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We’re all about that plant-based life, but only if everything else is in balance too. For many with veggie-heavy diets, protein deficient can creep up and throw our sense of well being off track. Functional medicine pro, Dr. Josh Axe, is talking to us all about protein deficiency and the tell-tale signs it’s time to take a closer look at what our bodies are really asking for…

It’s no secret that protein is important. It makes up the foundation of your hair, skin and muscles; transports oxygen; repairs and rebuilds tissue cells; and even helps promote healthy blood clotting. Not only that, but protein is vital to maintaining normal blood sugar, healing wounds, killing bacteria and keeping your body functioning efficiently.

Most people are able to easily meet their protein needs with their normal diet, making protein deficiency relatively uncommon. However, certain groups are at risk for developing a protein deficiency, including those who are restricting their caloric intake (and, as a result, their consumption of high-protein foods), as well as people consuming a poorly planned vegetarian or vegan diet.

A lack of adequate protein can have a significant impact on your health. The following are 9 common signs that could indicate a protein deficiency.

Your Sleep is Suffering

In the body, protein is used to create important neurotransmitters, like serotonin, which are responsible for regulating the sleep/wake cycle. A deficiency in protein can lead to a deficiency in serotonin, which can lead to insomnia and sleep disruption.

You Can’t Concentrate
If you’re experiencing brain fog, along with difficulty concentrating and trouble retaining information, a protein deficiency could be to blame. Neurotransmitters linked to learning and memory are produced using amino acids, so getting enough protein in your diet is crucial. Additionally, a balanced diet with adequate protein has been shown to boost learning and improve motor skills and work performance.

You Have High CholesterolReplacing protein-rich foods with refined carbs and sugary foods in your diet can wreak havoc on your cholesterol levels. This causes your liver to process fat less efficiently, resulting in high cholesterol. On the other hand, high-protein diets have been shown to lower cholesterol levels and even reduce the risk of heart disease.

You’ve Put on a Few PoundsFilling your diet with protein-rich foods is a great way to keep your waistline in check. A high-protein diet can decrease appetite and cravings, boost metabolism and reduce levels of ghrelin, the hormone responsible for stimulating hunger. A low-protein/high-carb diet, on the other hand, can lead to more empty calories, increased cravings and weight gain.

You’re Not Getting Results From Your WorkoutsIf it feels like you’re spending more time in the gym but seeing fewer results, it could mean you’re not getting enough protein. A low-protein diet can cause muscle wasting, fatigue and fat gain. Plus, not only do you need protein to build more muscle mass, but protein is also critical to keeping energy levels up so that you can make the most of every workout.

You See Changes in Your Hair, Skin or NailsProtein forms the foundation of your hair, skin and nails, so it’s no wonder that this is where you’ll find some of the most visible signs of protein deficiency. Brittle nails, flaky skin, hair loss and hair thinning can all indicate that you need to ramp up your protein intake.

Your Periods are IrregularOne of the most common causes of irregular menstrual cycles is polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), a condition characterized by hormonal imbalance, infertility and cysts on the ovaries. Obesity, pre-diabetes and diabetes are a few of the most common risk factors for PCOS, and insulin resistance is estimated to affect 50-70 percent of women with the condition. A high-carb/low-protein diet can disrupt hormone levels and contribute to insulin resistance, further upping the risk of PCOS.

You’re Getting Sick More OftenGetting enough protein is key to fueling your immune system. If you find that you’re coming down with a case of the sniffles more often than usual, a lack of protein may be the culprit. In fact, research has shown that protein deficiency can cause a decline in immune cells, which are important for fighting off the foreign invaders that cause illness.

You’re More Moody or AnxiousProteins are used to synthesize mood-controlling neurotransmitters like dopamine and serotonin. Low levels of these important compounds may be associated with depression, mood swings and anxiety, but getting enough protein in your diet can help boost neurotransmitter production and stabilize your mood.

One of the easiest ways to up your protein intake is with a smoothie! Find a few of our favorite plant-based protein powders here.

The Chalkboard Mag and its materials are not intended to treat, diagnose, cure or prevent any disease. All material on The Chalkboard Mag is provided for educational purposes only. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified healthcare provider for any questions you have regarding a medical condition, and before undertaking any diet, exercise or other health related program. 

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