Protein is one of your body’s essential building blocks, so it’s natural to wonder if you have developed protein deficiency symptoms if you don’t get enough in your daily diet.
People suffering from this condition typically experience weakness, fatigue, recurrent infections as a result of a weakened immune system, and thin, brittle hair and nails.
And how can you tell if you have a protein deficiency? Protein deficiency symptoms vary depending on the severity of the condition. Even though it is uncommon, the following red flags should be considered for a true deficiency:
1. Protein Cravings
If you don’t get enough protein, your body will let you know in the short term by literally craving it. You should give in to your desires. Listen to your body and eat up if you’re really craving a chicken sandwich or a bowl of lentil soup.
2. Sugar Cravings
Protein takes longer to digest than carbohydrates. If you eat a meal that is mostly carbohydrates with little protein, it will digest faster and cause your blood sugar to rise. This rise is followed by a drop, and when our blood sugar levels are constantly fluctuating, we crave more sugar. The key is to combine protein and carbohydrates so that everything digests more slowly and blood sugar fluctuations are more gradual over time.
You’ve probably noticed that you tend to be hungrier throughout the day when you have a lack of protein in your meals. This is because protein lowers your levels of the “hunger” hormone ghrelin while increasing the production of other hormones that make you feel full. As a result, a lack of protein can increase your appetite and cause you to overeat.
4. Weakness and Fatigue
Long term, your body may break down your muscles to try and supply your body with sufficient protein, leading to loss of energy and strength. Weakness and fatigue are the first symptoms of protein deficiency.
5. Loss of Muscle Mass
Our bodies will not be able to rebuild properly if we do not consume enough protein, and we will begin to lose muscle mass. This is especially true for the elderly. Even in the absence of protein, amino acids must be utilized for essential bodily functions such as tissue repair and the production of essential enzymes. Muscle proteins are used as the source for this, which may result in muscle mass loss.
6. Skin, Hair, and Nail Issues
Untreated protein deficiency can cause skin and hair problems such as hair loss, acne, melasma, and premature aging. Protein, for example, helps restore hair, skin, and nails.
7. Impaired Immune Function
Protein is required to construct the components of our immune system. If you don’t get enough protein, your immune system will suffer. As a result, protein deficiency may slow wound healing in the long run, ultimately slowing the process of repairing cells that keep your body healthy.
8. Risk of Bone Fractures
It’s important to remember that protein contributes to the structure of all cells, including those in your bones. Protein deficiency has been linked to bone fractures, which is not surprising. This is more prevalent in older adults, who are already predisposed to this complication.
9. Fatty Liver
Fatty liver is caused by fat droplets accumulating inside liver cells and is a symptom of kwashiorkor, severe protein malnutrition, and deficiency that primarily affects infants and children in impoverished areas of the world.
Swelling, also known as edema by doctors, is one of the telltale signs of kwashiorkor. People with severe protein deficiency can develop edema (fluid buildup) in their legs, feet, and abdomen as a result of extremely low albumin levels.