So there you are trying to do the right thing for your body and give it the protein it needs to support plenty of different body functions, including help you build and maintain muscle. But all of a sudden, your body’s not doing the right thing by you. All you’re trying to do is eat well, and what you get for it is rank, room-clearing farts.
It’s true that protein farts are a thing. They’re a major topic of discussion on fitness blogs, and there are (multiple) lengthy Reddit threads devoted to the topics of cause and prevention.
It’s enough to make you rethink your nutritional strategy — but the truth is, you don’t have to cut down on your protein shakes to curb your flatulence. You likely just have to make a few small tweaks to your diet. We asked a few experts to explain.
What causes protein farts?
“A common myth is that the amount of protein you are taking will make it more likely for you to fart. There is no evidence for that at all,” explains gastroenterologist Sameer Islam, MD, who sees patients in Texas and also explains all things gastro in his segments such as Poop Tip Thursday and Let’s Talk About Poop on his YouTube channel. “The type of protein you are ingesting (like protein from meats or the ingredients from shakes) plays a more significant role in gas.”
When it comes to protein type, most animal proteins (eggs, beef, pork, poultry, and fish) contain sulfur, which can contribute to the nasty smell. And in your protein shake, it’s not necessarily the protein—it’s usually the sugars that give you trouble. “The additive sugars in a protein shake, like xylitol, mannitol, and fructose, will help the flavor but wreak havoc on your gut. That’s also a reason why sugarless gums, candy, and diet drinks can cause gas, bloating, and diarrhea,” Dr. Islam says.
If you’re vegetarian or vegan, even plant-based sources of protein, such as beans, soy, and lentils, can cause digestive problems, thanks to short-chain carbohydrates called oligosaccharides that are fermented by the bacteria in your gut, says Ryan Maciel, R.D., C.S.C.S., a dietitian based in Boston, MA.
While passing some gas is totally normal and healthy, if you’re noticing bloating, diarrhea, or constipation regularly, you should touch base with your doctor to rule out medical issues including irritable bowel syndrome and even colorectal cancer.
How do you get rid of protein farts?
Dr. Islam recommends three strategies to help eliminate protein farts or keep them under control:
Change protein shake products
“Many protein shakes have dairy, which can be problematic for those who have a dairy intolerance. A simple fix is to take a Lactaid medication or have a shake that doesn’t contain dairy,” he says.
Other protein shakes, bars, and snacks contain whey protein. “The problem is that not all whey protein is created equal. Some are made from concentrates, which are high in lactose,” he adds. “I recommend whey protein isolate because it has less lactose, which your body might digest more easily.”
You can also consider switching to non-milk protein powders, such as those made of pea protein and soy.
In addition, pay attention to the additives, as mentioned above. Try protein powders that don’t contain sugar alcohols such as sorbitol or mannitol.
Add some herbs to your diet
“Peppermint and ginger are very effective tools to help soothe your gut. Take them before or in your protein shake to allow your colon to relax,” says Dr. Islam.
Otherwise, just cross your fingers and hope you can squeak out a silent one. Or just own it like these guys. Either one.
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