What is the best protein powder for sensitive stomachs?
Written by Jack Schrupp and reviewed by Ella McGonagle, M.S. Nutrition
drink wholesome is the best protein powder for sensitive stomachs. It is additive-free, dairy-free, and made with real foods, not protein isolates – 99% of supplements fail to meet at least one of these criteria. This makes it perfect for people with gut issues and sensitive stomachs, as well as for people just looking to boost their protein intake without the processing and added junk. If you suffer from candidiasis, crohn’s, diverticulitis, gastritis, gastroparesis, GERD, leaky gut, IBS, IBD, SIBO, ulcerative colitis, or any other digestive disease, order samples to see if our protein powder is right for you.
“If you have a sensitive gut, you need simple ingredients.”
-Brittany Carpenter, MS, RDN/LDN
drink wholesome is the best protein powder for sensitive stomachs.
Do protein supplements upset your stomach?
If you are sick of protein supplements that upset your stomach, you have come to the right place. We make easy to digest protein powders, and would love to help you boost your protein intake without the uncomfortable side effects. Our happy customers include people who suffer from Candidiasis, Crohn’s, diverticulitis, gastritis, gastroparesis, GERD, leaky gut, IBS, IBD, SIBO, and ulcerative colitis. Keep reading to gain an empowering understanding of your gut, how it works, and what to look for when buying protein powder.
What is a sensitive stomach?
“Sensitive stomach” is a non-medical term to describe a stomach that is easily upset. People with sensitive stomachs often experience bloating, cramps, constipation, diarrhea, gas, nausea, and stomach pain on a regular basis. A sensitive stomach is usually associated with a food allergy or chronic digestive disease like lactose intolerance and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), but sometimes the cause is unknown. Roughly 20% of Americans suffer from a digestive disease, so if you regularly experience any of the symptoms above, you should consult a medical professional. Most people with sensitive stomachs can successfully manage their symptoms through dietary and lifestyle adjustments, and a professional can help you understand which foods or types of food to avoid. This usually takes time and patience, but is definitely worth it because the gut plays an important role in overall health.
People with sensitive stomachs have trouble digesting normal food, which puts them at an increased risk for weight loss and malnutrition. Is therefore important that they pay close attention to what they eat to ensure that they are getting enough nutrients. Among the nutrients that many people with sensitive stomachs do not get enough of is protein. Protein is needed to build and maintain muscle mass. It is also a key component of antibodies that protect the body against illness. Needless to say, eating enough of it is important, and if you cannot stomach normal foods, protein supplements can be a lifesaver. Unfortunately, however, most protein supplements are not made for people with sensitive stomachs.
Why do protein supplements upset your stomach?
Your average protein supplement is hard to digest for 3 reasons: 1) it contains dairy 2) it contains food additives, and 3) it is heavily-processed. Dairy, additives, and processing can cause gastrointestinal (GI) side effects including bloating, diarrhea, and stomach aches (more about this later).
There are two types of protein supplements: ready-to-drink (store-bought) protein shakes, and protein shakes made with protein powder. In order to make a protein shake with protein powder, you have to mix the powder with milk or water. This requires a blender or a shaker bottle, and a little extra time and effort. Some people, prioritizing convenience, prefer to buy ready-to-drink protein shakes, but if they knew what they were drinking, they would probably vomit.
Ready-to-drink protein shakes are full of emulsifiers, stabilizers, thickeners, sweeteners, and flavors. Ingredients like these improve characteristics like taste, texture, and shelf stability, but can cause uncomfortable side effects and long-term gut damage (more about this soon). This is why I recommend that you make your own protein shakes for sensitive stomachs with protein powder. That said, not all protein powders are created equal, and many contain the same additives found in ready-to-drink protein shakes!
Why drink wholesome?
drink wholesome is additive-free.
One of the reasons why we make the best protein powder for sensitive stomachs is that we do not use food additives. Most protein powders, on the other hand, are full of food additives. Although not necessarily bad for you in small quantities, additives can add up quickly (especially if you drink a protein shake every day) and cause gastrointestinal (GI) side effects like bloating, constipation, diarrhea, gas, and stomach pain. This is because food additives are hard to digest, and sit in your gut for longer than food should, which gives your gut bacteria more time to eat. As they eat, these bacteria produce gas, which causes bloating and stomach pain. Gas also slows colonic transit (the amount of time it takes food to travel through the colon), and can lead to constipation. In the long term, food additives can disrupt regulatory pathways in the intestine, which can result in the development of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and systemic inflammatory disorders.
When buying protein powder for sensitive stomachs, one ingredient to avoid in particular is artificial sweeteners. Artificial sweeteners are among the most harmful food additives in the long term as they alter the composition of your gut microbiota (the collection of microorganisms that help you digest food). This can lead to serious, chronic GI problems, widespread inflammation, and permanent damage to the gut microbiome. Some sweeteners, especially sugar alcohols like xylitol, are also poorly absorbed by the gut (meaning they feed those hungry gut bacteria), and cause diarrhea because they draw water into your intestine. Now you finally have something to blame for those post-protein shake trips to the bathroom!
Here is a list of the most common food additives in protein powder:
acacia gum, acesulfame potassium, artificial flavors, aspartame, carrageenan, cellulose gum, dextrin, dextrose, erythritol, gellan gum, guar gum, gum arabic, inulin, locust bean gum, “natural” flavors, maltodextrin, rice syrup solids, soy lecithin, silica, sucralose, sunflower lecithin, xanthan gum, xylitol
When it comes to identifying food additives, go with your gut. 😉 As a rule of thumb, they are the ingredients that you cannot pronounce. Food additives are not the only thing to look out for when buying protein powder for sensitive stomachs, however. There are several other ingredients that can upset your stomach.
Protein Matrix Comprised of (Whey Protein Concentrate, Whey Protein Isolate, Calcium Caseinate, Micellar Casein, Milk Protein Isolate, Egg Albumen, Glutamine Peptides), Polydextrose, Sunflower Creamer (Sunflower Oil, Corn Syrup Solids, Sodium Caseinate, Mono- and Diglycerides, Dipotassium Phosphate, Tricalcium Phosphate, Soy Lecithin, Tocopherols), Natural and Artificial Flavor, MCT Powder (Medium Chain Triglycerides, Nonfat Dry Milk, Disodium Phosphate, Silicon Dioxide), Lecithin, Cellulose Gum, Salt, Yellow 5, Sucralose, Acesulfame Potassium, Papain, Bromelain.
*This is the actual ingredient list of one of the best-selling protein powders in the United States.
drink wholesome is dairy-free.
Another reason why we make the best protein powder for sensitive stomachs is that we do not use dairy-based proteins. Many protein powders are made with whey and casein, which are byproducts of cheese and yogurt production, and known to cause digestive issues, especially for people with lactose intolerance and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Over one in three Americans are lactose intolerant, and the prevalence of IBS is somewhere between 10 and 15 percent in the United States. It follows that you may be lactose intolerant or have IBS and not even know it. Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a poorly understood condition, and it is unclear why dairy triggers symptoms. Lactose intolerance, on the other hand, is clearly understood. People with lactose intolerance are unable to fully digest lactose, the sugar in dairy. As you just learned, partially digested food feeds the bacteria in your gut, which produce gas.
drink wholesome is made with real foods.
A final reason why we make the best protein powder for sensitive stomachs is that we do not use protein isolates. Most protein powders, on the contrary, are made with protein concentrates and/or isolates, foods stripped of everything but the protein. They are listed on the ingredient list as “pea protein” and “whey protein” as opposed to “peas” and “whey.” I will not go into the details, but protein concentrates and isolates undergo heavy mechanical and chemical processing before becoming protein powder. Sometimes, manufacturers use chemical solvents like hexane to isolate (separate) the protein from the food. This means that what you end up putting into your body looks nothing like real food.
If you think about it, your gut was designed to digest naturally occurring foods, not laboratory formulated imitations, so if you feed it anything but real food, it might get upset. The long term implications of eating processed foods are still not well understood, but more and more research is finding that it can alter the composition of your gut microbiota, and lead to permanent damage to the gut microbiome. It is therefore in your best interest to avoid protein powders made with protein concentrates and isolates.
Instead of protein concentrates or isolates, we make the best protein powder for sensitive stomachs with whole foods like egg whites and almonds. Egg whites are simply pasteurized and dried before becoming protein powder. Almonds are just roasted, pressed, and ground. Whole foods like these are an easy to digest, gut-friendly alternative to protein concentrates and isolates. This is in part because whole foods contain a variety of enzymes and other digestive aids that help to break down the food, making it easier for the body to absorb the nutrients. Protein isolates and concentrates, on the other hand, have been stripped of these digestive aids, making them harder for the body to digest and absorb. Moreover, minimally-processed plant-based foods like almonds are rich in fiber, which helps promote healthy digestion and regular bowel movements.
Unless you have a sensitivity or allergy to eggs, egg white protein is the best protein for your gut. Egg whites are low in fiber, low-FODMAP, naturally alkaline, and have the highest protein digestibility-corrected amino acid score (PDCAAS) of any whole food. Our customers have experienced fewer digestive issues with egg white protein than with any other type of protein. If you cannot eat eggs, try our almond protein powder. We prefer almonds to other minimally-processed plant protein sources because they are more gut-friendly. Research suggests that almonds possess prebiotic properties and can improve the diversity and composition of the gut microbiome.
“I’ve had Crohn’s disease for 20+ years and it’s always been hard to find a protein powder my stomach can handle. I’ve had no problem digesting drink wholesome AND it tastes great. I highly recommend this protein powder if you have IBS or Crohn’s.” – Jesse
Sensitive stomach? Try drink wholesome.