Written by Ben Carlisle
Last updated on: Sep 18, 2022
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The term "FODMAP" refers to a category of foods which are thought to irritate the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome and similar gastrointestinal disorders. For those trying to stick to low FODMAP ingredients finding an appropriate protein powder can be challenging. However this need not be the case...
There are numerous types of protein powder which are low FODMAP, this includes; egg protein, rice protein, soy protein, sacha inchi protein, hemp protein, and collagen protein. These powders are normally manufactured using only low FODMAP ingredients. However, it is important to check the labelling to be certain.
Fermentable oligo-, di-, mono-, and polyols are collectively referred to as "FODMAPs" (1). This is where the well-known acronym comes from, and it refers to a number of fermentable carbohydrates which can cause digestive problems in IBS patients (2).
There are range of low FODMAP protein powders. They all differ in terms of ingredients and manufacturing methods. Some protein powders are particularly high in FODMAPs, and these should be avoided by anybody who is attempting to follow a low FODMAP diet.
Thankfully, with modern technology and an ever-increasing understanding of food products, there are several protein powders which are considered to be low in FODMAPs.
It’s important to note, however, the majority of the protein powders on the market have not themselves been tested for FODMAPs. FODMAP testing is a lengthy process which involves a significant investment of time and resources. As a result, most protein powders have not been tested.
However, most ingredients used in protein powders have been individually tested. Therefore, it is reasonable to assume a protein powder which contains exclusively low FODMAP ingredients is low FODMAP.
Despite this there are instances where a protein powder has every ingredient but one considered to be low FODMAP. This one high FODMAP ingredient can cause the powder to be ruled out as a low FODMAP option.
The ingredients to look out for in this respect are; polyols, certain plant-derived proteins, lactose, vegetable powders, inulin, and any prebiotics listed (3, 4). Stevia, however, is one ingredient used to sweeten protein powders which is considered low in FODMAPs, making it a safe ingredient if contained in your protein powder (5).
The main protein powders considered to be low in FODMAPs are:
• Egg Protein
• Rice Protein
• Collagen Protein
• Hemp Protein
• Sacha Inchi Protein
• Whey Protein Isolate*
• Pea Protein*
• Soy Protein*
*Soy and pea protein isolate can vary drastically in their FODMAP levels. Whereas, whey protein concentrate and hydrolysate are considered high FODMAP if they have a high lactose content, this will depending upon the manufacturing methods used (6).
Whey protein is often thought of as being high FODMAP due to the association of whey with dairy. However, it is important to remember while a low FODMAP diet should be lactose free, it does not mean you cannot consume any dairy products. Dairy alone is not a problem on a low FODMAP diet, but lactose is. If you are following a low FODMAP diet because of IBS and are not lactose intolerant you can safely consume whey protein powder (7).
A large number of dairy products are low in lactose, often being lactose free. This is due to the manufacturing processes used in the creation of dairy products. There are essentially 3 categories of whey proteins; whey protein isolate, whey protein hydrolysate and whey protein concentrate.
Whey protein isolate is almost guaranteed to be low FODMAP due to its being almost completely lactose free (less than 1%). This is an excellent choice of protein for anybody on a low FODMAP diet as it is the purest form of whey. It also boasts a low-fat content. Whey protein concentrate is the most common type of whey protein powder. Unlike whey protein isolate, concentrate is not considered low FODMAP unless it is specifically stated it is lactose free, as this type of protein typically contains 4 to 8% lactose.
Hydrolyzed whey protein, on the other hand, is also usually a high FODMAP option unless the packaging specifically states it is free of lactose. It can contain anywhere between 0.5% to 10% lactose. This makes it important to check the packaging to ensure this percentage is less than 1% for it to be considered low FODMAP.
Rice, in general, does not contain any FODMAPs. As such, rice protein is an excellent low FODMAP option for a protein shake. Rice protein powder is usually manufactured using brown rice. This is because brown rice typically contains more protein than white rice. This makes it a great low FODMAP protein source as well as a good source of protein for vegans. It is also gluten-free, which makes it a great choice for anybody with intolerances to wheat and gluten.
Soy protein powders, like the majority of the other protein powders, have not been officially tested for FODMAPs, it can be considered a low FODMAP option. The reason for this is soy milk made from soy protein or soy protein isolate is low FODMAP. Therefore, it can be safely assumed the protein powder made from the same ingredients will also be low in FODMAPs (8).
This will only be the case, however, if the protein powder is made from soy protein as opposed to soybeans. It is a good idea to monitor symptoms when consuming a soy protein powder to safeguard against any negative reactions.
Egg whites are considered to be one of the purest forms of protein. They contain all the essential amino acids and they do not contain any carbohydrates. As a result, egg protein is a perfect choice of low FODMAP protein shake because it contains zero FODMAPs whatsoever (9). In the manufacture of egg protein powder, the egg yolks are usually removed to ensure a lower content of fat and cholesterol. This means the powder is made from egg whites, ensuring a high-protein, zero FODMAP option.
While hemp protein powder has, again, not been tested for FODMAPs, there are some individually manufactured hemp protein powders which have been certified as low FODMAP (10). Hemp seeds are not an intrinsically low-FODMAP food; however, there is a portion size at which they can be considered low FODMAP.
This means most hemp protein powders should have a portion size at which there are very low levels of FODMAPs. Again, it’s important to test a small amount of hemp protein powder when you start taking it. The reason for this is to be check for any adverse reactions before moving on to bigger portions.
This is a lesser-known form of protein powder which is made using the seeds of a Peruvian plant. Also known as Inca Inchi, the seeds have high protein levels as well as significant amounts of omega 3s.
Sacha Inchi protein powder has, in fact, been tested for FODMAPs, and was found to have very low in FODMAPS. Even in high serving sizes of 100g, Sacha Inchi protein powder remains low in FODMAPs (11).
Collagen protein contains no dairy or lactose. As as a result, it is safe to include in a low FODMAP diet. There have been numerous claims associated with collagen protein, such as glowing skin, hair, and nails, as well as healthy joints and increased bone strength. However these claims are yet to be confirmed with scientific evidence. It should also be noted collagen is not complete protein as it does not contain all the essential amino acids. This means it is not the best choice for building lean muscle tissue (12).
Pea protein is made from yellow split peas.With pea protein isolate the protein is isolate from the peas. The outer shell of the pea is mechanically removed. This removes the insoluble fibers which the shell contains. Next the pea is crushed into a flour. This flour is a combination of protein, starch and fiber. Unlike the shell these fibers are water soluble. To separate the protein wet filtration and centrifugation is used. Then the protein is precipitated to its isoelectric point.
This outer shell consists of predominantly insoluble fibers. Once the shell is removed the pea is milled down into a flour. This flour contains proteins, starches and soluble fibers. As it is water soluble, the proteins are separated from the fiber and starch by wet filtration and centrifugation. This dry spray is then solubilized. What is left is a beige white pea protein powder with a protein content of approximately 75%.
This differs greatly from pea protein concentrate which is peas milled down into a flour. The content of this flour has a lower protein percentage. This means pea protein concentrate is likely to have more FODMAPs than isolate due to this differing processing methods. As guidance, some pea protein isolates will be low FODMAP and most concentrates will not. It is advised always to check the labelling to ensure the pea protein powder is low FODMAP.
There is a method for assessing FODMAP carbohydrate levels in order to distinguish between low and high FODMAP foods, and things are classified as high FODMAP when they exceed a particular threshold. 0.3 grams of fructans or galacto-oligosaccharides are the oligosaccharide criterion (GOS). When it comes to disaccharides, 4 grams of lactose is the threshold.
When it comes to monosaccharides, a diet which contains 0.2 grams more fructose than glucose is considered high FODMAP. When looking at polyols, foods containing 0.3 grams or more of mannitol or Sorbitol are considered high FODMAP. Two institutions conducted considerable research into FODMAP carbohydrates and meticulously determined what constitutes a high FODMAP food item. Monash University and King's College London are the two universities which conducted these studies, and continue to do so (13, 14).
It's important to keep in mind FODMAPs aren't bad for everyone. These food groups can be particularly beneficial to some individuals; thus, they should not be avoided in these circumstances. People who can't eat particular foods may face nutrient deficiencies if they avoid FODMAPs. If you can't tolerate high FODMAP meals, switch to low FODMAP alternatives to keep your diet well-balanced.
FODMAPs are not easily absorbed by the small intestine (15). They move slowly and gather water as they pass through the small intestine. FODMAPs are subsequently digested in the large intestine by particular bacteria, resulting in gas generation. When paired with the increased water and gas, people who are intolerant to these foods (who are often IBS sufferers) have symptoms including flatulence, diarrhea, and bloating. It's also important to remember not everyone with IBS will react to all of the FODMAP groups. This is why consulting a nutritionist to determine which FODMAP foods are triggering your symptoms is crucial.
Wheat is one of the worst offenders when it comes to FODMAPs. Wheat is typically consumed in considerable quantities; therefore, even though it is not a highly concentrated source of FODMAPs, the number of FODMAPs consumed when eating wheat is substantial. Flavorings and thickeners, as well as any other foods containing wheat in modest amounts, are low-FODMAP foods. This is because wheat contains very little FODMAPs by weight (16).
Wheat is mostly found in bread, spaghetti, and breakfast cereals. There are various low-FODMAP alternatives to the above-mentioned wheat-containing foods. Among them are brown rice, buckwheat, oats, millet, polenta, tapioca, and quinoa. Garlic contains FODMAPs as well, with an exceptionally high quantity of FODMAPs (17). This means it’s a food you should definitely avoid if you are sensitive to FODMAPs. The most frequent type of FODMAP identified in garlic is fructans.
The amount of fructans in garlic varies significantly depending on how it is consumed. When comparing fresh and dried garlic, dried garlic has more than three times the amount of fructans. Garlic includes a lot of FODMAPs, but it also provides a lot of health advantages and should only be avoided by people who are FODMAP-sensitive. Consider substituting chives, fenugreek, pepper, lemongrass, mustard seeds, turmeric, or saffron if you're intolerant to FODMAPs.
Onions are another well-known high-FODMAP food (17). This common food item includes a high level of FODMAPs, making it difficult for IBS sufferers to eat. Onions’ principal source of FODMAPs is fructans, which vary in quantity depending on the cultivar. In place of onions, asafoetida, a spice often used in Indian cuisine, can be used. Before using, it should be cooked in hot oil and then added to the cuisine in small amounts. FODMAPs are abundant in many fruits, vegetables, beans, and pulses, as well as artificial sweeteners.
When searching for a protein powder suitable for a low FODMAP diet, you should always check the labels to ensure there are no hidden ingredients containing high levels of FODMAPs. It’s also important to remember your best sources of protein and amino acids will come from your everyday diet, and there is no reason to compromise on your protein intake when following a low FODMAP diet.