Lots of Gas and Loose Stools When Taking Whey Protein

Whey protein is often included in supplements marketed for weight loss and muscle gain. A 2001 study published in "International Journal of Sports Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism" found that men who consumed whey protein combined with creatine, another popular supplement, experienced increased strength and muscle growth. For some people trying to either lose weight or gain muscle, however, whey protein may cause gastrointestinal discomfort. Check with your doctor before using any dietary supplement or if you experience discomfort when using a supplement.

Two large plastice black jars of whey protein sit on a white counter. Credit: farakos/iStock/Getty Images

Whey Protein

Whey is one of two kinds of protein extracted from cow's milk. Proteins are made from amino acids, which proponents of whey protein believe can increase muscle mass. Whey protein may also play a role in improving your immunity and helping you lose excess fat. For optimum benefit from this supplement, University of Illinois experts recommend you consume approximately 20 to 25 grams daily if you are trying to lose weight or improve immune function. For higher-intensity training, they recommend a daily dosage of 40 to 50 grams.

Causes of Diarrhea and Excess Gas

Diarrhea and excess gas can indicate irritation of the bowel or illnesses such as the flu. Food allergies and sensitivities can also cause these symptoms. In some individuals, consumption of certain types of food, such as beans or broccoli, can cause excess gas. Reactions to certain sugars can also cause excess gas and diarrhea because your body is unable to digest them. This condition may also be caused by a deficiency of enzymes in the stomach that help digest lactose, or milk sugar. Known as lactose intolerance, this condition can occur with consumption of whey protein made from cow's milk.

Lactose Intolerance

Lactose intolerance, according to the National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse, occurs when you have a deficiency of the enzyme lactase. This enzyme is necessary for digestion of lactose, the sugar that occurs naturally in milk and milk products including whey protein. Symptoms of lactose intolerance generally begin within 30 minutes of consuming a food containing milk or milk protein. Typically, the person experiences diarrhea, abdominal bloating and excess gas after ingesting milk; and depending on the severity of the deficiency, can experience extreme discomfort.

Treatment for Lactose Intolerance

Lactose intolerance can't be cured, but some people find significant relief by consuming milk products labeled "lactose-free." In addition, lactase enzyme supplements are available at pharmacies and grocery stores and may help with digestion of whey protein. If your digestive problems and intolerance are severe, it may be necessary to use an alternative source of supplemental protein such as soy. Anti-gas and anti-diarrheal medications available over the counter can also help decrease discomfort associated with lactose intolerance, but these products don't improve your ability to digest the product.

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