Can meal replacement shakes cause diarrhea?

Can meal replacement shakes cause diarrhea? Discover what causes meal replacement shake diarrhea and how to avid this common side effect.

Written by Jack Schrupp and Brittany Adelman, Registered Dietitian

Meal replacement shakes and diarrhea

Do meal replacement shakes give you diarrhea?

Meal replacement shakes are designed to be a convenient way to replace the nutritional value of a meal. In other words, they are a quick and easy way to incorporate calories, protein, and other nutrients into your diet.

Despite their benefits, meal replacement shakes can cause a number of unpleasant digestive issues, one of which is diarrhea.

Keep reading to learn why meal replacement shakes are notorious for making people run to the bathroom.

How to avoid meal replacement shake diarrhea

Here are the ingredients that, when avoided, significantly decrease the likelihood of meal replacement shake diarrhea and other digestive issues:

Avoid food additives

Food additives like emulsifiers, thickeners, and flavors tend to draw water into the colon, thereby increasing the liquid content of the stool. This happens because additives are hard to digest and create something called a high osmotic load.

When the osmotic load is high, there is more osmotic pressure, which is the pressure exerted by a solvent (usually water) as it moves across a semipermeable membrane (in this case the colon) in order to balance the concentration of solutes on each side of the membrane. 

Here is a list of the most common food additives in meal replacements:

  • acacia fiber
  • acacia gum
  • acesulfame potassium
  • artificial flavors
  • ascorbic acid
  • aspartame
  • calcium carbonate
  • carrageenan
  • cellulose gum
  • dextrin
  • dicalcium phosphate
  • dipotassium phosphate
  • erythritol
  • gellan gum
  • guar gum
  • gum arabic
  • inulin
  • locust bean gum
  • maltitol
  • maltodextrin
  • mono- and diglycerides
  • ‘natural’ flavors
  • rice bran extract
  • rice dextrin
  • rice hulls
  • rosemary extract
  • silica
  • silicon dioxide
  • sodium alginate
  • soluble corn fiber
  • sorbitol
  • soy lecithin
  • sucralose
  • sunflower lecithin
  • tocopherols
  • tricalcium phosphate
  • xanthan gum
  • xylitol
  • zinc oxide

Avoid dairy-based proteins

Dairy-based proteins like whey and casein can cause meal replacement shake diarrhea because they contain lactose, a sugar most adults cannot fully digest.

Avoid artificial sweeteners and sugar alcohols

Artificial sweeteners and sugar alcohols also resist digestion and can therefore have a laxative effect. Common artificial sweeteners include sucralose and acesulfame potassium. Common sugar alcohols include erythritol, sorbitol, and xylitol. 

Limit insoluble fiber intake

Insoluble fiber adds bulk to the stool, so if you eat a lot of it at once, it can cause diarrhea. Most vegan meal replacements naturally contain insoluble fiber.

Some meal replacements, especially those intended to help with weight loss, contain added insoluble fiber. These are what you really need to look out for as the added fiber they use is usually guar gum or inulin, which also happen to be used as laxatives! 

Be mindful of preexisting gut issues

When you eat, food enters the stomach where stomach acid and enzymes start to break it down into smaller components. From there, the partially digested food moves to the small intestine, where enzymes called proteases break them down into amino acids, sugars, fatty acids, etc. These smaller components are then absorbed through the intestinal lining and enter the bloodstream, which transports them throughout the body.

If any part of this complex process is not working properly due to preexisting gut issues, then the food you eat will not be fully broken down and absorbed.

Not only will this deprive you of the calories and nutrients you need to stay strong and healthy, but it can also cause painful side effects like diarrhea.

What should you do if you have meal replacement shake diarrhea?

If you have diarrhea after drinking a meal replacement shake, there are several steps you can take to manage it:

Stay hydrated

Diarrhea can lead to dehydration due to fluid loss. Drink plenty of clear fluids and avoid caffeinated and alcoholic beverages.

Eat bland foods

Stick to bland, easily digestible foods such as bananas and rice. These foods can help firm up stools without aggravating your stomach.


Give your body time to recover by getting plenty of rest. Avoid strenuous activities that can further deplete your energy levels.

Seek medical attention if necessary

If your diarrhea persists for more than a couple of days, you should consult a healthcare professional. They can help determine the underlying cause and provide appropriate treatment. Similarly, while managing meal replacement shake diarrhea at home, it is essential to monitor your symptoms closely and seek medical advice if you are unsure about the best course of action.

drink wholesome does not cause diarrhea

Our meal replacement shakes do not cause diarrhea because they are made with a short list of simple ingredients free from food additives, dairy-based proteins, and protein concentrates and isolates.

Our ingredients

egg whites

egg whites









NOT our ingredients

  • acacia gum

  • acesulfame potassium

  • artificial flavors

  • carrageenan

  • erythritol

  • guar gum

  • inulin

  • maltodextrin

  • 'natural' flavors

  • silica

  • soy lecithin

  • sucralose

  • xanthan gum

  • xylitol

Note that instead of using protein concentrates or isolates, we use whole food protein sources like collagen, egg whites, and almonds, which are easier to digest and absorb.

Whole food protein sources also have unique digestive benefits: collagen can reduce bloating and improve digestive symptoms, egg whites can help restore your mucosal intestinal barrier, and almonds can improve the composition of your gut microbiome.

It follows that our customers experience fewer digestive issues with our meal replacement shakes than with any other type of protein supplement. Order samples to see for yourself.

Meal Replacement Powders

Meal Replacement Powder


Starting at $59.99

meal replacement powder samples

2 Meal Replacement Powder Samples

Starting at $14.99




2 weeks ago

Verified Purchase I tried some samples and absolutely love the drinks. I believe they should be this simple and that these ingredients make up a wonderful product that is a huge niche market! So many are full of crap and I mean that. I've scoured to find something with good ingredients and it's HARD to find!

For Meal Replacement Powder


3 weeks ago

Verified Purchase Drinkwholesome has really changed the game for not only for me, but for my family! My mom suffers from stomach adhesions and she has to be very careful with what she eats or else she ends up at the stressful for us and life threatening for her! She is also getting older so her protein intake matters still, so when I came across Drinkwholesome, it sounded like they were speaking to my mom’s needs!! She has drank it on and off for almost two years and this is the only meal replacement that does not trigger her stomach😍 myself and my sister and dad have drank it, and the flavor is unmatched…no more gritty taste! I gotta say, I am a chocolate lover and that powder, just thank you😋! THANK YOU FOR YUMMY MEAL REPLACEMENT POWDER AND HEALTHY AS WELL! My mom especially will benefit from a year worth since it benefits her a lot..and thank you for less stressful hospital visits🙌

For Meal Replacement Powder


2 months ago

Verified Purchase I was being treated for SIBO, and your shakes really helped me get through that phase with no tummy upset. During another time I had to take antibiotics, my tummy became upset again and the acid reflux started back. Again your shakes saved the day. My stomach calmed down, the acid reflux went away. I learned to have a shake each time I took the antibiotic and had no stomach upset. I love, love, love your shakes. I don't think I'll ever be without them. As an older person, I have come to realize my digestive system is more sensitive. Your shakes are wonderful at protecting my stomach.

For Meal Replacement Powder

Frequently asked questions

Protein powder vs meal replacement powder?

You may have noticed that we make protein powders and meal replacement powders. The difference between protein powders and meal replacement powders is the nutrition content. Protein powders are high in protein and low in everything else, whereas meal replacement powders contain fats, carbs, and protein because they are intended to replace the nutritional value of a healthy meal.

Collagen vs egg white vs almond protein powder?

You may have noticed that we make three types of protein powder: collagen protein powderegg white protein powder, and vegan almond protein powder. As long as you are eating a balanced diet, any type of protein powder can help you boost your protein intake. Just pick the type that best suits your dietary needs and personal preferences.

Learn more

My name is Jack and I created drink wholesome because I was sick of protein powders that upset my stomach. Read my story, check out my short list of simple ingredients, and browse reviews from other customers to learn more.

Peanut Butter Chocolate Yogurt Cup


15 min


0 min



  • 1 cup plain Greek yogurt (or coconut yogurt)
  • ¼ cup drink wholesome chocolate meal replacement powder
  • 1 ½ tablespoons peanut butter
  • 1-2 tablespoons dark chocolate, melted
  • 1 tablespoon peanuts

Combine the yogurt and meal replacement powder. Spread the peanut butter on the top, and the melted chocolate on top of that. Sprinkle with peanuts. Freeze for at least 15 minutes.


This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. drink wholesome is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.