Updated: January 2023
Is protein the fountain of youth? Not really. However, many people don’t get enough dietary protein (or are not absorbing what they do get) and are therefore deficient.
When you are deficient in protein, many critical bodily systems can go into a compromised state and lead to poor health and disease.
This is a really important topic that in my opinion goes largely unaddressed in modern healthcare. I believe that most people know that protein is important. We’ve heard it all of our lives.
It is well recognized from just about everyone that protein is necessary to build and maintain lean muscle mass. What about digestive health? What about your hormones? What about immune system health? What about your skin?
It has become clear that maintaining healthy tissues and bodily functions aren’t just about lean muscle mass. In fact, it is much more than that. Some of the functions of protein are in the following table.
|Functions of Protein|
|Manufactures and transports hormones throughout the body|
|Building blocks of the cells in the body|
|Makes antibodies necessary for a healthy immune system|
|Carries oxygen throughout the body – Hemoglobin|
|Helps enzymes build up and break down substances through chemical reactions|
|Stores and carries iron|
|Builds and maintains healthy skin, hair, eyes, muscles, etc…|
|Growth and development in the formation of new tissues|
|Helps with blood clotting|
It is critically important to get enough dietary protein and this becomes even more critical as people age. It’s very simple: If you don’t get enough protein, you will develop sickness and disease.
I’ve written about glutathione in some of my other articles. Glutathione is the body’s number one antioxidant. People make less glutathione as they age.
This is one of the theories behind “free radical aging”. However, no matter your age, you should have a good, solid protein breakfast which can help boost your glutathione levels.
In a healthy person (with healthy digestive function), dietary protein gets broken down into amino acids in the digestive tract. Those amino acids travel to the liver where the liver produces proteins.
One of the most important proteins the liver makes is glutathione. Glutathione is a “tripeptide” which means that it is made up of 3 amino acids: cysteine, glutamic acid, and glycine.
So, eating a breakfast high in protein will give your liver some of the building blocks that it needs to make the super free radical protector – Glutathione
*I would like to point out that glutathione is so important for the anti-oxidant status of the body that I personally supplement with glutathione in addition to my daily protein requirements.
Glutathione is like gold or precious diamonds. Your body needs it and due to various health problems, or even basic things like exercise can cause depletion of glutathione. Therefore, I believe that replenishment of glutathione is a must for someone who wants to maximize health.
Protein and the Digestive Tract
Protein is not only used for the functions listed in the table above, but it also helps heal and repair the digestive tract. If you don’t have a healthy digestive tract, you can’t break down proteins properly and become malnourished.
In fact, the villi in your intestines have channel proteins in their cell membranes. If you are protein deficient, your very own digestive tract is malnourished and can’t perform properly.
Beyond the villi, there is a phenomenon in the digestive tract called “peristalsis” which is dependent on muscles. Peristalsis is the rhythmic contraction of the muscles in your intestines that helps move food through the digestive system.
Peristalsis is considered the “boa constrictor like” movement of food particles. Without good internal muscular health (also dependent on protein), your food can’t move through the system as well as it should which could also cause malnutrition.
Malnutrition can be multifactorial. However, it should be clear to anyone reading my articles that you can have a minor deficiency in one area and additional minor deficiencies in other areas.
The accumulation of all of the “minor deficiencies” can lead to a MAJOR DEFICIENCY over time.
The goal should be to identify “minor deficiencies” early and prevent them from becoming a large problem. The reality is that by the time most of my patients see me, the disease process is far along its path.
Most of my patients have been to other Drs. and tried many other methods both conventional and “alternative” and were still suffering.
Signs of Protein Deficiency:
- saggy underarms
- loss of buttock muscles
- joint and muscle pain
- poor grip strength
- fatigue or low to no energy
- slow metabolism
- difficulty losing weight
- mood swings
- blood sugar dysregulation
If your levels of protein are low, make some changes and give your body what it needs to create building blocks for healing and repair.
Old guidelines for protein consumption centered around and focused on maintaining lean muscle mass. It’s true that preserving lean muscle mass is important but as I stated above, there is more to the picture.
Some of those guidelines used the following formula for calculating dietary protein requirements: Body Weight divided by 2.2 = kilograms of body weight. Using that equation, someone weighing 200 pounds would weigh 91 kilograms. BW/2.2 = kg
A female who is trying to maintain current health would use a multiplier of 1. So, a female who weighs 150 pounds/2.2 = 68.1 kilograms x 1 = 68 grams of dietary protein intake per day to maintain health.
If that same female was sick or trying to recover from illness or recovering from an injury, she would use a multiplier of 1.2 instead of 1. Therefore, she would multiply 68 x 1.2 = 81.6 grams of protein per day.
By the old standards, a male would use the same formula but a different multiplier. Males use a multiplier of 1.2 for tissue maintenance and 1.5 for tissue repair. So, using the example above, a male who weighs 200 pounds/2.2 = 91kg. 91×1.5 (for tissue repair) would require 136.5 grams of daily protein.
*These are general guidelines. The daily dietary protein intake can be different for every person depending on the health of the individual. Always consult your physician before making dietary decisions that could affect your health.
New Protein Information
Some of the newer thoughts on proper daily protein intake revolve around the fact that protein is used for so many processes in the body and that healthy males and females should ingest 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight per day.
Obviously, this is hard to do and being honest about it, almost impossible without incorporating protein drinks, etc… However, if you want to be healthy, getting your protein levels up is a place to start.
I work with my patients to find a maintainable and sustainable combination of protein rich foods coupled with a variety of protein drinks throughout the day.
Don’t Starve Yourself
Most of my patients go through my 14 Day Blood Sugar Boot Camp and most of them lose significant weight (10-20 pounds is common during the 2 weeks).
I don’t believe in starvation diets. When the body is in a hunger state, it will break itself down to get fuel to the brain. There is a healthy way to lose weight and there are many, many unhealthy ways to lose weight.
Less body weight = less daily protein required.
By now, it should be easy to understand that as you lose weight, you levels of daily protein will decrease. It’s simple math. 1 gram of protein per 1 pound of body weight (for healthy people with no kidney problems, digestive issues, etc…)
These are general guidelines and don’t pertain to all people. Some people could have health concerns that would alter their level of dietary protein intake. Also, there never is a “one size fits all” protocol. Every person is different.
Kidney Disease and Low Protein
An example of a condition where someone would want to limit protein would be people who are in Stage 3b (or lower) of Chronic Kidney Disease.
These individuals can’t have too high or excessive levels of protein. Make sure that you discuss any such conditions (or any other health concerns) with me so that we can determine your levels.
Another important point is that it is very difficult to get all of your protein from your diet alone. A 4 ounce piece of lean ground beef contains about 26 grams of protein.
A otherwise healthy 200 pound man who is trying to heal from sickness or injury could need up to 200 grams of protein daily. So, a 200 pound male would have to eat around 8, 4 ounce pieces of chicken, fish, or steak per day. It could be done but just isn’t really all that practical.
Many of my patients are retired and don’t get out much to go to the grocery store. They are eating out of a box or can and don’t get the good, nutrient rich and protein dense foods that they used to get when they were younger.
Or, on the flip side, many people are spending time in their car driving through fast food restaurants because they are taking the kids to soccer, band, or other events.
They just haven’t figured out a way to cook at home because they hardly have time for anything. I understand. I have 4 kids and things can get really, really hectic.
Malabsorption causes Malnutrition
If you aren’t absorbing your protein, that can become the number 1 priority. Your body has to be able to digest and absorb protein to get the benefits. Some people need help getting their body into a state of good protein absorption.
Signs of protein malabsorption can include:
Loose bowel movements
Stomach or back pain
Some causes of protein malabsorption can be from antacid use, low levels of digestive enzymes, low pancreatic enzyme function, an infection, and an unhealthy liver or digestive tract.
My SpoonFullofNutrition Vegan Plus Chocolate Delight Protein has 24 grams of protein in one serving which makes it an excellent way to move towards reaching your daily protein goals.
The protein tastes really good and is made from 5 sources of hypoallergenic vegetable protein. I have patients who have ordered it faithfully for over 4 years now.
You can purchase yours from www.SpoonFullofNutrition.com
You could do the protein drink for breakfast and then again in the afternoon and get 48 grams of high quality, hypoallergenic, leucine rich protein so that you would put a significant dent in your daily requirements while at the same time working towards stabilizing and regulating your blood sugar levels.
So, what are you waiting for? Get your protein levels up! Your body needs for you to get them up. Your short and long term health are dependent on it.
As a functional medicine Dr., I can help you find your adequate protein levels for your specific needs and help you get better digestion of your protein. Although the guidelines are there, every situation is unique.
Health is Happiness,
Dr. Keith Currie