Protein Deficiency – Causes, Symptoms, & How to Reverse It

January 21st, 2014 · No Comments · Conscious Living, Disease Prevention, Healthy Living

A variety of cooking shows on television, magazines devoted to the art of creating in the kitchen, and specialty grocers popping up everywhere in America are an example of the attention we are paying to food and the value of a delicious and healthy meal. While we are aware of the importance of a well balanced diet, the bustle of the work week, extra-curricular activities, and a busy life can stand in the way of being able to prepare it, especially in the winter. With fewer hours of daylight and the need to get as much done as possible during them, it’s not surprising that during these months some of our levels of nutrients are depleted and our health can suffer because of it. DoSomething.org polled Americans and found that 20% of our weekly meals are eaten on the go in our cars and that 1 in 4 of us eat at least one fast food meal per day. A busy lifestyle and the need to eat quickly to “fill the tank” is causing a common deficiency nationwide that many of us are not aware of, protein deficiency. Being too busy to cook and choosing the standard fallback of eating out or buying take away food is impacting our health in a major way with cravings, joint and muscle pain, mood disorders, and skin issues, among other complaints connected to protein deficiency. Not sure if you’re experiencing symptoms because of your diet? Here’s a closer look at how you can check and reverse the negative impacts of protein deficiency. 

But I Eat Meat!

Vegetarians aren’t the only people at risk for protein deficiency though they are the most likely to have more intense symptoms Freshly made omelet is full of protein.(especially muscle cramping and joint pain) because they are missing protein rich meats in their alkaline diet. Red meat is the most acidic of all meats and, the more acidic a substance is, the deeper it penetrates into the tissues of the body and the better it is stored in muscles. Alkaline foods are cleansers and flush the lymphatic system and help to detoxify the body. The more alkaline the diet, the more waste and toxins are being removed. While this is good at first glance, having an alkaline heavy diet can lead to an imbalance and protein deficiency since the body needs both acidic and alkaline foods to function properly. Similarly, if you’re a “steak and potatoes” sort of person, you are ingesting primarily acidic foods and are missing the alkaline balance. 
 
How is it that so many cultures around the world can eat a primarily vegetarian diet and avoid protein deficiency but vegetarian and meat eating Americans cannot? Some would argue it is the inability of most Americans to treat cooking as an all day affair. In many cultures there are family members who are able to rise before everyone in the home and create a healthy and nourishing breakfast while others sleep. This same person may walk to the market after breakfast and obtain ingredients for lunch and dinner for the family, choosing local and in season produce and avoiding processed foods. Many Americans find their schedules to be too busy to cook every day and eat out or take away food as a standard fallback. When we view eating as “filling the tank” rather than fueling our bodies with the proper foods, we miss out on essential nutrients by eating fast food or grabbing a frozen meal from the freezer and popping it in the oven. Processed foods (like fast food or freezer meals) do fill an empty spot in our stomachs and keep us from experiencing hunger but consistently relying on them leads to deficiencies including calcium, vitamins, iron, iodine, magnesium, zinc, and protein. 
 

Signs of Protein Deficiency

thinning hairThink you’ve been relying on a diet with quick meals and processed foods too much? Here are some signs to help you gauge if you’re deficient in protein:
Constant cravings and joint/muscle pain are the most common signs of a deficiency in protein. Craving carbohydrates (like chips or crackers) and sweets (including pop, candy, pastries, and chocolates) often point to unstable blood sugar which is intimately linked to protein deficiency. Not everyone with a sweet tooth is protein deficient but if your cravings are a daily affair and alter your mood if you’re unable to eat them, you may be experiencing a deficiency.
Other, more severe, signs of protein deficiency can lead to edema, thinning brittle hair or hair loss, ridges in finger and toe nails, skin rashes and dry skin, weakness, tiredness, muscle soreness and cramps, slow healing, skin ulcers, sleep issues, headaches, nausea, fainting, depression or anxiety. If you are experiencing these symptoms, take a look at your diet and see how you can improve it and consult your physician to be sure you are addressing them properly. 
 

What Can I Do?

You don’t need to hire a personal chef or quit your job to be in the kitchen all day in order to ensure you and your family are ingesting enough protein and avoiding deficiency! Here are some tips to keep your body functioning properly.
  • If you are strictly vegetarian or vegan: Try to have a whey, pea, rice, or hemp protein shake with each meal.
  • Omnivore? Try to check your plate and be sure you are paying enough attention to your vegetables and fruits as you are to the meat.
  • Everyone (meat eater or not) can improve their diets by eating seasonally, especially in the winter. Take a look at this Winter Grocery List for items you should be sure to have in your cart when the temperatures drop.
  • A note from Hanna: Hanna recommended eating fruit alone and to have limited dairy in your diet to ensure you are breaking your food down properly and absorbing the nutrients in the best way possible.
 
We all need a little help getting dinner on the table sometimes and there are nights where the only way you’ll get food into the belly of your family is by getting something quick and easy, that’s ok! Only when eating processed foods becomes a habit does it become a problem. Aim to have no more than one fast food meal per month and see how well you and your family can feel from this change. Protein deficiency can cause a myriad of symptoms but can be easily reversed! Be diligent for the health of yourself and your family and help change the high numbers of Americans eating fast food. 
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