sizes). Including a range of different protein sources throughout the day increases the likelihood of meeting protein requirements without the need for pricey powders. Protein needs vary by age, gender, and body weight, and may alter depending on your country’s norms. In Australia, women over the age of 18 should consume 0.75g/kg of protein per day, while males should consume 0.84g/kg.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *