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Can BOOST Cause Diarrhea? – Prepare the Toilet

BOOST is supposed to "boost" your health and energy levels, which is why it's called a "nutritional energy drink". The original formulation provides 26 vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and a nice dose of protein... similar to Ensure.

This is great and all, but the concern is that BOOST causes diarrhea, which would defeat the purpose of supplementing a nutrition drink like this in the first place. Some of the reported side effects of BOOST include stomach pain, boating, and diarrhea.

Diarrhea leads to a loss of fluids and nutrients that are important for health, which often results in weakness, fatigue, and overall worse health... if it continues for an extended period of time.

Most reports don't provide much information such as the specific type of BOOST that led to diarrhea, but it appears that more than one of their products cold lead to this unwanted side effect.

The Nestle brand has a variety of different products under the BOOST label, for different consumer needs.

  • BOOST High Protein - For increased protein intake.
  • BOOST Original - For extra energy.
  • BOOST Plus - For weight gain.
  • BOOST Glucose Control - For people with diabetes.
  • BOOST Calorie Smart - For less calories/sugar.
  • BOOST Max Nutritional Shake - For very high protein.
  • BOOST Kid Essentials - Complete nutritional drink for kids.
  • BOOST Optimum - For high protein and increased energy.

BOOST Nutrition

As you already know, BOOST drinks are packed with ingredients. This is the reason it is often looked at as an easy meal replacement... because it basically is. You get your protein, carbs, fats, 26 vitamins, minerals, and a good amount of antioxidants from the long list of ingredients from BOOST Original...

BOOST Original Ingredients

However, the contents between the different BOOST drinks vary.

As you can see below with the side-by-side comparison of BOOST Original, BOOST Plus, and BOOST Higher Protein, the nutritional information differs in many areas.

While BOOST Original only has 4g of fat, BOOST Plus has 14g of fat!
And while BOOST Plus has 45g of carbs, BOOST High Protein has only 28g of carbs...

Boost Nutrition Information

It matters what type of BOOST you are drinking. There can be different causes of diarrhea depending on which type you consume and reasons for diarrhea that could come from any product in their line-up.

8 Reasons BOOST Could Cause Diarrhea

With so many ingredients there is a lot of room for something to go wrong. Here are 8 reasons BOOST can cause diarrhea, starting with the most likely...

1. Drinking Too Fast

Consuming anything too quickly can lead to an upset stomach and the possibility of diarrhea. The thing about nutritional drinks like BOOST is that most people don't realize they are drinking them too fast.

With 26 vitamins, antioxidants, and a good amount of protein that the Original formula brings to the table, that is a lot for your body to digest... and because it is liquid the process happens faster, which can overwhelm the digestive system. Some of the other BOOST formulas are thicker and provide even more than the Original.

The solution is simple... slow down your drinking. Don't guzzle them all at once.

2. Lactose Intolerance

Most BOOST products are suitable for those who are intolerant to lactose, however, not all are.

BOOST Glucose Control and their different high protein drinks and mixes all contain lactose, which is a sugar from milk. 

If you read the labels of these drinks/mixes you will see "milk protein concentrate" and/or "milk protein isolate", which is where the lactose is coming from.

According to the Genetics Home Reference about 65% of the entire human population has a decreased ability to digest lactose. Levels of this decreased ability vary greatly, but can potentially lead to diarrhea when consuming milk products that contain it.

3. High Amounts of Fats

This obviously isn't going to apply to the BOOST Original (only 4g of fat in an 8oz bottle) and some of the other low-fat varieties, but some BOOST drinks, such as BOOST Plus have high amounts of fat (14g per 8oz bottle).

We all need fat, but getting a lot at one time can potentially have a laxative effect for some of us. Not only does fat act as a lubricant, to some extent, that can speed up bowel movement transit times, but if your body has trouble absorbing fat then this can lead to the colon and small intestines secreting excess water... potentially causing diarrhea (Source: Every Day Health).

4. Sweeteners & Sugar

You will have to read the labels of the BOOST you are drinking beforehand. Some contain sucralose, aka Splenda.

Splenda is about 600 times sweeter than sugar, is 0 calories, and is approved by the FDA, so why not include it here, right?

While it won't cause any noticeable adverse effects for most people other than a slightly bad aftertaste, too much can lead to an upset stomach, bloating, and diarrhea for a small percentage of us... not to mention that it is known to harm good gut bacteria.

The good news its that not many BOOST products contain this artificial sweetener.

Many of the drinks contain the natural 0 calorie sweetener Stevia along with sugars. However, high amounts of sugar are also known to cause diarrhea--which is often due to increased water being pulled into the intestines.

With as much as 20g of sugar in a 8oz bottle of BOOST Original and higher amounts in some of the other formulations, this could potentially be a cause of diarrhea.

5. Fructose Intolerance

Not all BOOST drinks have it, but some do. The Original formula, for example, has what are called Fructooligosaccharides (FOS for short) which are made up of mainly of fructose and occur naturally in foods like bananas, garlic, and leeks.

They are not digestible and because of this are considered soluble fiber, similar to inulin. 

Soluble fiber is normally good for diarrhea. It helps to absorb excess water in the colon and can help firm up stool. However, because this type of soluble fiber is composed of fructose molecules so there is another potential outcome.

Fructose is hard to digest and many people have what is called fructose intolerance, aka fructose malabsorption. This is the name of the condition when your intestinal cells aren't able to break down fructose efficiently... potentially leading to gas, bloating, and diarrhea. 

This is one reason watermelon, grapes, strawberries, and lots of other fruits high in fructose may also cause diarrhea.

6. Soy Lecithin

Lecithin is something else that you could be intolerant to. WebMD states that it is likely safe for most people, but can cause diarrhea, nausea, and the feeling of being full.

This fat is found in many foods, such as egg yolks, red meat, green vegetables, etc. and is essential in our bodies' cells. The problem (many believe) may have to do with it usually being made from modified soy or possibly from the chemical extraction process of other ingredient that go into making it.

When it comes to additives in foods/drinks, it is usually added in as an emulsifier, or lubricant--and in this case it is contained in some, but not all, BOOST products (is included in the 'original' formula).

*Soy lecithin is considered low FODMAP for all IBS sufferers out there. This is due to it being a mixture of fat and oil, not carbs.

7. Carrageenan

Carageenan is an additive that is extracted from seaweed and then processed, then being used as an emulsifier and thickening agent.

Most BOOST drinks contain this ingredient and it is said to cause diarrhea, being a particular threat to IBS patients.

It is also said to lead to inflammation in the body due to its chemical structure, which may trigger Inflammatory Bowel Disease.

8. Galactosemia

On some BOOST drinks you may see it written that they are "not for individuals with galactosemia", but what exactly does this mean?

Galactose is a molecule found in lactose that may still be left behind in minuscule amounts even with foods/drinks are "suitable for lactose intolerance"... which may not be okay for people with galactosemia.

The disorder is very rare and causes problems being able to metabolize galactose.

Diarrhea is one of the early signs of this condition.

Is BOOST Healthy?

According to Stacey Nelson, a dietitian from Massachusetts General Hospital, nutrition shakes such as BOOST contain more than just health ingredients--but can still be a good choice if you are in a bind or can't eat solid food due to a medical reason (source: Harvard Health Publishing).

So they are better than nothing, but a real, healthy meal would ultimately be the better choice.

While BOOST boasts about providing loads of vitamins, minerals, hefty amounts of protein, etc.... it also often provides processed ingredients that can cause minor problems.

The Takeaway

BOOST can be a good source of quick and easy nutrition on the go, but can cause diarrhea for some people.

There are a variety of BOOST drinks that contain a variety of ingredients... which is why there is a variety of reasons BOOST could give you frequent runs to the toilet--some of the most common being that you are drinking too fast, lactose intolerance, high amounts of fats, and artificial sweeteners + high amounts of sugar... and some other less-likely reasons.

Should you avoid BOOST? 

If you are positive that it is BOOST that is leading to diarrhea then you should stop drinking it. This would just defeat the purpose because it would be leading to wasted nutrients leaving your body without being absorbed or digested properly.

However, it may be worth a try switching to other products in the BOOST lineup. We would also suggest eliminating it from your diet and then reintroducing it as outlined in with the elimination diet.

And if your diarrhea is serious it is always advisable to contact your doctor.

Recommended: What to Eat to Stop Diarrhea

We like to hear from our readers. Please leave your comments/questions below 🙂

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Starting his writing career in 2015, Kyle is a leading contributor here at GutAdvisor, and for good reason. Having a passion for health and the awareness that proper digestion plays a key role one's overall well-being, he regularly keeps the community informed with valuable information regarding gut health.

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  1. I recently bought boost plus to help me gain weight..I am 49 and only weigh 98 lbs..I have been trying to gain weight but when I drink my boost everyday I’m running to the bathroom alot..should I quit drinking?

    1. Hi Angela,

      It sounds like drinking it could be defeating the purpose. It would depend how severe your situation is, but by the sounds of things you might want to do exactly that, quit drinking it. You could also try different variations of the Boost drink to see if they cause any problems.

  2. I just started taking Boost instead of Ensure. First of all, it tastes so much better, which makes it easier to get down. Secondly, for me it really works. I had extreme sagging of the skin on my legs due to weight loss, and within one week of taking Boost plus, the skin sag has started to subside. I’m sure it’s the Boost, since nothing else has changed.

    Only one MAJOR problem, it gave me terrible diarrhea. I read up on it and found an article that said if you drink this too fast, that’s possible. I am so glad about that, so I will try it again, but drinking it slower. It works so well for me, I would hate to have to stop taking it.

  3. I was given nutritional products while in hospital recovering from COVID 19 and 6 days on a ventilator. At 77 I am fortunate to have survived at all but was profoundly weak. The only drink I could handle was Boost since the others reminded me of my ‘milk-of-magnesia’ nightmares from childhood and I often substituted meals with the tasty, good for you (or so I thought) drink. However I have been plagued with diarrhea, leaving me weaker, so, after reading your article, I have decided to quit using it. I need my strength to continue recuperating and have been my in-home PT’s ‘star’ pupil.
    Also I take many of the supplements that are in Boost and recommended by my physician, thus ‘too much’. For those who still do not believe in COVID, it IS REAL!

  4. I was attracted to Boost because of the calories. I had lost quite a bit of weight due to hiatal hernia complications, so I thought that supplementing with Boost might help me gain weight. I noticed immediately after drinking I felt nauseous, but thought maybe it was just too rich . I only drank one in the morning, but after 6 days the loose bowels and stomach cramping has made me decide that these are NOT for me!

  5. Greetings Kyle, Your article was only slightly helpful. While you went to great lengths to explain why some boosts can cause diarrhea, you failed to help readers determine which. Perhaps a follow up. From reading online, looking at the competition – Ensure, their Ensure Protein drink is the one they tout as least likely to cause diarrhea. Boost has a similar drink it seems. You should contact them, as a writer, find out for sure which one is least likely to cause diarrhea, and update your article to make is more useful. -art PS. I spent 20 years reviewing products – people generally want answers, not more questions… your job is to provide the answers. good luck! You can do it!

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