Proteins are essential macronutrients that help the body build muscle mass. They work on the cellular level for the structure, function, and regulation of the tissues and organs in the body. Because proteins are made up of a large number of amino acids, their functions are wide and varied. They can act as antibodies, enzymes or messengers among all others.
Proteins can be found in meat, poultry, fish and dairy products. They’re also found in plant sources like seeds, nuts, beans, legumes, and soy products. Despite these rich protein sources, lots of people around the globe are protein deficient, particularly in the regions of Central Africa And South Asia, where 30 percent of children don’t get enough protein.
Protein deficiency should not be tolerated since it can drive your body to nuts. Your body only means you lack protein when the following things will happen:
1. Increased food cravings
Your body doesn’t like it when there’s an imbalance in your food consumption. When you eat less protein but more carbohydrates and sugar, your desire to eat will increase, especially your cravings for sugary foods. Protein and fats aid in the slow release of sugar into the bloodstream. Not enough protein means your blood sugar levels can rise and fall abnormally, resulting in sugar cravings for quick energy.
2. Decreased ability to fight infections
Insufficient protein supply in the body can weaken your immune system and disrupt your ability to fight infections. You may be prone to catch a common cold, influenza virus, and other infections. Protein deficiency can also compromise your body’s ability to recover from infections.
3. Muscle mass loss
Since protein is one of the building blocks for muscles, a lack thereof can lead to muscle wasting, weakness, and pain. As stated earlier, proteins are made up of thousands of amino acids. When your food lacks sufficient amounts of protein, the body solves this problem by breaking down its own protein to harvest the amino acids crucial for the formation of new proteins. The muscles are the body’s best targets because they store large amounts of proteins. As this scenario continues, your muscles will start to shrink, resulting in muscle wasting.
4. Brittle nails
Another way of knowing if you’re protein deficient is by looking at your fingernails. That’s how amazing your body is. When your nails are weak and brittle, it’s a red flag that says you need to increase your protein intake.
In some cases, the appearance of the nails will also change. Instead of a smooth and pinkish color, you will notice white bands and brownish spots on the nail’s surface.
5. Skin problems
Your skin is made up of the structural protein collagen. This amino acid helps form the connective tissues and skin. An abundant supply of protein makes your skin healthy and smooth while a deficiency results in dry, cracked, and flaky skin.
In older people, collagen production starts to decline naturally. This is why collagen supplements are available in the market to target this specific deficiency.
6. Hair loss
Losing massive amounts of hair has also been linked to protein deficiency. Your hair is made up of keratin, which is 90 percent protein. As soon as the body detects a deficiency in protein, its best response is to conserve its protein reserves for important bodily functions.
Since hair growth is a non-essential thing, it has to offer a sacrifice by not using the body’s protein reserves. And this leads to hair loss, thinning, and color fading, which are temporary. Once you correct your protein problems, the hair will restore its health and luster.
7. Loss of sex drive
Protein deficiency is not only bad for your health but your romantic or intimate relationship as well. Research says that a lack of protein can increase your risk of having low testosterone levels, which can affect your sexual interest.
A protein deficiency in women has been found to cause irregular periods and temporary fertility loss. A lack of protein is also crucial for childbearing women since the fetus needs loads of protein for optimum growth and development.
8. The inability of wounds to heal easily
Because the skin is made up of proteins, this substance is necessary to speed up the healing of skin injury, wounds or cuts. With a protein deficiency, the skin is less able to heal damaged tissue.
9. Fatty liver
The accumulation of fat in liver cells is known as fatty liver. This is a common condition for people who consume too much alcohol, are overweight or protein deficient. A lack of protein can affect the hepatic triglyceride secretion, which causes fatty acids to rise and accumulate. An untreated fatty liver may lead to fatty liver disease and, ultimately, to liver failure.
10. Bone fracture risk
Low protein intake not only leads to weak muscles but also a bone weakness. Weak bones can increase the risk of bone fractures and injuries. This happens because calcium absorption is not possible without a significant amount of protein.
Severe protein deficiency can lead to edema, a condition characterized by swelling of both legs. Proteins help to hold water and salt inside the blood vessels to prevent fluid leakage. But a low blood protein albumin can retain fluids and lead to a buildup. Mild enema can cause swelling in the hands, feet, and ankles while severe edema causes the face and abdomen to swell as well.
A lack of protein can also affect your brain’s proper functioning. You may feel less motivated, have trouble remembering things or find it hard to process new information. However, too much protein consumption can also cause brain fog. Eating the right amount is key.
13. Inability to sleep
The body needs tryptophan, an amino acid that causes sleepiness. A low intake of this protein can naturally give you trouble falling asleep.
14. Weight gain
Since your food cravings increases due to protein deficiency, you’re likely to add extra pounds for eating more than what your body needs. Higher levels of protein decrease the hunger hormone ghrelin. Without sufficient proteins, ghrelin levels will naturally rise.