Bariatric Surgery: Alternatives to Whey Protein Shakes

Michelle Phelan, nutritionist at Blossom Bariatrics, responds to a question about alternatives to whey protein shakes.

Whey--a cow’s milk protein--is one of the most common protein supplements available and is widely used in protein beverages.  Unfortunately, a majority of Americans--approximately 60%--can’t use milk-based protein supplements because of a dairy intolerance or allergy.

Chris from Salt Lake City, Utah, had an adverse reaction and asks, “When I drink my whey protein shakes I feel nauseous and I break out in hives. What’s going on? I can’t drink them and I know I’m not getting my protein in that I need every day.”

Michelle Phelan, nutritionist at Blossom Bariatrics explains, “Well Chris, you could be experiencing whey intolerance or true dairy allergy. I recommend going to your primary care physician and getting tested for these things.”

In 2009, Elizabeth Weise reported in USA Today that, “If you're American or European it's hard to realize this, but being able to digest milk as an adult is one weird genetic adaptation.”

Weise states, “It's not normal. Somewhat less than 40% of people in the world retain the ability to digest lactose after childhood. The numbers are often given as close to 0% of Native Americans, 5% of Asians, 25% of African and Caribbean peoples, 50% of Mediterranean peoples and 90% of northern Europeans.”

Phelan also cautions against jumping to conclusions--it may not be a dairy allergy or intolerance--and suggests, “In the meantime, I recommend to all my patients who do experience some discomfort after their whey protein shakes, to check the sweetener on the product. Sometimes it could be the artificial sweetener that they use. So, experiment with different brands and different flavors.”

If an adverse reaction is a genuine milk allergy or intolerance, then consider other protein sources, such as pea protein, hemp protein, or even certain types, brands, or forms of gelatin.  Men’s Health online magazine suggests these alternative proteins along with egg white and brown rice proteins.

Phelan concludes, “I like to recommend rice and pea protein powder, which mixes instantly in your almond milk or water, or your rice milk just like the whey protein. All of these come in flavors such as vanilla, chocolate, and strawberry.”

Because protein is essential to bariatric surgery patients, the key is to experiment and find a protein supplement that works.  If patients will take time to experiment and pay specific attention to how different proteins make them feel, and use what makes them feel better, then they will heal more quickly, promote weight loss, and develop healthy lifestyle habits.

About Blossom Bariatrics:

Blossom Bariatrics is a weight loss surgery center located in Las Vegas, Nevada. Award winning surgeon, Dr. Thomas Umbach, is dedicated to helping individuals improve their health, and live more fulfilling lives by losing their excess weight.  His gastric bypass practice specializes in both advanced and traditional laparoscopic (minimally invasive) procedures.

Contact Info:
Name: Dr. Tom Umbach
Email: Send Email
Organization: Blossom Bariatrics
Address: 3235 East Warm Springs Rd. Suite 100 Building 24 Las Vegas, NV 89120
Phone: 702-904-8011

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