Protein Deficiency

Protein Deficiency

Protein is the fundamental block of your muscle, immunity and the totality of you.

Proteins are made of basic units referred to as amino acids, which are the important molecules we get from our diet. There are amino acids that are essential for the body that only protein structures contain in all 9 parts. To get the most of this element, one would have to eat foods rich in protein like meat and those veggies and fruits that contain the same.. Amino acids can be found in many different types of foods, even vegetables, but the highest sources are those that come from animals – like meat, dairy, eggs and fish and  to a lesser extent certain plant foods like beans and seeds

Proteins are needed for growth and maintenance of all body tissues from the skin to hemoglobin, the oxygen-carrying protein in your blood.  Additionally, proteins are involved in the healing process of wounds and in creating antibodies- the most important weapons to protect us from germs and cancer.

A deficiency of proteins affects every single organ in your body, ranging from brain, hair, bones, muscle, skin, and importantly your immune system- You’ll get sick more often. This is because your immune system needs enough of the right fuel to function correctly. There will be a loss of T-cells, B cells, plasma cells producing antibodies which are important germ and cancer fighters. if you’re lacking protein. Your immune system will suffer by not being able to ward off viruses,  bacteria, and the numerous cancer cells that our body generates on daily bases.

The Average daily requirement of protein is 75mg for a 150lb person. According to the USDA, the recommended daily minimum intake of protein for adults who are at an average weight and activity level is: 56 grams per day for men and 46 grams per day for women.

if you’re trying to recover from an injury or an infection and also want to improve your overall energy and immunity to prevent cancer…getting more protein in your diet is essential.


What are the signs and symptoms of protein deficiency?

Protein deficiency sign and symptoms include:

  • Frequent Infections- protein is essential to the functioning of the body’s immune system
  • Anemia
  • Frequent headaches
  • Nausea
  • Skin ulcer
  • Stomach pain, gas, diarrhea, or sometimes constipation
  • Poor Sleep
  • Hair loss- hair is made up of 90 percent protein
  • weak, brittle, ridges in nails with white or brown discoloration.
  • A sluggish metabolism.
  • Fat gain
  • Fatty liver
  • Trouble losing weight.
  • Muscle wasting and trouble building muscle mass.
  • Low energy levels and fatigue.
  • Poor concentration and trouble learning.
  • Moodiness and mood swings.
  • Muscle, bone and joint pain.
  • Sugar cravings
  • Blood sugar changes that can lead to diabetes.
  • Irregular periods
  • Edema- skin becomes swollen and puffy due to fluid retention


Common causes of protein deficiency

Common causes of protein deficiency in the adult are caused by chronic disorders like AIDS, Cancer, Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), Chronic renal failure,  Congestive heart failure, Crohn’s disease, Cystic fibrosis, and Rheumatoid arthritis


Protein Deficiency and Cancer

Protein deficiency with low levels of testosterone is characteristic of some of the stages of cancer and when severe enough is part of the Cancer Anorexia-Cachexia Syndrome (CACS)- a condition seen in cancer patients that results in muscle and fat loss associated with cachexia.

The wasting in cancer cachexia( weakness and wasting of the body due to severe chronic illness such as cancer.) has since long been known to be associated with adverse outcomes in cancer patients, type 1 diabetes, HIV, and multiple sclerosis. Older individuals with “failure to thrive” syndrome may also develop cachexia. According to one study, an estimated 5 million Americans have the condition. involves loss of muscle and fat and reflects a catabolic metabolism induced by an abnormal host response to tumor presence and/or tumor factors.

According to one study, an estimated 15 to 40 percent of patients with cancer experience significant weight loss associated with cachexia. Unfortunately, weight loss due to excessive cytokines(any of a number of substances, such as interferon, interleukin, and growth factors, that are secreted by certain cells of the immune system and have an effect on other cells) is associated with a poor outlook and early death.

Treatments for CACS are similar to those of cachexia treatments for other conditions. Intervening as soon as possible to reduce the effects of cachexia can help to reduce the serious effects it has on people with cancer.

Sometimes, when a person is in the advanced stages of cancer, a doctor may recommend palliative care. Palliative care is a shift from trying to treat or cure the disease and instead focuses on making a person comfortable and enhancing their quality of life. Although the decision to switch to a palliative care mindset can be a difficult one, it can often provide peace and additional support to a person in the final stages of their life.

According to the Ohio State University, an estimated 80 percent of patients with advanced cancer have CACS. The condition is estimated to be the cause of anywhere from 20 to 40 percent of all cancer deaths.

Patients with cancer, cachexia frequently develop a chronic negative energy and protein balance driven by a combination of reduced food intake and metabolic change. Thus, alterations in both energy intake and components of energy expenditure may contribute to progressive weight loss. Increased resting energy expenditure related to the systemic inflammatory response is common and a sustained hypermetabolism over a long period of disease progression can make a large contribution to negative energy balance and waste if not compensated for by an increase in energy intake. Hypermetabolism and diminished energy intake due to anorexia may thus constitute a vicious circle in the development of cancer cachexia.

Though nutritional support alone can improve energy intake to a variable extent and for a variable period of time, it will not address the underlying catabolic metabolism and is thus likely to be of limited efficacy if attempts to attenuate the tumor-induced catabolic response are not carried out at the same time. Concomitant drug treatments for cancer cachexia may slow down the wasting process by reducing anorexia, attenuating the systemic inflammation, the skeletal muscle catabolism or stimulating the muscle protein anabolism. Thus, improved management of cancer cachexia may require a multimodal approach by a multi-disciplinary team and is best commenced earlier rather than later. Early start of therapy also facilitates the use of oral nutritional supplementation, which is preferable to parenteral nutrition in the majority of cases. Once a patient is severely wasted it may be neither practical nor ethical to intervene with anything else than supportive care.

An improvement in the condition of all patients with cachexia may not be possible, however, the goal must be to stabilize cachexia and prevent or delay further decline. There is currently no single or combined treatment strategy which is successful in all patients. However, strategies to counteract both hypermetabolism and reduced dietary intake have been demonstrated to be of importance for the survival, function, and quality of life of cancer patients and should be further explored in interventional studies.

What is the treatment for protein deficiency?

Some of the points of consideration for protein deficiency include an adequate diet rich in protein such as meat, dairy, eggs and fish and to a lesser extent certain plant foods like beans and seeds.

For vegetarians and vegans, there are ample vegetable and fruit sources that supply one with the important proteins that their system needs.

  • Protein supplements can also be used.


  • I.V. protein infusion( parenteral amino acid supplementation) is used in condition if moderate to severe protein deficiency or when patients can not ingest due to cancer or any disorder affecting the digestive system. Supply of protein-rich foods to get the diet back on track or supplying fluid protein intravenously. Each method is introduced depending on the severity of the problem. The best way to tackle this problem would be to make changes in the diet and introduce foods rich in this element that should help restore protein levels over the course of a couple of weeks. It is important to always supply the body with not too much but adequate amounts of protein foods, in order to help sustain its level in the body. Parenteral amino acid supplementation (equivalent to 1 g/kg/day) over the course of 3 hours on whole-body protein turnover in critically ill patients.
  • Treatments for cachexia can include medications to reduce the cytokines in the body, stimulate appetite, or block hormones associated with causing cachexia. Examples of appetite stimulants include dronabinol and megestrol acetate. Corticosteroids, such as dexamethasone, methylprednisolone, and prednisolone, also stimulate appetite. However, dietary changes are rarely enough to reverse the incidences of the muscle wasting associated with cachexia. Muscle mass can be built up through exercise. If physically able, a person may try resistance training by lifting weights, using resistance bands, or using a person’s body weight. Sometimes, doctors will prescribe growth hormones, such as Serostim or Norditropin FlexPro.


Although protein-rich diets are essential for satisfying our appetites, for building muscles, and for maintaining a healthy metabolism, eating too much could develop negative health issues such as kidney damage, weight gain, mood changes, heart disorders and chronic bad breath(ketosis)


The information in this document does not replace a medical consultation. It is for personal guidance use only. We recommend that patients ask their doctors about what tests or types of treatments are needed for their type and stage of the disease.


  • American Cancer Society
  • The National Cancer Institute
  • National Comprehensive Cancer Network
  • American Academy of Gastroenterology
  • National Institute of Health
  • MD Anderson Cancer Center
  • Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center
  • American Academy of Hematology




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