Our Educational Content is Not Meant or Intended for Medical Advice or Treatment
Let’s talk about protein in the body and the primary causes of protein deficiencies. Muscle, skin, fingernails, hair - your entire body is almost all protein. If you have any of the most common problems with these parts of the body, one of these six factors is likely to blame.
Here’s everything you need to know.
First Thing’s First: Understanding the Basics of Protein Deficiency
You need many things for a healthy body, including minerals and fats. That said,protein is the most necessary nutrient to replace the body tissue.
There are many types of essential proteins that the body produces, including:
- Structural proteins like collagen
- Hormonal proteins like insulin
- Carrier proteins like hemoglobin
- Enzymes such as amylase
Having enough of these proteins ensures strong hair, skin, and nails. It also helps ensure you don't have to deal with underlying disorders that can arise from protein deficiencies.
To make these proteins, though, you have to take a few other things into account.
See, it’s not just a matter of eating any old protein to replace your body parts and help you function. If you use poor raw materials, you are going to have some kind of disorder. You’re not going to look healthy. Instead, you’re going to look ragged, you’re going to have wrinkles, and you’re going to deal with loose skin. You're also going to deal with things like:
- Hair loss
- Skin infections or skin conditions like psoriasis
- Nail changes, including nail infections or fungal infections
- Underlying, more serious issues like kidney disease or liver problems
- And more
We know how to avoid all of these symptoms and help you maintain beautiful skin throughout your whole life.
1. Incomplete proteins
The first problem that can lead to many disorders is incomplete proteins. If you’re trying to get your proteins from non-animal sources like rice, beans, or vegetables, you really have to know what you’re doing and have a lot of variety in your diet. That’s because these protein sources have an incomplete amino acid profile, meaning that you only get some of the amino acids you need from each of these foods. If your amino acid intake is incomplete, you simply can't synthesize whole proteins.
This can lead to major issues, including:
- Weak muscle tone
- Edema, or swelling due to fluid retention
- Hair loss or brittle hair
- Stunted growth
- Skin lesions
These disorders are not common from incomplete proteins - especially in the U.S. where we have a plethora of options in our diet. But this is still something to take into consideration.
On the other hand, it’s much easier to get a complete protein from animal sources. Eggs, in particular, are probably the best sources of complete amino acids. Seafood - or fish in general - is another good complete protein source.
That said, you can’t just pick any animal protein. You also have to make sure that the quality of protein is high. That means you should avoid soy protein isolates and look for protein sources that are:
- Not soy protein
- Whole proteins
- Not cheap vegetable textured protein, etc.
Also, keep in mind that when you add sugar to protein, you really accelerate the insulin spike in your body to a major degree. Insulin, of course, is going to create all sorts of blood sugar symptoms, along with belly fat and many other things. You want to avoid insulin spikes as much as possible.
That’s why you never want to combine sugar with your protein. Unfortunately, this is what you’ll generally see in protein bars (even the ones that seem healthy) and in unhealthy food combinations like a hamburger with a bun or a hamburger with a coke. You have to be aware to avoid this mistake.
2. Hydrochloric Acid
In your stomach, you have a very powerful acid called hydrochloric acid (HCI). As you age, this acid begins to deplete. In fact, hydrochloric acid is probably the single most common deficiency that I see in a lot of people, especially as they get older. This can be really problematic.
When you don’t have enough stomach acid, you have a lack of protein digestion along with an overall lack of mineral absorption.
This makes a lot of sense when you think about the purpose of stomach acid and the stomach in general. It’s there to break down proteins. If you’re not breaking down proteins, you’re going to get putrification symptoms- things like gas, indigestion, acid reflux, and GERD. This all happens when the stomach is in a low acid state.
On the other hand, if you have good acid in the stomach, you can also break down collagen well. That means you’ll have healthy tendons, ligaments, and connective tissue.
The solution to low HCI? Well, you can:
- Take apple cider vinegar tablets or drink it
- Limit processed foods and consume more leafy vegetables
- Eat fermented vegetables like kimchi and sauerkraut
- Eat ginger
- Increase your zinc intake
Not sure if this is something you need to remedy? I talk about the best way to know if you have low hydrochloric acid here.
3. Trace Minerals
Trace minerals are minerals required in small amounts for the body to be able to metabolize proteins. They are involved in all the cellular mechanics of protein.
Here’s how it works: your body takes protein as raw material and uses it to build immune cells, hair cells, ligaments, etc. This is how it makes proteins important for strong hair, skin, and fingernails - proteins like keratin and collagen.
To make these, though, the body needs a lot of enzymes. Enzymes are made from protein and they help make these chemical reactions happen. Enzymes need trace minerals. The DNA also needs trace minerals.
So all of the metabolism in your energy factories need trace minerals . If you don’t have enough of them, you’ll find that it’s hard to grow hair, nails, or connective tissue. And this problem is more common than you’d think.
See, we don’t have enough trace minerals in our soils. They’re depleted. As a result, a lot of our foods - even vegetables - are just full of empty nutrition. That’s why your hair can start falling out or you can start developing other issues, even if you maintain a healthy diet.
Of course, essential minerals come into play here as well. Iron deficiency, for example, can cause koilonychia, or spooned nail beds. It can also cause onycholysis, a condition where fingernails and toenails detach.
4. B Vitamins
Here, we’re talking specifically about biotin, B6, B5 - they’re all required for protein digestion. Deficiencies in these vitamins can cause major underlying protein problems, along with a ton of other issues:
- Biotin deficiency can cause brittle nails, alopecia, and male pattern baldness.
- Vitamin B6 deficiency can cause redness or discoloration on the face, including psoriasis, rosacea, and eczema.
- Vitamin B5 deficiency has been linked to facial acne, sleep disorders, stomach pain, and nausea.
Now, solving this is not just a matter of trying to eat foods that are high in B vitamins. It’s trying to avoid the foods that deplete B vitamins. These include:
Those are the things that are going to deplete the B vitamins - and they’re staples in many people’s diets. So the first thing you have to do is cut these out.
Next, you can supplement with additional B vitamins.
Nutritional yeast is the best source of B vitamins. You can get it from a health food store and add it into your smoothies or meals.
If you’re consuming too much protein, it’s also going to be a problem. Say, for example, that you’re doing 6 protein meals a day or having snacks with protein between meals. This is a big mistake.
Having large amounts of protein is a bad idea because it’s going to spike insulin. Anything more than 25-35 grams of protein per meal is converted to sugar, which will spike insulin. Excessive protein can also clog the liver up, then you won’t be able to utilize protein effectively. So the liver is a factor in protein metabolism too.
So what should you do instead?
You should consume small amounts of protein - maybe three to six ounces a day (though if your metabolism is really fast, you can maybe do a little bit more). That’s about the size of the palm of your hand, and it’s enough. Consuming more is not going to help your hair or your muscles.
6. Raw vs Cooked
When we eat the majority of our food cooked - then we add pasta, bread, starches, and sugar - it’s bad. That’s because, when you cook protein, you’re eating a dead protein. Your body is going to have a hard time utilizing that protein, and it’s going to have to work harder to break it down and absorb it.
Too much cooked protein also destroys the liver and inhibits your ability to process protein. So what does that mean? Does it mean that you’re going to drive up to McDonald's and have a raw hamburger? No.
It means that you have to consume fewer cooked vegetables and more raw vegetables. Also, try raw nuts and raw seeds. Don’t over-cook your meat.
The point is that you need more raw foods in your diet.
These are just some factors that you might want to take into account if you’re trying to improve the health of your hair, skin, and nails. Have any questions? Let us know.
- What Causes Spooned Nails
- Why Protein Does Not Help Hair, Nails and Skin
- The Missing Nutrient in Hair, Nails and Skin
Disclaimer: Our educational content is not meant or intended for medical advice or treatment.
Editor’s Note: This post has been updated for quality and relevancy.