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5 Surprising Signs of Protein Deficiency & What You Should Do?

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We all know the importance of protein for our health. It does not only help our bodies to recover from injuries and wounds but also boosts the energy levels and keep us feeling full. For those of us who are following a plant-based vegetarian diet, some extra effort is needed to ensure that your body isn’t deficient in this vital nutrient.


According to the Nutritionist & Health Writer, Cassandra Barns, “It is particularly important to make sure you’re getting enough protein. Protein is not only important for muscles, but it also has many fundamental roles, including for our immune system, for making hormones, and for making hemoglobin that carries oxygen around our body.”

But how do we know we are getting enough of this vital nutrient?

Here’s presenting 5 Surprising Signs Of Protein Deficiency you should look out for:

  1. An Injury Takes Longer Than Expected To Heal: A vital function of protein is healing. When the body tries to heal a wound, it creates stress hormones and diverts extra resources such as fats, carbohydrates, and proteins to create new tissue. If this process takes longer than usual then the body compensates by sending additional protein to deal with the wound thereby deprives the vital nutrient needed by other organs which will leave the body protein deficient.
  2. Depression or Low Mood: Protein is broken down into amino acids which are used to make many vital substances such as neurotransmitters. These natural chemicals are essential for the brain and nervous system and also have a direct effect on mood. The well-known feel-good hormone serotonin is made from the amino acid tryptophan. So if you do not get enough protein, then the production of serotonin will be reduced which will contribute to your low mood.
  3. Hair Loss: You might see more hair fall when you shower or just feel that your hair is getting thinner- most likely all over the head rather than just in patches or just at the hairline. Primarily hair is made up of a protein called keratin and it is the least important protein structure in the body. Therefore when the protein intake is low, it is allocated instead to the more important functions such as keeping the immune system active. Hence hair loss may be the first sign of low protein intake. Additionally, iron deficiency could cause hair to fall out therefore it is wise to see your doctor and determine the cause of hair fall.
  4. Swollen Ankles: One of the surprising signs of protein deficiency is swelling or edema like the swollen ankles. The proteins in the blood are responsible to keep enough fluid in the blood vessels and help fluid to be drawn back into the blood vessels from the tissues. Therefore when the protein drops below a certain level, the fluid will not be drawn back into blood vessels efficiently. Instead, it will stay in the tissues thereby causes swelling especially in the lower legs, feet, and ankles. If you have increased the protein intake but still struggling with swollen legs, then you should visit a GP.
  5. Weakened Immune System: One of the significant functions of protein is to maintain a strong immune system. Protein is used to keep the physical barriers in the body such as the mucous membranes and the skin intact in order to keep the germs out. It is used to make the antibodies and other immune chemicals that help to fight against the invaders and regulate the immune response. If you experience lots of colds or seem susceptible to infections then protein deficiency could be the cause for it. There are many other reasons such as zinc deficiency and vitamin D deficiency which could weaken the immune system.

What You Should Do?

  1. Increase the intake of protein with meat or eggs at least three servings a day and high-quality dairy foods, nuts, seeds, beans and pulses, and whole grains if you are a vegan. Include a broad variety of plant proteins every day in your diet.
  2. Opt for a plant-based protein powder if you have a low appetite, are on a weight loss diet, struggle to digest the protein foods. All these will be great options, especially for vegans since they are easy to digest and low on calories.
  3. Track your protein intake using online tracking tools or apps. Aim for around 1.2 grams of protein per kilo of your body weight at the start if you are recovering from injury, illness, or surgery or if you are highly stressed.

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