Unlike the other mainstream medical articles I've written (and have yet
to write), this is one of the topics that will be hard to select "proper"
medical references for - amusingly, because they are TOO specific, and
not general enough. "Protein A deficiency", "Protein C
Deficiency", "Long-Chain Acyl CoA Dehydrogenase Deficiency"
and other, uncommon or more obscure things. This article is intended to
cover more of a collective/general dietary protein deficiency that MOST
people will either be exposed to, or be experiencing themselves, and likely
as a result of poor dietary choices or poor circumstances. As a result
of this, many of the more informative references cited for this article
will be more consumer, nutritional and dietitian oriented sites instead
the usual collection of conventional medical materials.
Deficiencies of specific individual proteins are typically the result
of more complex disease processes and thus are outside the scope of this
WHAT IS PROTEIN DEFICIENCY?
Protein deficiency is a state of malnutrition due to lack of sufficient
protein in the diet. Besides various other nutritional compounds, protein
contains amino acids - all of which work together to create and maintain
healthy bones, muscles, organs and other soft tissues. Name the body
structure, and it quite likely has at least some protein in it. Nine
(9) of these amino acids are referred to as "essential" or
"indispensable", meaning they MUST be consumed via the diet
because the body cannot create them on it's own. The rest are nonessential,
and can either be consumed via the diet, or created from other building
blocks within the body. Protein is also used by the body to produce
hemoglobin in the red blood cells (which carry oxygen to various parts
of the body), and is needed by the lungs and the immune system in order
to function properly. To summarize:
1. Protein is required in the building and repairing of body tissues.
2. Protein is also a source of energy.
3. Protein is needed for the formation of enzymes and hormones.
4. Protein is an important part of nutrient transport, water balance,
and muscle contraction to name a few.
5. Protein keeps our skin, nails and hair healthy.
6. Protein is needed to keep our immune system going [Builds our resistance
WHAT CAUSES PROTEIN DEFICIENCY?
There is one base cause: Malnutrition.
However, malnutrition can be a result of many other processes, either
voluntary or involuntary, so the cause BEHIND the malnutrition won't
be the same - but it's the malnutrition process itself that leads to
the general protein deficiency.
Generally speaking, malnutrition can be a result of:
- Deliberate dieting ("crash dieting", "fad/popular
dieting", or other extreme weight loss measures)
- Disease process (chronic wasting from diseases like AIDS, Cancer,
- Environmental (in a location where there's very little available
- Financial status (being poor/in poverty and unable to afford adequate/quality
- Malabsorption (inflammation, irritable bowel, diarrhea, ulcer medications,
- Recovering from surgery, trauma or illness (increased protein needs
for body repair)
Protein deficiency acts as a signal for the body to enter what is often
termed as "starvation mode" - this is the stage at which the
body will attempt to compensate by pulling protein out of other areas
of the body for use for immediate needs. The first source is usually
the muscles, which leads to muscle wasting and weakness - in fact, this
weakness and decreasing muscle mass is quite often one of the FIRST
symptoms of protein deficiency, before any other symptoms become clinically
HOW IS PROTEIN DEFICIENCY DIAGNOSED?
Protein deficiency has to be pretty bad - or very chronic (such as
in cancer cases) - before it actually shows clinical signs, and the
doctor - quite often - has to be LOOKING for an issue with the pertinent
line items, otherwise they may be ignored completely in favor of a different
diagnosis. Therefore, you will see actual symptoms - either physical,
mental or both - long before there is clinical evidence on bloodwork
There are two common serum-protein related items on a typical complete
metabolic panel, and these are:
- Albumin (a steady drop over time ALWAYS indicates a chronic process
such as cancer, even with normally adequate protein)
WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS OF PROTEIN DEFICIENCY?
Mental symptoms may include any combination
of the following:
- Anxiety / Depression
- Decrease in mental alertness/comprehension/concentration
- Irritability / Moodiness
- Lowered self-esteem
- Thoughts focused on eating / weight / hunger
Physical symptoms may include any combination
of the following:
- Abdominal pain
- Cardiac disorders (the heart requires protein too!)
- Delayed wound healing
- Edema - primarily legs, feet and ankles, but can happen anywhere
- Elevated cholesterol
- Elevated uric acid levels
- Extreme fatigue
- "Feeling heavy"
- Gouty arthritis
- Heart rate abnormalities
- Loss of lean tissue
- Low blood pressure (Hypotension)
- Moon-shaped face (likely due to edema in the facial structures)
- Muscle cramps/soreness
- Muscle weakness/wasting
- Skin: Decreased pigmentation/rashes/dryness
- Sleeping too much
- Splitting nails
- Thinning or brittle hair, hair loss
- Thyroid abnormalities other than hypothyroid
Most commonly seen is any combination of the
- Difficulty falling asleep
- Edema / fluid retention
- General weakness and fatigue
- Hair: Thinning / more brittle / hair loss
- Hair: Reduced hair pigmentation / Graying hair
- More prone to bed sores / skin ulcers
- Muscle weakness / cramps / soreness
- Nausea / stomach pain
- Ridges in the nails
- Severe depression
- Slow healing of cuts / bruises / other wounds
- Weight loss
WHAT CAN REDUCE PROTEIN ABSORPTION?
Any medication that effects the level of acid in the stomach (Tums,
Rolaids, Tagamet, Pepcid, etc.), either by decreasing the secretion
of, or neutralizing the stomach acid what's already there. (By the way,
reducing or neutralizing the stomach acid will negatively impact ANY
nutritional absorption, not just protein.) Steroidal anti-inflammatory
medications such as Prednisone can also cause muscle wasting and protein
deficiency. Estrogen therapy and oral contraceptives will also decrease
available protein levels. Patients *should* be advised to increase their
protein intake while on these medications, but many doctors don't seem
to be aware of this, or often forget this.
Any disease that affects the digestive tract - and any autoimmune condition
- that has the risk of other nutrient deficiencies via malabsorption,
will also carry the risk of protein deficiency for the same reason.
Such disease types will include GI tract conditions (Diverticulitis,
inflammatory bowel disease, ulcerative colitis, etc.), malabsorption
conditions (Chron's Disease, Celiac Syndrome, etc.), systemic autoimmune
conditions (Lupus, Guillain-Barre syndrome, rheumatoid arthritis, etc.)
as well as localized autoimmune diseases (thyroiditis, diabetes type
1, autoimmune hepatitis, Multiple Sclerosis, etc.)
(There is some debate in the medical community on whether Multiple
Sclerosis qualifies as an autoimmune condition. Its primary symptom
is the destruction ("Demyelination") of the coatings ("Myelin
sheath") surrounding the nerves; the final determination will depend
on the CAUSE of the primary symptom - and that's not always easy to
HOW DOES PROTEIN DEFICIENCY IMPAIR OTHER NUTRIENTS?
Various proteins bind and carry certain vitamins and minerals including
iron, copper, calcium, vitamin A, Zinc and vitamin D. As a result, inadequate
protein intake may impair the function and absorption of these additional
WHAT FOODS PROVIDE PROTEIN?
General Food Sources:
- Excellent sources include: tuna, shrimp, and cod.
- Very good sources include: snapper, venison, halibut, salmon, scallops,
turkey, chicken, lamb, beef, calf's liver, spinach, tofu, mustard
greens, crimini mushrooms, soybeans, and mozzarella cheese.
- Good sources of protein: eggs, milk, collard greens, cauliflower
and many legumes including lentils, split peas, kidney beans, black
beans, pinto beans and garbanzo beans.
When discussing food sources of protein, many nutritionists often speak
in terms of "complete" and "incomplete" proteins.
Foods that provide complete protein are those that include all of the
essential amino acids, while foods that provide some or none of the
essential amino acids are said to be incomplete.
- Eggs, dairy foods, meat, fish and poultry are typically considered
to be complete proteins.
- Vegetarian sources of complete proteins include: bananas, tomatoes,
dates, almonds, coconuts, filberts (they're a kind of nut), sunflower
seeds, walnuts, brazil nuts, pecans, alfalfa sprouts, bean sprouts,
carrots, eggplants, sweet potatoes, broccoli, cabbage, corn, okra,
Heat will destroy much of the nutritional content, including proteins.
Therefore, ANY protein source is *nutritionally* at its best in the
raw state, even if it's not practical for health or other reasons. If
you have your protein source "well done" (such as steaks that
are hot and brown in the middle) then you cannot count on having adequate
nutritional stores of protein!
Remember to keep some real fats in the diet as well. Use real butter,
not margarine, for example, even if it's more expensive. Cook with bacon
grease (if your faith path allows pork products) instead of vegetable
oil, and DO store it in the refrigerator so it doesn't go rancid. (Bacon
grease seems to keep forever in the fridge, but it's not so good kept
out on the counter for long periods...)
HOW IS IT TREATED?
Treatment essentially consists of increasing the level of protein in
the patient's diet. This requires having at least a rough idea of how
much protein should BE in the diet in the first place, based on the
person's weight. One calculation I've seen is .8 grams of protein per
1kg/2.2 pounds, which means that someone who weights 220 will need roughly
80 grams of protein by this ratio, assuming perfect health. This will
equate to roughly 1/3 of a pound or so, daily.
Quite a few places will suggest that women need less protein than men.
Personally, I disagree - women get a lot of discriminatory attitudes
from the medical profession all the time ("You're fat", "You're
lazy", "It's all in your head", "Oh, you're just
sick because you picked up something from the kids", etc.) so it
would not surprise me to find out that protein requirements for women
are grossly underestimated as well.
It is important to remember that the calculation above is for the near-impossible
statistic: Perfectly healthy people who aren't the least bit overweight.
You need more if you are:
- Have any kind of chronic ailment
- Have a (disease or medication caused) malabsorption problem
- Active outdoors
- Have a physically active job (nursing, construction worker, on your
feet all shift...)
- Pregnant and/or breastfeeding
- Overweight (if only to keep up with the mass you're carrying)
Infants (because of how fast they're growing) should have an intake
of roughly 2 grams per pound.
Children (they're still growing, just not as fast as infants) should
have an intake of roughly 1 gram per 2 pounds.
WHAT DOES THIS HAVE TO DO WITH REAL VAMPIRISM?
There are many symptoms cited by real vampires as part of their experience
that overlap with symptoms of protein deficiency. Therefore, while protein
deficiency does not have anything specifically to do with vamprism,
it is VERY prudent to rule this (and any other medical conditions) out
when contemplating whether or not you are a real vampire.
Such overlapping symptoms may include the following:
- Abdominal pain
- Decrease in mental alertness
- Fatigue, especially extreme fatigue
- Muscle cramps / soreness
- Muscle weakness
- Sleeping too much
~SphynxCatVP, June 2010
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