Protein is essential to the human body. It is the building block of your bones, muscles, skin, and blood. You need protein in your diet in order for your body to repair cells and produce new ones. If you are eating a lot of carbs, you might be noticing some weird signs that you aren't getting enough protein in your diet.
According to Genetics Home Reference, a service of the National Library of Medicine, proteins are long chains of amino acids that are required for the structure, function, and regulation of the body’s tissues and organs. As Dr. Josh Axe noted in his website DrAxe.com, proteins are involved in just about every body function from controlling blood sugar levels to healing wounds and fighting off bacteria. Making sure that you get enough protein isn't just about gaining muscle or losing weight, it's about maintaining a healthy functioning body.
According to Axe, the average person needs about half their body weight in grams of protein a day. For example, if you weigh 150 pounds, you need to eat at least 75 grams of protein a day. Eggs, lean meat, fish, nuts, dairy, and protein-rich vegetables are good sources of protein.
Here are some weird signs that you aren't getting enough protein in your diet.
1. You Have High Cholesterol
You have probably heard that fatty foods will raise your cholesterol. But, what you probably don't know is that high cholesterol is also a result of the inflammation and hormonal imbalances that come from diets high in carb-heavy and processed foods. Axe warned that if you are replacing protein-rich foods with sugary snacks and refined carbs, your cholesterol level can start to rise.
2. Your Muscles Get Weak
If you aren't getting enough protein, your body can start stripping your muscles of amino acids, as suggested by SFGate. One of the first signs of protein deficiency is muscle wasting accompanied by increasing muscular weakness.
3. You're Feeling Moody
Amino acids are also the building blocks for neurotransmitters which control your mood, according to Axe. Proteins help your brain synthesize dopamine and serotonin, and without them you can find yourself feeling anxious or moody.
4. You're Losing Your Hair
Reader's Digest warned that if your body doesn't get enough protein, it will try to conserve protein levels by putting your hair growth into a “resting phase” which can make it much more susceptible to falling out. It is similar to the resting phase your hair goes through after delivering a child.
5. You Have Trouble Sleeping
If you have insomnia, it could be caused by unstable blood sugar levels, noted Axe. People who have trouble sleeping should consider eating protein-rich foods before bed to help with tryptophan and serotonin production.
6. You're Getting Sick A Lot
According to a study in the journal Progress of Food and Nutrition Science, protein deficiency can negatively affect T cells, which play an important roll in your immunity. Not eating enough proteins can cause you to be more susceptible to illness.
7. You Have "Brain Fog"
Axe noted that dopamine, epinephrine, norepinephrine, and serotonin are synthesized in the brain using proteins. These neurotransmitters help with brain function, including concentration, motivation and learning new information.
8. You Have Foot Swelling
Edema is swelling of both legs from a buildup of extra fluid. According to Harvard Health Publications, low protein levels in the blood can cause edema. This is because proteins help hold salt and water inside the blood vessels and keep them from leaking out into the tissues.
9. Your Periods Are Become Irregular
Axe suggested that low-protein, high-sugar, and high-carb diets can cause inflammation and weight gain that may disrupt the delicate balance of hormones needed to keep your menstrual cycle regular.
10. You're Gaining Weight
Even though protein-rich foods are typically higher in fat, Axe noted that they make you more satisfied, which means you are less likely to snack after a protein-rich meal.
11. Your Skin Is Itchy, Patchy, Or Flakey
Registered dietitian Jessica Bihuniak told Reader's Digest that protein deficiency can sometimes result in a flaky dermatitis, or irritation of the skin, especially on the back of the thighs and on the buttocks.
12. You Crave Sweets
Registered Dietitian Dawn Jackson Blatner, author of The Flexitarian Diet, told Woman's Day that one sign that you're low on protein is that you start craving sweets and feel like you're never quite full. Protein keeps your blood sugar steady and if you don't eat enough, your glucose levels can be off-balance tempting you to reach for a quick fix like candy.
13. You Have Digestive Issues
If you are feeling gassy, but can't go to the bathroom, it may be a sign of protein-deficiency. Axe warned that with a low-protein diet your body's enzyme production, the muscle contractions in your GI tract, and digestion in general will suffer.