Medically reviewed by Onikepe Adegbola, MD, PhD
Our bodies need protein to stay healthy and function optimally. While the health effects of fats and carbs are slightly controversial, almost everyone agrees that protein is vital.
As per a study titled “Protein intake and energy balance” published by the National Library of Medicine, a high protein diet benefits metabolic health and facilitates weight loss. Additionally, protein has major benefits for bone health and makes you feel full for longer.
But can consuming too much protein make you constipated? In today’s blog, we’re going to discuss that.
Does Protein Make You Constipated?
While getting extra protein in your diet supports a healthy lifestyle, going overboard can be troublesome. One of the common side effects of consuming too much protein is constipation.
Individuals who work out every day tend to consume protein in the powder of powders and shakes. It is especially common amongst gym-goers. Over the years, these protein supplements have proven to be great on-the-go options for people on a tight schedule. But many individuals tend to overdo it with these supplements or protein sources in general to get their desired physique.
However, it’s not the protein that causes constipation or bloating in an individual’s body but a combination of other factors. Keep reading to know what these factors are.
1. Decreased Fiber Intake
In the urge to consume more protein, individuals reduce their fiber intake. Fruits and vegetables are potent sources of fiber that shouldn’t be avoided at any cost.
Fiber adds bulk to your stool and draws waste through your GI tract. As a result, fiber ensures that the food you consume moves more efficiently in your body. By doing so, fiber reduces the chances of bloating and constipation.
Increasing protein intake should go hand in hand with increased fluid consumption. In other words, if you’re consuming a high-protein diet throughout the day, balancing it with tons of fluid intake is vital. However, many individuals don’t follow this rule, resulting in dehydration and constipation.
Apart from the stomach, the liver and the kidneys also participate in the digestion of protein. After it gets acted upon by the gastric juices in the stomach, the protein gets broken into amino acids by pancreatic enzymes in the intestine.
The amino acids get processed by the liver, and the byproducts are filtered into the urine through the kidney. So, drinking extra water is essential for the body to dilute and handle an increased protein intake.
3. Lactose Intolerance
One of the most popular forms of protein in the market today is whey protein. However, the whey protein offered by most brands contains milk-based products.
So if you’re someone who suffers from constipation after having whey protein, you may be lactose intolerant. In such cases, when the lactose reaches the gut, the body does not know what to do with it. The lactose, in turn, causes the body to slow things down in certain parts. Many times, this results in constipation.
Instead of whey protein, you try vegan or plant-based protein.
Tips And Tricks To Avoid Constipation Occurring From Excessive Protein Consumption
The daily protein allowance recommended by specialists is 0.8g per kg of body weight. For instance, if you’re someone who weighs 75kgs, the daily protein allowance is 60g.
If you choose to consume more protein than this limit, taking proper precautions is essential. Here are the tips to avoid or reduce constipation occurring from excess protein intake.
- Consume lots of fruits, vegetables, grains, and beans as they are strong fiber sources. Fiber allows your body to break down the protein in your body. If you consume protein shakes, adding fiber powder to them is a good option.
- Keep yourself hydrated by consuming tons of water and other fluids throughout the day, as it helps keep constipation at bay.
- Consult your doctor about laxatives for temporary relief if you go three days without a bowel movement.
- Chia seeds, almonds, flaxseeds, and peanuts are effective options as they contain fiber as well as protein. Moreover, each of them has few carbs and calories.
- Always consult with a healthcare specialist before adopting a high protein diet.
Protein is a vital building block for your bones, muscles, and cartilage. Our bodies use protein to repair and build tissue. About half the protein that individuals consume in a day goes into making enzymes. It, in turn, aids in digesting foods and making new cells and body chemicals.
However, eating a high protein diet has its merits and demerits. The former includes building lean muscle, curbing hunger, speeding recovery after a workout, facilitating weight loss, and reducing muscle loss. The common downside of overconsuming protein is constipation. That said, protein alone doesn’t cause constipation or bloating in individuals. Instead, it’s a combination of factors like dehydration, decreased fiber intake, and lactose intolerance.
If you’re someone on a high protein diet, getting enough fiber is essential. Good sources of fiber include fruits, vegetables, seeds, and nuts. You should try to consume more than 8 glasses of water throughout the day as fiber pulls water from your body. One of the best ways to avoid constipation from a high protein diet is to consult a healthcare specialist before making dietary changes.
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Men’s Health Staff. (2021, June 2). Why You Can’t Poop When You Eat Too Much Protein. Men’s Health Magazine Australia. https://www.menshealth.com.au/why-you-can-t-poop-when-you-eat-too-much-protein/