Protein Farts: Why?! (and how to avoid the worst)
Have you had the all-too-familiar experience of drinking your morning protein shake and ending up with morning gas? Nobody likes to fart their way through the day after a (supposedly) healthy start, so let’s dig into why certain protein powders can give you gas, and how to avoid it.
First, a quick primer on protein
You can think of protein as the building blocks for your body’s cells, as proteins are made up of amino acids that are essential to survival. For example, protein works to maintain your organs in working condition, support healthy skin, tendons and muscles, make hormones and neurotransmitters, among other functions. Studies tell us that protein will help you lose body fat and is crucial for gaining muscle, healing from injuries and workouts, and has also been proven to lower blood pressure.
A typical American diet might provide roughly 15% of its calories from protein, and for many, this is quite low. While the right protein powder can be a great choice to up your protein intake (along with whole, protein-rich foods), sensitivities or allergies to common protein powder ingredients might be the culprit that is causing, as they say, “protein farts.”
2 Top Reasons for Protein Farts
While high-quality dairy can be an excellent protein source for some, those who lack enough lactase enzyme activity might have a lactose intolerance.
Lactose is the sugar found in dairy, and reactions to it usually include gas, diarrhea, bloating and stomach cramps and pain. Interestingly, raw dairy is much less likely to cause a reaction, as the lactase enzyme that helps digest lactose remains in tact.
The other most common cause of protein farts is a protein allergy or intolerance. Instead of reacting to the milk sugar, you are reacting to the protein itself, either whey or casein. This reaction causes generalized inflammation due to an immune response by the body, and typically causes stuffy noses and excess mucous, but can also cause gas.
What Can I Do About It?
Simple answer: avoid certain protein powders that cause gas. If you are using a whey or casein powder and frequently experience protein farts and/or excess mucous and a stuffy nose, you should probably switch brands. Casein is actually more likely to cause reactions than whey (if you are reacting to the protein), but both are problematic for a lactose intolerant person.
This might take some experimentation. If you use a casein powder, try whey and see how that goes. Or, try a rice, hemp or plant protein powder, which are hypoallergenic and far less likely to cause gas. In fact, one study even suggested that pea protein equally supports muscle growth when compared to whey, and also might decrease your blood pressure. Soy is also best avoided (for reasons other than protein farts), as it is high in phytoestrogens, which mimic estrogen in the body and can lead to estrogen dominance (especially in women).
Remember, a good quality protein shake can be a great way to up your general protein intake and/or aid in post-workout recovery (although, don’t replace whole foods for protein shakes on a regular basis).
If protein farts are getting in the way, take a look at the type of protein you’re using and the brand. It might just be time for a change.
Rachel Fiske is a Holistic Nutrition Consultant and graduated from Bauman College of Holistic Nutrition in Berkeley, California. She is also a Certified Personal Trainer through the National Academy of Sports Medicine. Rachel focuses on issues of weight management, GI problems, hormonal imbalances, fatigue and more via a whole foods diet and lifestyle changes.