For those with lactose intolerance, whey protein can seem off-limits. But contrary to popular belief, whey protein isolate is usually well-tolerated, even by those who are lactose intolerant. This article explains why whey protein isolate is often suitable for people with lactose intolerance, and how to choose the best products.
What is Lactose Intolerance?
Lactose intolerance is the inability to fully digest lactose, the main carbohydrate found in dairy products. This occurs when there is not enough of the enzyme lactase produced in the small intestine to properly break down lactose.
When undigested lactose travels to the colon, it can cause uncomfortable symptoms like bloating, gas, cramping and diarrhea. The severity ranges from mild discomfort to extreme pain.
Lactose intolerance can develop over time and is different from a milk allergy, which triggers an immune response. It is estimated that 68% of the global population has some degree of lactose maldigestion.
The onset of lactose intolerance usually occurs in adulthood but can start in childhood. Some ethnic groups are also more predisposed, including those of East Asian, West African, Arab, Jewish, Greek, and Italian descent.
There are three main types of lactose intolerance:
Primary Lactose Intolerance – This is when lactase production declines as you age, typically starting in the late teens or adulthood. It is the most common cause in adults.
Secondary Lactose Intolerance – This occurs when injury, disease or medications damage the small intestine and reduce lactase production temporarily. It may happen after surgery, chemotherapy, or intestinal infections.
Congenital Lactose Intolerance – A rare genetic disorder present from birth that results in little to no lactase enzyme activity.
Symptoms of lactose intolerance can range from mild to severe abdominal discomfort and usually appear 30 minutes to 2 hours after eating dairy. They include:
– Abdominal cramps
– Vomiting (in severe cases)
The severity depends on the amount of lactose consumed and the degree of lactase deficiency. Some people may be able to tolerate small amounts of lactose from certain dairy foods.
Is Whey Protein Suitable for Lactose Intolerance?
Whey protein comes from dairy, so it is understandable to assume it is unsuitable. But most whey protein isolates contain little to no lactose, making them easy to digest for those with lactose intolerance.
There are two main types of whey protein – whey protein concentrate (WPC) and whey protein isolate (WPI). WPC contains small amounts of fat and carbs, including lactose. WPI is purified to remove all the lactose, fats, and carbs.
For people with lactose intolerance, whey protein isolate is the best option. With lactose content lower than 0.5g per serving, it is well tolerated by the majority. Always check the label to confirm low lactose levels.
Benefits of Whey Protein Isolate
Whey protein isolate offers many benefits, especially important for bariatric patients who need to boost protein intake in small servings:
– Highly absorbable protein to preserve lean muscle mass
– Very low lactose levels for easier digestion
– Helps increase feelings of fullness when portion sizes are small
– Supports metabolism and fat burning
– Contains all essential amino acids
– Neutral flavour mixes easily into foods and drinks
Whey protein isolate is absorbed quickly, making it easy for the body to use. This rapid absorption combined with a high concentration of leucine, an amino acid that stimulates muscle protein synthesis, makes whey protein isolate ideal after bariatric surgery when maximal nutrition in minimal servings is key.
Tips for Choosing a Whey Isolate
When selecting a whey protein isolate, keep these tips in mind:
– Seek out isolates with under 0.5g lactose per serving.
– opt for an unflavoured or lightly flavoured option without added sugars.
– Choose a high-quality isolate from grass-fed, hormone-free cows.
– Look for third-party testing for purity and safety.
– Avoid protein concentrates higher in lactose.
– Start with a small serving to test tolerance.
Suitable Whey Isolates for Lactose Intolerance
Here are some excellent whey protein isolate options appropriate for lactose intolerance:
– NOW Sports Unflavoured Whey Protein Isolate
– BN Healthy Flavoured Whey Protein Isolate – Chocolate
– Levels Grass-Fed Whey Protein Isolate
– Bi-Pro Unflavoured Whey Isolate Protein
– Opportunities Grass Fed Whey Protein Isolate
– Pure Protein Isolate
– Dynamize ISO100 Whey Protein Isolate
– Ascent Native Fuel Whey Protein Isolate
When selecting a product, always double check the nutrition label for lactose content and avoid any with significant amounts. Whey concentrates or blends will be higher in lactose than isolates.
Trying a high-quality whey protein isolate in small amounts is usually well tolerated by people with mild to moderate lactose intolerance. But everyone has a different tolerance level. If symptoms occur, discontinue use.
How to Test Tolerance
When first trying whey protein isolate, it is smart to start with a very small serving mixed into a food or drink to test your individual tolerance. Significant sources of lactose like milk, ice cream and certain cheeses are more likely to cause issues than a properly filtered whey isolate.
If a small amount of whey protein isolate is tolerated without problems, you can try gradually increasing your serving size while paying attention to any digestive discomfort. When isolate is safe in quantities up to the recommended dietary intake of protein for most people with lactose intolerance.
Other Tips for Managing Lactose Intolerance
Here are some other ways to manage lactose intolerance while getting enough protein:
– Consume dairy products in small amounts with meals.
– Try lactose-free milk, yogurt, and cheese.
– opt for plant-based milks like almond, coconut, or oat milk.
– Take a lactase enzyme supplement when consuming dairy.
– Get protein from eggs, meat, fish, legumes, nuts, and seeds.
– Try probiotic supplements to build up lactose tolerance.
Do not avoid all dairy unless necessary, as it is an excellent source of protein, calcium, and vitamin D. Focus on including moderate amounts of lactose-free and low lactose varieties whenever possible.
Whey protein isolate can be an excellent addition to help those with lactose intolerance meet their protein needs. With a little trial and error, most people can find a high-quality whey isolate protein powder that their body tolerates and absorbs well. Combining whey isolate with other lactose-free proteins and foods can help promote muscle retention, keep you feeling full and support your overall health journey.
Explore our range of whey protein isolate options, designed for those seeking easy digestion and maximum health and nutritional benefits.
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