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Gut check: Don’t let digestive distress put you off protein supplements Gut check: Don’t let digestive distress put you off protein supplements
While whey protein is highly effective and beneficial, it can cause bloating and gas among those with digestive sensitivities. The more common cause of... Gut check: Don’t let digestive distress put you off protein supplements

While whey protein is highly effective and beneficial, it can cause bloating and gas among those with digestive sensitivities.

The more common cause of these uncomfortable and potentially embarrassing issues is lactose intolerance.

READ MORE | Do you have a food intolerance?

It’s probably the dairy!

Whey is a by-product of the cheese-making process, which means it is one of two protein sources derived from dairy (the other is casein).

All dairy products, including milk, cheese and whey, contain lactose, a large sugar molecule comprised of glucose and galactose.

Your body requires sufficient lactase (a digestive enzyme) to properly digest lactose. Those who lack sufficient lactase will generally experience intestinal bloating, discomfort and, possibly, that dreaded gas.

READ MORE | 5 reasons to choose plant milk

The fermentation factor

It all boils down to ineffective digestion because these partially digested milk sugars move further down your digestive tract, where gut bacteria attempt to break them down through fermentation.

This can causes gases like hydrogen sulfide and nitrogen to develop, and you’ll eventually need to release the build-up, which is what produces those unwanted gas emissions.

While it can take up to 48 hours or more for these issues to develop depending on your meal composition and digestive health, many food intolerances have an almost immediate effect.

The other potential cause is a possible adverse reaction to some of the artificial sweeteners included in certain flavoured whey products. Sweeteners like xylitol, sorbitol and mannitol are sugar alcohols that can also contribute to your gas problem.

READ MORE | Revealing the fibre truths that impact your gut health

Finding solutions

Before you ditch your favourite whey, try switching brands to see if you experience an improvement. Look for products that don’t contain the sweeteners mentioned to eliminate that potential cause from the list.

Furthermore, you may want to consider switching from a whey concentrate to an isolate or hydrolysate. The latter products undergo additional processing to filter out more lactose. A blend may also provide relief.

READ MORE | Optimise your digestion with digestive enzymes

There are also whey protein products available that contain added digestive enzymes, which may help to reduce symptoms associated with lactose intolerance, or other forms of digestive discomfort commonly experienced by sensitive individuals.

READ MORE | Brown rice protein delivers comparable results to whey, study finds

If your gas and gut issues persist, consider switching to a plant-based protein powder. Just make sure it’s a blend that combines plant-derived protein sources to benefit from a complete amino acid profile.

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