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  • Northeast Wisconsin
  • September 2017
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An introduction to protein needs and digestive issues

Considering that protein is one of the macronutrients, it makes sense that we understand their benefits.

Proteins are large molecules made up of amino acids, and are essential for human health. Proteins are commonly found in animal products but are also found in other food sources such as nuts and beans. Each gram of protein supplies 4 calories, the same amount of calories as a gram of carbohydrates. Protein is critical for the structure and function of the body. Most people equate protein with muscle tissue but protein is used in all of the body’s cells, tissues and organs.

Amino acids are the small molecules that serve as building blocks for protein. In human health we need 20 different amino acids of which 9 are considered essential in the diet, meaning we don’t make them in our bodies. Most consumers don’t understand the importance of amino acids throughout the body. Muscles, bones, skin and hair, and enzymes are made of amino acids. Amino acids are needed for neurotransmitter processes and nutrient transfer in the body. Amino acids are essential for all of life’s processes.

The recommended dietary allowance (RDA) for protein is 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight, or 0.36 grams of protein per pound of body weight. Once you know your target, you can examine your diet and see how you stack up. The Zone Diet suggests that 30 percent of daily calories come from protein. Athletes will require more.

There are animal sources of protein including meat, milk and eggs from various animals. In the plant world most dietary proteins are found in legumes (beans), nuts and seeds, and to a lesser extent whole grains. Animal proteins are considered complete because they provide all the essential amino acids in a proportion that is most desirable. Vegetable proteins are not as well balanced but are perfectly capable of meeting your protein needs as long as you get an adequate amount of protein. Balancing your protein sources becomes more important if protein intake is low in the diet.

There are differences between animal proteins such as whey and egg white proteins and plant proteins such as soy, rice, and pea. Many other sources of protein such as hemp seed are now available. Not all protein sources are created equal so consider your individual needs. It is fine to experiment with different protein sources and choose those you like best.

What happens if protein is deficient?

  • Sluggish metabolism.
  • Trouble losing weight.
  • Trouble building muscle mass.
  • Low energy levels and fatigue.
  • Poor concentration and trouble learning.
  • Moodiness and mood swings.
  • Muscle, bone and joint pain.
  • Blood sugar changes.

A lot of people have problems digesting and utilizing protein. Note: If you consume amino acids instead of whole proteins, they will be much more easily assimilated. Many people don’t even know when they are protein deficient. There is a test you can get if you suspect that low levels of amino acids may be a part of your health issues. 

Protein digestion begins in the stomach where you need stomach acid and enzymes to digest proteins. If you are on any acid blocking drugs you will have issues. You should also consider that these drugs are not meant for long-term use and search for alternative ways to support your stomach. Some people on these drugs in reality need stomach acid. The symptoms of low stomach acid are often confused with too much stomach acid. At least consider this and confirm it.

A short story: I have a friend who had used every acid blocking drug without long-term success. He was desperate because there were no more drugs to try. It never occurred to him that maybe these drugs were not what he needed. I suggested an enzyme with betaine hydrochloride (HCl is a digestive acid). It solved his problem, unlike the drugs he had used. He never needed medication again and eventually did not even need the supplemental enzymes. His body responded when given the right nutrients. So some people will do well to consider this option and give this approach a try.

If you have trouble digesting protein you should consider a protein digesting enzyme. You can also consider the types of proteins and experiment with different types. Some may digest better for you than others. 

Whatever your sources of dietary protein, be it animal or vegetable foods, protein powders or amino acid supplements, always seek out quality. You can seek economy but don’t be cheap. The best quality supplements will never be the cheapest and the cheapest will never be the best.

You can listen to my interviews on proteins with the experts at

Steve Lankford

Steve studied and practiced natural health and healing for three years way back in the early 1970s. In 1976, he and his wife Debbie opened Family Nutrition Center, a health food store in Green Bay. Family Nutrition Center is located at 850-A Lombardi Ave. in Green Bay. Family Nutrition Center can help you discover a nutritional program that works. For more information, visit or call 920-432-6886.

Steve is also the host of, dedicated to nutrition and your good health. The mission of the podcast is to explore the science of good nutrition and good health, and to share that with listeners and customers.

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