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Protein Deficiency Symptoms

Barrack Diego provides an overview of the symptoms that may indicate you are protein deficient.

Symptoms of protein deficiency first appear when your diet has been lacking protein for a while, and your body has not been getting the nutrition it desperately needs to function correctly. When that does not happen, it presents symptoms as signals that something is wrong. You must understand these while they are in their early stages and visit a medical professional as soon as you can.

Lack of nutrient-knowledge, restrictive diets, and poverty are some common causative factors of protein deficiency. It can lead to a whole lot of issues ranging from arthritis and gallstones to heart issues and muscle deterioration. Some of the common symptoms are:

Loss of Weight

One of the top symptoms is severe weight loss. This is caused by muscle wastage or the breaking down of muscles by the body to extract the protein it needs.


Oedema is a condition where fluid collects under the skin. It can develop anywhere on the body but usually manifests itself in the feet, ankles, and legs. Since proteins are vital for water balance in the body, the lack of them affects the body's capacity to store water properly.

Brittle Hair and Hair Loss

Protein is the building block of hair and deficiencies can lead to thinning, hair loss, and also breakage. This could become quite drastic in a very short time and must be monitored.

Paleness and Rashes

Lack of pigment in the skin leads to paleness, and also, burning of the skin in the sun. Dry, flaking skin and rashes could develop due to protein deficiency, and these resemble dry skin rashes like eczema.

Nail Ridges

White lines and ridges in toenails and fingernails are caused by ongoing protein deficiencies. Top-to-bottom ridges are indicative of present issues, while the transverse ones mean the deficiency has now passed.

Weakness and Slow Healing

Lethargy and weakness are not necessarily because the subject is lazy. It could be indications of much bigger problems like protein deficiency. Muscle breakdown weakens the body to a great extent which leads to extreme weakness and lethargy. The building blocks of protein called amino acids are essential to healing wounds. Injured or damaged tissues need to be replaced or repaired, for which amino acids are necessary. A lack of protein would slow down the entire healing process.

Sleeping Issues

Difficulty in sleeping is usually triggered by a deficiency in serotonin levels that is, the result of a lack of specific amino acids. We know that when a protein is broken down by the body, amino acids would be produced. If you consume a diet that is lacking in protein, you will experience sleep-associated issues. There is bound to be difficulty in sleeping.


Headaches are pretty common, and they could be caused by numerous factors, including a distinct protein deficiency. A protein deficiency could trigger headaches either by causing anaemia or by triggering low blood sugar.

General Weakness & Fainting

General Weakness & Fainting could be the result of protein deficiency. This could be the result of low blood sugar or maybe your body's need for breaking down muscle tissue for receiving the nutrients needed by it.

Some Other Symptoms

Not all protein deficiency symptoms seem to be physical. Some of these symptoms could be mental or emotional. They may include symptoms like moodiness and crankiness, acute depression, conflict resolution issues, anxiety, weakness and lack of energy, or even the willingness to do anything.


If you seem to be experiencing any of these protein deficiency symptoms, schedule an appointment with your primary doctor as soon as possible. It would require just an ordinary blood examination for determining if protein deficiency seems to be the reason behind those symptoms. Protein deficiency treatment is not that complicated, but it needs to be diagnosed promptly and adequately. If you are suspecting protein deficiency, do not waste time and seek immediate medical attention.

Page Reference

If you quote information from this page in your work, then the reference for this page is:

  • DIEGO, B. (2017) Protein Deficiency Symptoms [WWW] Available from: [Accessed

About the Author

Barrack Diego is a medical researcher at one of the foremost labs in the world. He pioneers in research on proteins and their contribution to our body. He also maintains a blog to share articles and chronicle his research.