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Over the past several years, protein powders have seemed to gain a poor reputation. Although some forms of protein powder can be hard on the digestive system, there are various healthy protein powder options that actually promote digestion and provide other health benefits.
In my work with autoimmunity and gut health, I’m frequently asked about the benefits (and consequences) of protein powder:
“Is protein powder healthy?”
“Which protein powder is best?”
“Is protein powder safe for me?”
As with almost everything else, quality is key. Certain protein powders (as discussed below) are better for your body than others, especially when poor gut function or autoimmunity is at play.
In my professional opinion, protein powder can play an important role in most healthy, balanced diets- even when extenuating health circumstances are present. Protein plays an essential role in the body, as it’s responsible for building and maintaining muscle mass, providing energy, healing infections, and much more.
Despite its impressive workload, adequate protein is lacking in the average American diet. Enter: protein powder. High quality protein powder is an effective and delicious way to consume more protein on a daily basis. When it comes to the gut health and autoimmunity, protein powder can help:
That being said, choosing the right protein powder is often easier said than done.
When you walk into any grocery store or supplement shop, you’ll probably see protein powder galore. The options seem endless! However, finding the right option isn’t always such an easy task.
Choosing the right protein powder is key if you struggle with GI distress (bloating, gas, indigestion), are in the process of healing your gut, or have an autoimmune condition. I encourage you to stick to these tips when shopping for protein powder:
Not to state the obvious, but whey protein powder is made from dairy. If you’ve struggled with gut issues or autoimmunity for awhile, you’re probably familiar with the distress dairy can cause in your tummy. But, that’s not all. When the gut and immune systems aren’t up to par, dairy can cause overall inflammation in the body.
Don’t let labels that state “natural” or “organic” fool you. Most of the time, these marketing tactics aren’t anything more than false advertising. Instead, here’s what you should look for:
Protein powders often have way too many ingredients, which isn’t ideal for those with leaky gut and autoimmune conditions. Most of these ingredients include binders, fillers, gums, prebiotics, and sweeteners. While these ingredients aren’t inherently bad, they frequently cause GI distress, like bloating and gas.
Following my checklist above, I’ve selected the healthiest protein powders that are approved for those with gut issues and autoimmune disease:
PurePaleo was made with autoimmune in mind. It’s ingredients include hydrolyzed beef bovine protein, which is easy to digest and high in protein. The plain flavor is a great option to add to smoothies, oatmeal, or baked goods!
InflammaCore is the best option for inflammatory conditions, imbalanced hormones, and meal replacement. You should not use this product with other ingredients or products. It’s best used as a meal replacement around mid-afternoon.
Hydrolyzed collagen peptides are great to use in addition to protein powder. Include one scoop a few times per week to boost gut integrity and improve hair, skin, and nails. My favorite hydrolyzed collagen peptides are OrthoMolecular Labs Collagen OR Perfect Brand Grass-Fed Collagen.
GI Replenish is an awesome option for those with active, more severe IBD/IBS symptoms. It helps heal the gut lining, while providing an adequate source of protein. Plus, it tastes the best!
Nuzest Clean Lean Protein is my go-to, as it’s approved for those with gut dysfunction or autoimmunity. The ingredients are vegan and plant based. While Nuzest is still one of my favorites, they recently reformulated, resulting in a slightly different taste.
Perfect Protein is an excellent, new option that is highly regulated and lab tested for purity and heavy metals. The ingredients are plant based and vegan, including protein rich sources like, pumpkin seed, hemp seed, and sacha inchi. Bonus: you won’t find any binders or fillers.
While there are many protein powder options available, it’s worth figuring out the right option for your body, needs, and goals. At the end of the day, you want to support your body, not harm it. Once you’ve chosen the right protein powder for you, download my FREE guide, “Building a Better Smoothie” to learn exactly how to incorporate your protein powder for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and/or snacks!
If you need more help figuring out the best option for you, I encourage you to work with a functional practitioner who can make this important decision with you!
"When it comes to balancing our body, healing the gut, reversing autoimmunity, and achieving optimal health—we are a lot like a car that won’t run right. In order to fix the problem once and for all instead of relying on jumper cables, we must get underneath the hood, run the diagnostics, and replace the battery so that it runs good as new."
-Nikki Yelton, RD
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