<Review by: Sailesh Ghelani>
I recently started a physical training course just for my own knowledge and because I’ve always been interested in fitness and health. And possibly to do some freelance personal training; one has to find new things to do especially in this day of scarce full-time jobs but surprisingly flourishing freelance opportunities.
I’ve experimented with Whey Protein supplements in the past with mixed and sometimes horrible results. At that time I was clueless about the differences between Concentrates and Isolates and the ones that had carbohydrates and the ones that were more ‘pure protein’. So I tried out different brands. The boxes are always huge, between 2 lbs and 5 lbs and usually cost a lot of money. The companies making them don’t believe in ‘trial packs’ and for good reason. They want to make money.
Whey Protein is a high quality protein that comes from milk and is derived from the process where milk is converted in to cheese. It has a high BV, that’s Biological Value, which means it is better utilised in the body and quick absorbing. Much more so than the humble egg white that is second on the BV list. So most would go for something like this as a matter of convenience and efficiency. Makes sense… but…
Side Effects I first encountered with Whey Protein powders:
> Stomach aches
> Loud beating of my heart in my chest feeling
So I have to admit that I didn’t know how to take the protein shakes at the time and in what quantities, which could have lead to the various side effects. I would end up chucking out whole tubs of the stuff since it didn’t seem worth it.
Now, after taking a physical training course and learning about various dimensions of health and fitness as well as ‘supplements’ I know a lot more about when to take them and how. My experimentation was still restricted to Whey Protein, which seems the most natural supplement (meant to be added to your regular diet and not as a meal replacement).
I went to the store and perused the various brands diligently reading the contents and ingredients. Many were chock full of carbs or sugar. It’s like a labyrinth these ‘health food’ stores. Hulks of plastic jars that have big words like ‘Iso’ and ‘Myo’ assault you. Here in India the sales people don’t even know much about the products they’re selling.
I love design and copy, being from an advertising and communications background so it was Isopure’s no-nonsense, sleek and clean designed packaging that attracted me to their Isopure Zero Carb Protein Powder Supplement (3Lb pack) ‘with 50 grams of protein from 100% Whey Protein Isolate’. Oh it was Cookies and Cream Flavour!
Words like ‘pure’ ‘zero carbs’ and ‘gluten free’ appealed to me as being a pure supplement from a company called Nature’s Best.
I started out on very small ‘scoops’ – just about a quarter scoop at first to half a scoop – but by the time I got to the 6th time I consumed the powder in water I started feeling a strange sensation in my throat. Almost like a choking feeling!
Since this ‘lump in throat’ feeling was caused immediately after consuming the Isopure Protein Powder (in the night before bed time) I pretty much gauged the reaction was due to the powder. Nothing else had ever caused this reaction in me before.
I stopped the powder of course but the feeling persisted and developed into spasms in my throat. A visit to the doctor followed. He said it was definitely a reaction to the whey protein powder and I should stop it. I asked, “Aren’t these things supposed to be good for your health?” His reply, “No. They may be good to build muscle but they’re not good for your health. They place an immense strain on your kidneys.” All right then!
After taking his medication I was fine for two days but the feeling persisted and kept me awake at night. To cut a long story short I had to visit my GP, an ENT and a Gastroenterologist over a period of a month and half and undergo a CT Scan of my throat as well as a Manometry (to gauge the pressure in my throat). Both tests were clear. And then of course Google came to my rescue and I read about the various side effects of whey protein and how Isopure in particular has a bad record.
There are conditions called Globus Pharyngis – lumpy throat sensation – and another called Cricopharyngeal Spasm that came closest to my symptoms and the Gastro doctor agreed it was probably Cricopharyngeal Spasm for which they generally prescribe an anti-stress medication as well as an anti-reflux medication.
What’s a Cricopharyngeal Spasm
A problem in the cricopharyngeus muscle can cause a Globus. This muscle acts as a valve, preventing abnormal reverse flow of food content from the esophagus. Globus occurs when this muscle goes into a spasm, instead of contracting and relaxing normally. This disorder, although harmless, can cause a lot of discomfort.
The exact cause of this condition is still unknown. Though there is no absolute cure, its intensity can be lessened with the intake of muscle relaxants like Lorazepam, intake of warm fluids like tea and avoiding stress. The disorder generally goes away on its own over time.
I did write to the Nature’s Best Company about my problem with their product but they didn’t reply. I spent a lot of money on my tests and treatment and the problem is just getting better. I also have to give it time to go away on its own, which is easier said than done.
Let me add that I gave the Isopure Protein Powder to a friend who wanted it – since I thought it was probably just something my body couldn’t tolerate – and after using it a couple of times he started feeling a strange sensation in his throat too. His symptoms were less than mine and dissipated a lot quicker. But clearly there’s something wrong here and I thought sharing my experience might benefit others out there.
A lot of young kids are getting into weight training and body building nowadays and are misguided by overzealous (sometimes ignorant) gym trainers and their peers to ingest these very artificial supplements for ‘quick results’. They should understand that though these supplements don’t have the horrifying side effects that steroids cause, they do indeed have some negative impact on your health. Which to me seems counter-productive to the whole exercise itself.
If you have had a similar experience do comment or write in.
PS: I have to say I’ve been on a mild anti-depressant/relaxant, a mild anti-reflux and some acupuncture (they call it plum pit qi syndrome) and feel a lot better after two months. It’s not gone completely but it’s getting there.
December 2013: The lump in throat feeling has gone after over 2 months. So don’t worry it’s not something that will stay but it is definitely not something you want to have if you can avoid it. I have also undergone some alternative allergy therapy so I’m no longer affected by the whey but I’m still staying away from it for good now.
Read more about the side effects of Whey Protein at these links: