4 Ways to Spot Signs of Protein Deficiency

by Livestrong Contributor

A person with fingerless gloves uses a smartphone.

KristinaJovanovic/iStock/Getty Images

Spot General Signs of Protein Deficiency

Listlessness, fatigue and muscle wasting can all be signs of protein deficiency. Of course, they can also be caused by a variety of problems, so you may wish to visit a doctor or at least eat an overall healthier diet. More serious signs include bleeding gums, muscle cramping, consistently cold extremities and hair loss. If you experience any of these signs, you should see a doctor immediately.

Pay Attention to Your Fingernails

Early signs of a protein deficiency can be spotted in the fingernails, which hint at a number of physical ailments. Since nails are created from protein, they can alert you to the tiniest sign of deficiency. White lined bands across the nail signify that you are lacking protein. Reddish-brown spots may also occur in some cases. If you are ever concerned about brittle, unhealthy nails or strange markings, you should speak with a physician.

Spot Marasmus

Marasmus usually appears in infants and is characterized by severe weight loss and muscle wastage. It's caused by severe starvation and is more common in third world countries where infant formula is not readily available. Any formula you find in Western countries contains all the necessary protein needed for infants to grow and thrive. If you are raising a baby on a vegan diet, breast feeding is crucial to normal development. Unfortunately, no vegan baby formula currently exists on the market. An organic soy formula that includes vitamin D derived from lamb's wool is available for vegetarians. After the first year, high-protein whole soy milk is an acceptable addition your baby's diet. If your child stops gaining weight or growing normally at any time, which can be considered a failure to thrive, you need to take her to a hospital or doctor as soon as possible. Even if you are taking care of your child, another condition may be causing a protein or other deficiency.

Notice the Signs of Kwashiorkor

Kwashiorkor usually appears in toddlers and adolescents in third world countries, but it does appear in the West as well. Strict vegans and people suffering from anorexia often show these physical signs of protein deficiency. A diet low in protein and high in carbohydrates can also cause muscle wastage, fluid retention and edema. You may suffer from this severe form of protein deficiency without even realizing it. It usually comes along with a desire to prevent even an ounce of weight or fat gain, which is common for anorexics, who may not realize the severity of the deficiency. As it is incredibly difficult to not get enough protein in a normal diet of whole foods, a person showing physical signs probably has other nutritional issues as well. If you are losing muscle mass despite exercising, you should always talk to a doctor.

Photo Credits

  • KristinaJovanovic/iStock/Getty Images