Meal replacement shakes are weight-loss products containing the same amount of nutrients as food but with lower levels of calories. Many people have experienced their stomachs blow up after drinking these shakes. Yet, can these meal replacement shakes cause bloating?
Meal replacement shakes can cause bloating due to the ingredients they contain. The main culprits are sugar, sodium, carbs, and artificial sweeteners. They contribute to bloating by disrupting the digestive system’s normal function and creating an imbalance in useful bacteria in the bowels.
In the rest of this article, we’ll discuss the main ingredients that may cause bloating. We’ll then provide suggestions to reduce bloating by eliminating gas-producing ingredients and making lifestyle changes.
Gas Producing Ingredients in Meal Replacement Shakes
The components of these shakes might create varying reactions in different bodies. One of these reactions is the discomfort and irritations experienced in the digestive system, with the most frequent one being bloating. The main causes of bloating in meal replacement shakes are the following:
Whey concentrate powder is a common component of most meal replacement shakes. The amount of lactose in whey protein is very low, but even the smallest degrees of lactose can create discomfort in lactose-intolerant people.
So, if you have lactose intolerance, try to avoid shakes that contain whey protein in large doses.
Although meal replacement shakes are supposed to contribute to weight loss, most of them contain high levels of different kinds of sugar. They mostly include fructose and corn syrup. But that’s not all the sugar you might get in these shakes.
Sugars can lead to bloating for two main reasons. First, they are made of carbohydrates, which contribute to gas production in our digestive system. Also, they’re difficult for many people to digest.
You might think that artificial sweeteners like sucralose and aspartame are healthier than table sugar because they don’t lead to weight gain. However, they might be doing more harm than good to your body.
Among the many side effects of these sweeteners, disrupting the gut flora is the one that can lead to bloating, gas, and many gastrointestinal problems.
They disrupt the normal mix of bacteria, leading to indigestion. These materials don’t break down in the early phases of digestion, move to the small intestine, and build up there, creating more gas.
A common ingredient of meal replacement shakes containing phytoestrogens is soy.
Phytoestrogen mimics the performance of estrogen, which, of course, is useful in many ways. But, estrogen can disrupt food digestion by slowing down the activities of the digestive tract.
The point is our body gets its estrogen from other sources, so meal replacement shakes that contain soy expose your body to higher-than-normal degrees of estrogen. It can cause water retention and gas production.
Complex carbohydrates sometimes don’t get digested in the small intestine. It is caused by a condition called Complex Carbohydrates Intolerance. When carbs reach the colon, they get fermented by the bacteria that live there. This fermentation causes bloating.
Another factor that causes gas is water retention, which is the result of storing excess energy produced by carbs. When the body gets more carbs than it needs, it keeps it in the form of glycogen, which contains water. Water retention, in turn, can lead to gas production.
Most meal replacement shakes contain high amounts of sodium, which is infamous for causing water retention and bloating. Most of the food we eat contains high sodium levels, so your body is probably exposed to more sodium than it needs.
Non-Dietary Causes of Bloating
In addition to the ingredients that can produce gas, there are other factors related to how you consume these shakes. You might not be aware of how eating habits can lead to gas accumulation.
One reason is drinking the shakes too quickly. When you gobble up the shake, you’re more likely to swallow air. This might seem an implausible reason for bloating, but more air simply means more bloating.
So, take your time when you drink your shake and drink a small sip at a time. Plus, drinking with a straw can lead to getting more air into the digestive tract.
When you prepare the shakes, you might also contribute to forming air bubbles in the mix by shaking the mixture too much and too quickly, air molecules form, which can cause your stomach to blow up. Go smoothly and shake the mix enough so that the components get blended.
How to Avoid Bloating Caused by Meal Replacement Shakes
If you think any of the components in the meal replacement shakes can cause your stomach to blow up, try to opt for those free of those ingredients.
Especially if you’re lactose intolerant, minimize the number of dairy products in your diet and these shakes. Still, there are many other ways to mitigate bloating by making some lifestyle and dietary changes.
Use Home-Made Meal Replacement Shakes
By making your own shakes, you can make sure what you consume is completely healthy and in line with your body requirements. This way, you’ll ensure you’re using healthy ingredients and no artificial sweeteners, sodium, and anything that can cause bloating and other metabolic problems.
Try to replace protein powder with natural sources of protein like nuts and seeds. Also, add in the fruits that are low in alcohol sugar to avoid bloating.
Add Digestive Enzymes to Your Shake
Digestive enzymes can lead to better digestion and improve the absorption of nutrients. Bloating is one of the many problems that can be solved through these enzymes. You can also add fruits and vegetables that are rich in digestive enzymes, including honey, mangoes, and bananas.
Having enough movement can help you get rid of excessive gas in your gastrointestinal tract. Any kind of movement can reduce gas, but some specific exercises are ideal for gas reduction. Thirty minutes of bike riding, brisk jogging, or simple long-walking can help deflate your stomach.
Some yoga poses can help expel gas by promoting intestine movements. Poses like cat-cow, torso twist, triangle pose, and sphinx pose are ideal for intestinal compression and stretch to eliminate bloating.
Hydrate your Body
Dehydration can lead to bloating in many ways. It can cause constipation, which in turn leads to bloating.
The body needs water in the intestines to break down sugars. Also, when there isn’t enough fluid in the bowels, they can’t move normally. All of these factors lead to digestion problems and bloating.
Plus, water can help retain the balance of electrolytes in the body. So you should drink as much water as you lose through sweating or other bodily functions. If electrolytes in your body are imbalanced, they can disrupt digestion.
Follow a Fiber-Rich Diet
It’s a known fact that fibers have many health benefits like regulating bowel movements, controlling blood sugar levels, and maintaining gut flora’s health. However, fibers produce gas. But it doesn’t mean you should give up fibers because they’re too important to be discarded.
Ease your body into taking fiber by starting low. Take a small amount of fiber every day, and gradually increase the portion until you reach the ideal daily level—25 g (0.88 oz). At the same time, take probiotics to help your body adjust more quickly.
Despite the many benefits of meal replacement shakes, they contain some components that can inflate the belly. While bloating might not be a serious health threat, it can lead to discomfort, pain, and awkward social situations.
By making sure the shakes don’t have gas-producing ingredients, you can reduce the chances of bloating. Sugar, carbs, sodium, and phytoestrogens are the main culprits.
Moreover, you can make some adjustments in your lifestyle to reduce the level of gas and improve your gastrointestinal tract function.
Golden rules like working out, drinking enough water, and consuming enough fiber make sure your bowel movements are normal and reduce the likelihood of bloating.
- Huffington Post: Do Carbs Make you Retain Water?
- Badgut:Intestinal Gas from Complex Carbohydrates or Lactose Intolerance
- Health: How to Stop Fiber from Giving you too much Gas?
- Express: Stomach Bloating: Dehydration is one of the Causes
- PubMed: Beta-glucan, inositol, and digestive enzymes improve the quality of life of patients with inflammatory bowel disease and irritable bowel syndrome
- HealthyEating: Side Effects of Meal Replacement Shakes