Last Updated on September 12, 2023 by Shari Mason
Pea protein has gained popularity as a plant-based protein alternative. Yet, for some, it comes with a caveat: stomach discomfort.
So why does pea protein hurt your stomach?
I asked some experts in the field to explore why pea protein might not sit well with everyone. This exploration is vital for those who embrace healthier dietary choices without compromising comfort.
5 Reasons Why Pea Protein Hurt Your Stomach
1. Digestive Enzymes
The digestive system is a complex ballet of enzymes and bacteria that break down the foods we consume.
One of the primary reasons why pea protein might be unsettling to some stomachs is linked to digestive enzymes .
Pea protein is derived from legumes, which contain specific compounds called antinutrients. One of these, phytic acid, can hinder the efficiency of certain digestive enzymes.
“The best feeling in the world is a hard workout, a shower, and a protein shake.”– Mirko Cro Cop, Professional Croatian Mixed Martial Artist
When these enzymes are inhibited, it can make it more challenging for the body to break down and absorb nutrients from our foods.
Introducing pea protein can lead to gastrointestinal discomfort, including bloating, gas, and indigestion for individuals with a sensitive gut or those lacking the necessary enzymes to process legumes efficiently.
Thus, while pea protein is a great alternative protein source for many, its interaction with digestive enzymes can make it a less suitable option for some.
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2. High Fiber Content
Pea protein is recognized for its beneficial nutritional profile, especially its high fiber content.
While fiber is essential for healthy digestion and regular bowel movements, an abrupt increase in its intake can pose challenges for many individuals.
The high fiber content in pea protein can lead to feelings of fullness, bloating, gas, and even diarrhea for some. This is particularly true for those unaccustomed to a fiber-rich diet or those with sensitive digestive systems.
Therefore, while the fiber in pea protein can offer numerous health benefits, this attribute might also be the culprit behind stomach discomfort for specific individuals.
3. Sensitivities or Intolerances
As with many foods, pea protein is only sometimes universally tolerated by everyone. Sensitivities or intolerances to components found in pea protein can trigger adverse digestive reactions.
For some, this might be a mild intolerance that results in bloating or gas, while for others, consuming pea protein could lead to more pronounced symptoms such as diarrhea or cramps.
Unlike allergies, which can cause severe and immediate reactions, sensitivities or intolerances are often subtler and might not manifest until several hours after consumption.
Thus, if someone notices discomfort after consuming pea protein, it’s worth considering a potential underlying sensitivity or intolerance as the cause.
4. Gastrointestinal Flora
The balance of our gastrointestinal flora , commonly known as gut bacteria, plays a crucial role in digesting and assimilating the foods we consume.
Pea protein, a plant-derived substance, may introduce a different nutrient profile that might not be familiar to an individual’s gut microbiome.
When introduced to a new dietary component, certain bacteria in the gut might flourish while others diminish, leading to a temporary imbalance. This can result in various digestive symptoms, including gas, bloating, or even diarrhea.
Over time, as the gut bacteria adjust to the new dietary component, these symptoms might subside. Still, it underscores the importance of paying attention to how specific foods affect our digestive health.
5. Processing Factors
Processing factors can significantly influence how the digestive system tolerates pea protein. During the manufacturing phase, pea protein undergoes various treatments to extract the protein from the whole pea.
This process can sometimes leave behind substances or introduce additives that some individuals may find hard to digest. Additionally, the quality of purification and any added fillers, sweeteners, or flavorings can have an impact.
“Every belly has its story; for some, pea protein whispers while for others, it shouts.”– Eat Pallet Restaurant & Food Advice
For those with sensitive stomachs, it’s not just the pea protein itself but the remnants of these processing elements that might lead to discomfort or digestive upset.
As such, it’s imperative to understand and research the sourcing and processing methods of the pea protein products one consumes.
Are there side effects of pea protein?
Yes. Some people might experience digestive upset, such as bloating, gas, or stomach cramps after consuming pea protein.
This can be attributed to the fiber content or sensitivity to certain compounds within the protein. Additionally, those with allergies or intolerances to peas might exhibit allergic reactions.
Is it OK to have pea protein every day?
Yes, it’s generally OK to have pea protein every day, provided you are not allergic or intolerant to it, and it’s consumed as part of a balanced diet.
However, as with any protein source, variety in your diet is beneficial.
The discomfort some people experience after consuming pea protein can be attributed to several factors, including its high fiber content, potential sensitivities or intolerances, variations in gastrointestinal flora, and specific processing factors.
While pea protein is a valuable plant-based protein alternative, listening to one’s body is essential.
If pea protein triggers digestive issues, consider alternative protein sources or consult a healthcare professional to address potential underlying concerns.
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