The other day I was talking with a friend. She isn’t vegan but is generally health-conscious.
She commented to me that she has been a little constipated lately.
She wondered if maybe her whey-based protein powder was the cause. She asked me if I thought it would help to switch to a vegan protein powder.
As someone who eats a majority plant-based diet, I’ve been supplementing my diet with a vegan protein powder for a while now.
From my personal experience, I can’t even remember the last time I had constipation and I believe that’s because I follow a plant-based diet.
So anyway, the conversation got me thinking and I did a little research to answer the question…
Does vegan protein powder help with constipation, or cause it?
The simple answer is that vegan protein powder should NOT cause constipation. It’s not exactly a laxative either. It’s best not to count on it being a miracle cure if your current protein powder gives you constipation and you’re looking for relief. However, high-quality vegan protein powder can be a great alternative if you have experienced constipation and other digestive problems using non-vegan options.
Plant-based protein powders can be an important part of your diet even if you are not vegan.
They’re a great source of digestible protein. They also contribute essential amino acids to your diet.
They can certainly help you meet your nutrition goals.
But if your protein powder is causing you gas, bloating, or constipation you need to analyze your whole diet. This is the only way to get the big picture of why you might be “blocked up”.
Only then, can you do something about it.
What Causes Constipation?
Honestly, it’s most likely NOT protein powder.
Diets high in protein tend to create conditions ripe for developing constipation. And some of this can be because of the ingredients in the protein powders.
It’s also just as likely that it has to do with your diet in general.
It seems that most people want to increase their protein while decreasing their carbs. This can help us to stay full, stay lean, and maintain our muscles.
Unfortunately, when you cut out or limit carbs, you can unintentionally cut out a lot of fiber from your diet as well.
This kind of unbalanced diet is usually the cause of any digestive upset you might experience when consuming protein powder.
Other reasons why you might get constipated while consuming protein powder include:
- A lack of hydration – constipation is basically dehydration in the colon. Make sure to drink enough water to help keep things moving.
- Not getting enough exercise – this keeps your muscles, especially those in your gut, toned and moving things along.
- Not eating enough healthy fats – plant-derived healthy fats lubricate the colon and help keep things sliding along, so to speak.
Is Vegan Protein Powder a Better Option?
If your current protein powder causes constipation, it might be worth switching over to a vegan protein powder.
Vegan protein powders tend to be more digestible.
Non-vegan protein powders are primarily made from whey or casein, which comes from milk.
For many people, dairy products can cause a whole number of digestive issues. Bloating and excess gas are common complaints from people who use dairy-based protein products.
On the other hand, vegan protein powder’s main ingredients are usually protein isolates derived from peas, rice, or soy.
Basically, the protein is separated from all the carbohydrates, sugars and starches found in the whole bean or grain.
These protein isolates are then usually mixed with other ingredients. This boosts the protein powder’s nutritional profile.
The other ingredients contained in plant-based protein powders also tend to be pretty digestible. They also contribute soluble fiber to the blend.
Hemp seeds, chia, flax seeds, pumpkin, and quinoa are also all high-protein and fiber-rich ingredients that are used a lot in different high-quality vegan protein powders.
I recommend that you be selective about the product you choose. Look for a supplement that offers a balanced protein to fiber ratio with organic and non-GMO ingredients.
Adding a high-quality, balanced vegan protein powder to your diet should not cause you any digestive discomfort.
Switching to a vegan protein powder to help with constipation could be beneficial for you.
A Word About Soy
Did you catch what I said earlier about soy being one of the main sources for some vegan protein powders?
Soy is one of those tricky ingredients that some people love and some people love to hate.
When it comes to choosing a highly digestible vegan protein powder, I honestly recommend that you avoid this ingredient.
Only choose soy if you know that your body handles it well. And please, make sure it is sourced from a trustworthy company that offers only organic and GMO-free soy products.
There are a few reasons why I think staying away from soy based vegan protein powder is a good idea:
- The most common process for extracting requires the soybeans to be soaked in hexane. This is a gasoline by-product.
OK, so the majority of the hexane is removed through further processing.
But still… why in the world would you want to consume something that has even a trace amount of a known neurotoxin?
- Soy can cause hormone imbalances because of the presence of phytoestrogens.
These compounds act a lot like estrogen in both men and women. When consumed in high doses and over a long period of time, they can cause quite a few problems.
- Soy also has goitrogen. This compound can cause problems for your thyroid and metabolism.
That’s not exactly productive if you are trying to lose weight or build muscle. It can also contribute to other serious health problems.
- Most soy grown today is genetically modified and “Round-Up Ready.”
With most soy, you’re consuming a product that has had its genetic makeup altered specifically to tolerate large doses of herbicides and pesticides.
- A lot of people have allergies or intolerances to soy. Even if you don’t think you are one of those people, consuming it in the form of concentrated protein powder could have really intense effects on your gut.
It’s one of the least digestible forms of protein out there, at least among legume derived sources.
I believe that cheap soy-based vegan protein powders give vegan protein supplements a bad name in general.
Vegan Protein Powders and Gut Health
There is one other way that high-quality vegan protein powders can be an effective tool to help with constipation. Probiotics.
Many vegan protein powders come complete with a probiotic mixed into the blend.
Probiotics are proven to improve overall gut health and digestion.
If you are eating a balanced diet with plenty of fiber, healthy fats and drinking lots of fluids while using a high-quality vegan protein powder – you should have no problems with constipation!