Protein usually doesn't produce much gas, so when a high-protein diet leaves you bloated and gassy, the first step is to look at other elements in the diet that could be the culprit. Protein may cause extra gas if you’re low in digestive acids and enzymes, or when a lot of protein is fermented in the colon.
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Gas from Eating Beans
Beans are a good choice for lean protein, with about 8 grams to 16 grams of protein per cup. But they’re gas producers because they contain a sugar -- raffinose -- that the human body can’t digest. As a result, it’s fermented by bacteria in the colon, which creates gaseous byproducts.
You can solve the problem by taking supplements containing the digestive enzyme alpha-galactosidase, but first try eating small portions and gradually increasing the serving size. This gives your body time to adjust and helps prevent gas. Another trick is to rinse the beans in water with a small amount of baking soda, which removes some of the sugar.
Gas from High-Fat Proteins
Excessive amounts of fat in your diet result in extra gas, so this could be the problem if your protein comes from high-fat meats. In addition to preventing gas, lean meat has fewer calories, and cutting back on saturated fat from meats is a healthy choice.
Plan your diet around lean protein choices, such as fish and skinless, light-meat chicken and turkey. Ninety percent lean ground beef and the round, sirloin, tenderloin and chuck cuts of beef are lean. For pork chops, go with tenderloin and loin chop cuts.
Sugar alcohols are low-calorie sweeteners made by chemically altering sugars extracted from fruits. While many people can tolerate a moderate amount of sugar alcohols, they can cause gastrointestinal problems. It only takes a small amount to trigger gas and bloating if you're sensitive to sugar alcohols. Many different types of foods and beverages contain these sweeteners, so avoid products that contain sorbitol, xylitol, maltitol, erythritol, mannitol, lactitol and isomalt.
Protein Powder Culprits
If you experience gas after consuming protein powder, it could be due to the type of protein in the powder. Some whey protein powders contain lactose, which leads to gastrointestinal problems in people who are lactose intolerant. Soy protein powders can also cause gas, reports the University of Michigan.
When lactose is the culprit, taking lactase supplements can help digest the sugar. Otherwise, try switching to whey protein isolate, a more purified protein that has very little fat or lactose. Casein-based protein powder should also be free of lactose. Some powders contain sugar alcohols. If these trigger gas, look for a protein powder sweetened with stevia.
Digestive Tract Activity
Even if a high-protein diet doesn’t increase the amount of flatulence, you may notice that the gas you pass smells worse. Sulfate-containing amino acids in animal protein produce a distinct odor, notes Arizona Digestive Health, as does the fermentation of protein.
Persistent gas might also indicate the presence of an underlying disorder. If you're having trouble with flatulence even after adjusting your diet, consult your doctor.
- University of Michigan Integrative Medicine: Beans, Peas and Lentils
- Healthaliciousness: Beans and Legumes With the Most Protein
- National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases: Gas in the Digestive Tract
- University of Michigan: Nutrition Management: Increasing Protein in the Diet
- HPMC Occupational Medical Services: Lean Meats: 10 Tips for Low-Fat Cooking
- University of Kentucky: Sugar Alcohols
- Arizona Digestive Health: Gas Prevention Diet
- University of Michigan Health System: Betaine Hydrochloride
- Journal of AOAC International: Bacteria, Colonic Fermentation, and Gastrointestinal Health