Sore for Weeks? Protein Malnourishment Might Be to Blame.

The following is adapted from The Search for the Perfect Protein.

Have you ever done work around the yard and been sore for weeks afterwards? While it’s easy to dismiss this soreness as just being out of shape or overextending yourself, there may be something else going on that is worth your attention.

Protein malnourishment might be to blame if your soreness lasts longer than it should. But to understand why protein malnourishment would lead to such symptoms, you first need to understand a few basic protein principles and how it helps our bodies. That’s what we’ll explore in this article, then see other effects of protein malnourishment.

Why is Protein So Important?

The anatomy of a protein consists of a long string of linked amino acids, which are molecules made of carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, and nitrogen. There are 22 different ways that amino acids are configured for use in our body. Imagine 22 different colored and shaped beads, all put together in an exact order—that’s what a protein looks like.

When this chain hits the stomach, the acid level secreted by the stomach cells produces a chemical reaction that uncoils the protein. Then, an enzyme called pepsin starts breaking the bonds between the amino acids, and the chains split apart.

There is a lot of breaking apart required in the process of digestion—it’s the splitting of longer complex molecules into simpler ones by chemical means. After the partially digested proteins leave the stomach, they enter the small intestine where enzymes from the pancreas break the chains down further into individual amino acids.

When this long chain of amino acids is broken down into single amino acids, protein digestion is complete, and the second phase can begin: amino acids can then be absorbed by the intestinal cells and enter the bloodstream.

Those individual amino acids are carried to our cells—they are actively brought into the cell where the process of protein synthesis can begin. For a muscle cell, it must put the amino acids back together one-by-one into a human muscle fiber called myosin, with 6,100 amino acids per single fiber, and 374 amino acids in the other portion of the muscle cell, actin. As you can see this process is unbelievably complicated.

This process occurs in every cell, every minute of the day in the 100 trillion cells of the body, for the 50,000 different proteins that make up the body. However, the process can stall at any point. If someone lacks quality protein in their diet, has an imbalance of essential amino acids, or has no stomach acid, they will have poor protein digestion. Pepsin only works when the acidity of the stomach is very low, with a pH of 1 to 2.

The Detrimental Effects of Protein Malnourishment

My definition of protein malnourishment is having inadequate levels of serum essential amino acids to accomplish normalization of the body’s protein requirements.

A former patient of mine was very protein malnourished, and if she so much as lifted a book from a table, her arm would be sore for weeks! She had to be extremely careful with everything she did because her body broke down, wouldn’t repair itself, or repaired very slowly. Hers was a rare and interesting case, because it wasn’t like she was living in Africa—she lived in the United States and ate what appeared to be a good diet.

Here are a few of the other conditions linked to protein malnourishment:

  • Chemical sensitivities
  • Fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome
  • Anxiety and depression
  • Osteoporosis
  • Cancer
  • Autoimmune diseases like Lupus and Rheumatoid Arthritis
  • Sleep disorders
  • Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, and Dementia

Protein malnourishment is pervasive and is rarely looked for by medical doctors. It is treatable and can facilitate improvement in any of the above conditions.

Keep in mind that essential amino acids are not the only nutrients the body needs; vitamins, minerals and essential fats at optimum levels are also necessary. When we treat a patient, we look for all deficiencies and work to replenish them.

This is the first step of the secret to helping the chronically ill recover.

The second step is dependent on the first; we must fix the deficiencies before we can get the accumulated toxins out of the body and complete the recovery process.

So Much of Our Health Depends on Protein

As you can see, keeping our protein intake levels where they need to be is incredibly important for our overall health. It’s not about being sore for weeks on end.

It’s about avoiding illnesses and chronic conditions that plague us as we age.

If you mind your protein intake and supplement your diet with essential amino acids, you’ll be far more likely to enjoy radiant health well into your 90s.

For more advice on avoiding protein malnourishment, you can find The Search for the Perfect Protein on Amazon.

David Minkoff

View posts by David Minkoff
Dr. David Minkoff is board certified in pediatrics and served as codirector of the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at Palomar Medical Center in San Diego, California. With his wife, Sue, he cofounded LifeWorks Wellness Center in 1997, and in 2000, he cofounded BodyHealth, a nutrition company that offers a unique range of dietary supplements to the public and medical practitioners. A forty-two-time IRONMAN finisher, Dr. Minkoff is passionate about fitness and continues to train on a regular basis. He and his wife reside in Clearwater, Florida.

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