Many people use protein powders for a variety of reasons, such as weight management or to help meet their protein requirements.
It is not necessary to use a protein powder on the low FODMAP diet, however if you choose to use one, then this article will help you to find one that is safe.
What is the low FODMAP diet?
The low FODMAP diet refers to a temporary eating pattern that reduces certain sugars from the diet called FODMAPs.
The aim of this diet is to reduce digestive symptoms such as bloating, wind, pain, cramping and altered bowel habits by reducing FODMAPs, then reintroducing them gradually to see which groups are triggering the symptoms (1).
This diet can be beneficial for managing symptoms for people who have gastrointestinal disorders such as:
- Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
- Functional Gastrointestinal Disorder (FGID)
- Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO)
- Certain autoimmune conditions
- Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)
- Other health issues triggered by certain foods.
What are FODMAPs?
Put simply, FODMAPs refers to certain sugars known to trigger digestive problems.
The acronym stands for:
- Fermentable – meaning they are broken down (fermented) by bacteria in the large bowel
- Oligosaccharides – “oligo” means “few” and “saccharide” means sugar. These molecules are made up of individual sugars joined together in a chain
- Disaccharides – “di” means two. This is a double sugar molecule
- Monosaccharides – “mono” means single. This is a single sugar molecule
- And Polyols – these are sugar alcohols (however, they don’t lead to intoxication!).
They are found in a wide variety of healthy foods including some fruits, vegetables, grain foods, dairy products, nuts and seeds, and artificial sweeteners.
Summary: The low FODMAP diet is a medical diet used to reduce digestive symptoms such as bloating, wind, pain, cramping and altered bowel habits by reducing FODMAPs (certain sugars found naturally in the diet), then reintroducing them gradually to see which groups are triggering the symptoms.
Is protein powder low FODMAP?
The short answer is – it depends.
There are a number of protein powders that have been certified (laboratory tested and proven to be low FODMAP).
These include protein powders by Casa De Sante and Stellar Labs.
If a product is certified, then you will not be required to read the nutrition label for FODMAP content as it has been through laboratory testing and is proven to be low FODMAP.
If a protein powder is not certified, you will need to read the nutrition label to determine whether or not the product is low FODMAP (2).
If there are no high FODMAP ingredients (which will be discussed in further detail later in this article), then this product is known to be ‘low FODMAP by ingredient’.
The information below runs through the difference between the two most common types of protein powder – whey protein and pea protein, and how to determine whether the powder is low FODMAP.
Summary: Protein powder is low FODMAP if it is certified as being low FODMAP or low FODMAP by ingredient (no high FODMAP ingredients).
Whey protein powder
Whey protein is formed during the cheese making process, when the curd is separated from the whey. The whey is then dried and turned into powder.
Depending on the level of processing, the whey is sold as ‘whey protein isolate’, ‘hyrdolyzed whey protein’ or ‘whey protein concentrate’.
Whey protein isolate is low FODMAP.
Hydrolyzed whey protein and whey protein concentrate is low FODMAP if the lactose content is less than 1g per serve or if the product has had the ingredient called ‘lactase’ added to it, making it lactose free, with no other high FODMAP ingredients (3).
This can be determined by looking at the nutrition label.
The nutrition information table will have either less than 1g per serve of lactose per serve or the ingredients list will state ‘lactase’, which is the enzyme and ingredient that makes the protein powder lactose free.
Examples of nutrition labels for whey protein powders
To help demonstrate how to read nutrition labels for the FODMAP content of whey protein powders, a number of examples can be seen below.
Example 1 – whey protein powder that is whey protein isolate (low FODMAP).
Product: BiPro 100% Whey Protein Isolate
Example 2 – whey protein powder that is lactose free due to the addition of the ingredient lactase, with no other high FODMAP ingredients (low FODMAP).
Product: Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard 100% Whey Protein Powder
Summary: Whey protein isolate is low FODMAP; however, hydrolyzed whey protein and whey protein concentrate are only low FODMAP if the lactose content is less than 1g or if lactase is added, making the powder lactose free.
Pea protein powder
While peas themselves are considered high FODMAP, pea protein powder is actually low FODMAP unless there are high FODMAP ingredients that have been added.
Example of a nutrition label for pea protein powder
Product: True Nutrition Pea Protein Isolate (low FODMAP)
Summary: Pea protein powder is low FODMAP unless high FODMAP ingredients have been added to it.
Common high FODMAP ingredients added to protein powders
Even if a protein powder is low FODMAP, it is important to check the ingredients of the product for any high FODMAP ingredients have been added.
Some common high FODMAP ingredients include:
- High FODMAP sweeteners such as maltitol, xylitol, sorbitol, mannitol, fructose, agave syrup
- Coconut flour
These ingredients make the protein powder high in FODMAPs and therefore unsuitable to use on the low FODMAP diet.
Example 1 – protein powder containing inulin (high FODMAP)
Product: Vital Strength Define Women’s High Protein Powder
Example 2 – protein powder containing coconut flour (high FODMAP)
Product: Happy Whey Vanilla Protein Powder
Summary: There are many protein powders that are low FODMAP but become high FODMAP due to the addition of high FODMAP ingredients.
Recommended protein powder brands
To make things a little easier, here is a list of the current certified protein powders available for purchase.
- Casa De Sante Low FODMAP Whey Protein Chocolate Powder
- Casa De Sante Low FODMAP Whey Protein Vanilla Powder
- Stellar Labs Low FODMAP Vanilla Whey Protein Powder
- Stellar Labs Low FODMAP Chocolate Whey Protein Powder
- Casa De Sante Low FODMAP Vegan Protein Vanilla Powder
- Stellar Labs Low FODMAP Vanilla Pea Protein Powder
- Stellar Labs Low FODMAP Chocolate Pea Protein Powder
Protein powders can be included on a low FODMAP diet
With a little bit of label reading practice, you will be able to determine whether your protein powder is suitable to use while on the low FODMAP diet.
Check for high FODMAP ingredients and avoid the product if you find any of these ingredients listed.
Opt for an alternative without any high FODMAP ingredients or choose a recommended protein powder brand listed above.
Were you recommended a low FODMAP diet?
I’ve created a 14-day Digestive Health Reboot plan that includes:
- 7-day low FODMAP meal plan
- Shopping list
- Snacks cheat-sheet
- Facebook group for support
- Tutorials videos and loads more.
To learn more about it click here.