Should You Take Protein Powder if You have IBD (Crohn’s or Ulcerative Colitis)?

Should You Take Protein Powder if You have IBD (Crohn’s or Ulcerative Colitis)?

Chris, like you, I have ulcerative colitis. Can I take protein powder without causing a flare up?

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I get this question quite a bit because I’ve had ulcerative colitis for the past decade, and I’ve been able to maintain a normal, happy, and active lifestyle while maintaining a good degree of muscle mass.

I say that with a caveat – having Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) is a bitch. Though I’ve remained in remission for most of the time after I’ve adopted a primal/ketogenic eating style, I do get short flare ups from time to time when I’m under significant stress.  And for the unenlightened, I’m not just talking about having the trots. At their worse, flare ups mean that I am running to the bathroom between 20 and 30 times a day with bloody diarrhea. These times are awful and marked with immense pain, diarrhea, nausea, bleeding, skin irritation, weakness, and depression.

Just know that if you know of someone with Crohn’s or Colitis, they’re going through a lot. If you have IBD, know that I sympathize with you, and I want you to know that it is neither a death nor a prison sentence. You can live a normal fit and healthy lifestyle if you understand what will help you and what will hurt you. I highly suggest reading the book The Wahl’s Protocol as it provides a guidebook for beating autoimmune disease.

Now, onto the question: should you take protein supplements?

Research actually suggests that whey protein could help you because it contains l-glutamine. The theory is that the cells lining your intestines, enterocytes, utilize l-glutamine to help regenerate themselves via glutathione, which aids in cellular turnover. This would help in reducing gut permeability and “leaky gut syndrome.” When your intestinal lining is weak, food particles can actually cross the barrier and affect your immune system. This increases risk of autoimmunity and the possibility that you will have a flare up.

Colitis affected mice have responded well to l-glutamine as in this study, but I should say that this has not been tested on humans in a lab setting. Either way, we definitely want to do anything we can to reduce gut permeability and avoid giving rise to more symptoms.

Also this is not a protein, but I should also mention that the cells in your rectum and colon also abundantly utilize a fatty acid called butyrate to regenerate more effectively. This is found most richly in grass fed butter and ghee. This is one reason why I use grass fed butter and ghee heavily in my own cooking.

Despite the studies suggesting that whey protein may help stave off colitis symptoms, I have never had great experiences with normal whey proteins. Most of the brands I’ve found on have actually sent me straight into flare ups and gastric distress. There are some exceptions, like 3Fuel, which actually gave me some awesome recovery benefits without any sort of gut distress.

But if you are searching for a way to put on muscle and actually heal your ulcerative colitis symptoms with the benefit of glutamine and some other amazing amino acids, I have a better solution than whey protein: collagen protein.

Collagen is a powerful protein that helps to make our skin more supple and that improves all around health. It’s really nothing new. Collagen is abundantly found in connective tissue like animal ligaments, tendons, and bones. The problem is that in today’s texture conscious world, we consider these to be among the “nasty bits” of animals that we no longer eat.

This is one reason why health and fitness commentators have increasingly recommended eating bone broth. It’s loaded with collagen and we provide an amazing recipe for bone broth in the free cookbook we give out when you sign up for our newsletter at

If you aren’t the DIY type, Kettle and Fire offers some of the most delicious bone broth I’ve ever tasted in an easy portable container.

Collagen protein has two factors in abundance that could seriously help you if you are suffering from a IBD: glycine and glutamine.

I’ve already discussed glutamine, so let’s delve into glycine.

Glycine is an amino acid that aids in stomach acid and bile production, as this study shows.

Here’s something I bet you didn’t know: indigestion is actually not caused by too much stomach acid. It’s caused by not having enough. When you lack stomach acid, undigested food sits in your stomach and sends the existing stomach acid gurgling up your esophagus. This causes acid reflux.

Glycine also helps with bile production, which will help you to break down dietary fat.

With these benefits, less undigestible food particles will be sent into your intestines and you will be far more comfortable.

If you are looking for great sources of collagen, bone broth is definitely one such source. You can also opt for Primal Kitchen’s Collagen Fuel protein powder.

I hope that helps!  Let me know if you have any questions at all, and if you want to learn more, take my free training series that details how I’ve used the ketogenic diet to help my colitis.