Does Whey Protein Cause Digestive Problems? – A Scientific Analysis

You are currently viewing Does Whey Protein Cause Digestive Problems? – A Scientific Analysis

Is whey protein giving you digestive problems?

Whey is a wonderful choice when it comes to protein shakes. It has been proved to be one of the most effective in helping you fulfill your bodybuilding goals. Many people also take whey as a supplement to get their daily dose of protein requirements.

However, a few people seem to develop digestive issues when they consume whey protein. The common side effects may include bloating, gas, diarrhea, irregular bowels, or stomach cramps.

Is whey to blame for your discomforts? Or, is it something else?

Why Whey Protein May Cause Digestive Issues

Only a handful of people who drink whey shakes experience digestive problems. The rest are fine and never even experience any ill effects.

So, what causes only some people to develop problems?

Lactose Intolerant Are at Risk

Are you okay drinking milk or consuming dairy products?

The answer to the above question holds the answer behind your query. We know some of us are prone to digestive problems when we consume dairy products. These people are mostly suffering from lactose intolerance or the inability to digest lactose in milk.

Lactose is a carbohydrate in milk that finds its way into most milk products. People who are lactose intolerant face difficulties trying to digest lactose. They develop many digestive issues, like bloating and diarrhea.

How is lactose intolerance related to whey protein digestive issues?

As you may know, whey protein is made from milk. As a result, lactose is also present in whey protein powder.

People who have problems drinking milk are more likely to suffer the digestive issues of whey. They will be unable to digest lactose present in whey protein and develop diarrhea or gas.

We hope now you have a better idea of why whey protein may lead to digestive problems.

Is Anyone Else at Risk?

Apart from lactose intolerance, another condition might be responsible for your whey protein discomforts. Some people have an allergy to milk and develop stomach issues when they consume milk.

In some cases, milk allergy can even result in fatal scenarios. You can get digestives problems from whey if you have a milk allergy. The reason is the same as above- whey is a milk product may cause reactions as you are already allergic to milk.

However, it is less likely that your problem is the result of a milk allergy. The condition affects only 2% to 3% of children and resolves by the age of 4. Most of us will leave milk allergy behind by the time we turn 16.

 Still, the condition may exist in some people for their entire lives.

What Should You Do?

Your digestion problems are likely to originate from whey protein if you have lactose intolerance. Most of us already know if we are okay with lactose from our past experiences.

We all are given milk during childhood, so our lactose intolerance would show up quite early. Milk allergy, similarly, shows up when you are a kid.

So, you should have a pretty good idea about your health status. If you aren’t sure, visit your doctor and get a professional diagnosis.

Based on your diagnosis or health status, choose from the following scenarios:

If You Have Milk Allergy

You have no other way but to stop consuming whey protein if you are allergic to milk. The best option would be to get your protein from meat, eggs, or plants.

You can also shift to plant-based protein powders as an alternative.

If You are Lactose Intolerant

We have good news for people who have lactose intolerance. You don’t have to give up your whey protein shake. Instead, you can choose a form of whey that is easy to digest. Again, you have two options:

Choose Whey Protein Isolate

Whey protein concentrate is the most common form of whey in the market. It contains many elements of milk, including lactose and a bit of fat.

You are to stay away from whey concentrate or raw whey protein if you are lactose intolerant. Instead, you should go for whey protein isolate that is 90% protein and contains negligible lactose.

You are less likely to develop digestive issues as whey isolate is minus lactose. You will be able to consume your protein shake without any issues.

Choose Hydrolyzed Whey

Hydrolyzed whey is a pre-digested form of whey protein. Manufacturers weaken the bonds of the amino acids in whey to make it easy on the stomach.

People with lactose intolerance will be safe with hydrolyzed whey as it is easy to digest. You can have your daily protein shake minus any headaches.

We have a detailed analysis of the different forms of whey and who they suit. You can read our blog for a better understanding.

Tip: Ensure to mix plenty of water with your protein shake to help your body easily absorb it. You can also drink more water throughout the day.

Final Thoughts

Digestive problems in whey are mostly the cause of lactose intolerance or milk allergy. Otherwise, it is unlikely your problems are a result of consuming whey. You can opt for whey isolate or hydrolyzed whey if you suffer from lactose intolerance to prevent any discomfort. You can give a stop to whey or shift to plant-based protein if your problem persists.


Is whey protein bad for the gut?

Whey protein is harmless to your gut. The only time you can experience problems is if you have lactose intolerance or a milk allergy. Whey is just a product of milk and devoid of any negative effects. If you can drink milk without problems, you have nothing to worry about whey protein.

Can whey protein cause constipation?

Whey is not likely to cause constipation. You develop constipation when you eat less fiber like vegetables, grains, or fruits. Follow a proper diet even if you have protein shakes. They do not contain any fiber, which you need for healthy bowel movements.

How can you digest whey protein better?

You can add more water to your whey protein shake to make it easy on your stomach. Do not add milk or other beverages. If you are sensitive to lactose, go for whey protein isolate to enjoy your protein minus lactose. You can also drink hydrolyzed whey shakes to avoid any digestive issues.

How fast can I digest whey protein isolate?

You need around 2 hours to digest a 20-grams dose of whey protein. However, protein absorption rates are not the same for everyone. You may be able to digest your protein faster if you work out right after your protein shake. Whey is among the quickest-absorbing proteins around.

Can you absorb 30-grams of whey protein?

You can certainly absorb 30-grams of whey or any form of protein. 30-gram is on the lower scale as many people consume more protein in a day. Additionally, we don’t digest protein at the same rate, which varies from one person to another.

Is raw whey protein hard to digest?

Raw whey protein is not hard to digest for healthy people. If you can drink a glass of milk and be okay, you have nothing to fear from whey. Only people with lactose intolerance may find raw whey hard to digest, like any milk product.

What happens when you take excess protein?

Your body will store any excess protein as fat and may lead to weight gain. Any extra amino acid leaves your body through excretion. It is good to exercise a bit if you are taking more protein to avoid gaining weight.

Can whey protein make you gassy?

You can get gas from whey if you have problems drinking milk. People who have lactose intolerance are more likely to develop gas or bloating from consuming whey shakes. Otherwise, it may be the initial side effects as your body gets used to whey. The gas should go away in a few days if you are a healthy person.

Is lactose intolerance the same as milk energy?

Lactose intolerance is the inability to digest lactose, the sugar present in milk. The effects of lactose intolerance are limited to digestive issues. Milk allergy is an allergy to milk and dairy products and affects other organs.

What whey protein won’t hurt my stomach?

Protein powders that are easy on your stomach include Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard 100% Whey Protein. It uses whey protein isolate that is safe for people with lactose intolerance. MuscleTech Nitro-Tech Whey Protein made from whey protein isolate is also a good option.