Are You Protein Deficient? The Hidden Signs

Ayurveda is a vegetarian system of medicine. In fact, cows are sacred and it is just not cool to eat them. However, in the case of protein deficiency, Ayurvedic doctors will prescribe red meat, as described in the Ayurvedic texts.6 According to most authorities, consumption of meat in Ayurveda is as a medicine, not a way of life—although this is an area of debate. 

In This Article

Are you protein insufficient? 

All year long, and especially each winter, I find myself treating an inordinate number of patients with  protein insufficiency. Most of them are quite health conscious and have made wise decisions as to what to include—and not include—in their diets. 

But somehow, despite the best intentions, they find themselves crashing due to a significant dietary imbalance. 

Many of these patients are vegetarian. Others, perhaps the majority, stopped eating red meat years ago, but continue to eat chicken or fish once in a while. Though it is my personal belief that a vegetarian diet may be the healthiest, it is easy to fall into the trap of being an unhealthy vegetarian. 

In this article, I offer telltale signs of long-term lack of protein, as well as some effective protein-building strategies. 

The Family Cook 

Interestingly, many Asian cultures seem to do well on a vegetarian diet. So why can’t we eat that same way and thrive? No doubt our genetics have something to do with it. Books like Eat Right 4 Your Type and other body typing systems (including Ayurveda) have helped us further understand the individualized nature of diet. 

Something not often brought up, however, is that most traditional Asian cultures still have someone in the family who cooks fulltime. On my journeys to India, I’ve observed the cooks start breakfast before anyone else is awake. Right after breakfast, they start preparing lunch. After lunch, they are off to the market to buy food and then right back at it to prepare supper. 

Here, by contrast, many of us are too busy to cook, so eating out has become the standard fallback. We race from one activity to the next, eating just to fill the tank for the next activity. Dining and enjoying a relaxed, home-cooked meal is becoming less and less common. 

As for the cook, many moms have silently been elected the family superhero: holding down a job, driving and picking up kids, coordinating all the activities and, oh yes, cooking for the entire tribe. Needless to say, this doesn’t leave much time for balanced meal preparation. 

In trying to whip up our meals in minutes, we have sacrificed the quality of our nourishment. 

I often say that to be a good vegetarian you need to cook at least two hours a day. That’s not to impose a strict numbers rule, but simply to emphasize that being a healthy vegetarian takes extra work.  

When we consider our current lifestyles, it’s not surprising that many of us don’t end up putting in that extra work or end up eating out. Sadly, finding a healthy, balanced vegetarian meal in a restaurant is challenging and the oils all restaurants use are cheap and highly processed, which significantly compromises digestive strength and food quality. In the end, our health suffers for it. 

We recommend "6 Keys to a Healthy Plant-Based Diet": https://lifespa.com/6-keys-healthy-plant-based-diet/

Since 2000, there has been a global trend toward eating less animal protein and more plants. The science on the health benefits of a plant-based diet is overwhelming, but not everyone is making this shift successfully. 

In one study, over 1,600 Europeans transitioning to a more plant-based diet were evaluated for protein intake. In 50%, protein intake was adequate and met both European and US standards for required protein intake.2 

But 50% were not getting adequate protein and amino acid intake. Half of this group’s protein inadequacy was due to not eating a high enough quantity of protein, while 30% was due to not getting the right quality of protein (as in lack of certain amino acids like lysine).2 

So, how can you tell if you are lacking protein? 

Signs of Insufficient Protein Intake 

Note: When I use the term protein deficiency here, I am not addressing pathological protein deficiency, but rather a protein insufficiency that forces the body to adapt and compensate: one that wouldn’t show up on blood tests, but is linked clinically to a host of health concerns. This syndrome is described in Ayurveda and I have seen numerous clinical “miracles” over the years when the right protein is reintroduced.  

Protein Insufficiency Sign 1: Constant Craving 

Carbs, sweets, caffeine, chocolate, pop, candy, pastries, or chips: constant cravings for these non-nutritional foods point to unstable blood sugar. Not everyone with cravings is protein insufficient (otherwise we would really be looking at a country-wide epidemic!), but inadequate protein consumption and cravings are intimately linked.4 

When high-carbohydrate diets are compared to low-fat or vegetarian diets, low-fat vegetarians had stronger cravings for sweets and fats.4 This is one of the classic concerns of a vegan diet when fats and oils are restricted. Cravings, along with a higher consumption of higher-fat and sugary comfort foods, are a sign there may be a deficiency in fats (naturally found in animal proteins). This can result in a person who craves and overconsumes fat and sugar, which can destabilize blood sugar.4 

Blood Sugar Stability / Protein Insufficiency Home Test 

This short test can help you discover a blood sugar imbalance that a blood test might not pick up. 

protein deficiency cat and dog looking in refrigerator cravings image

1. If you are vegetarian or rarely eat meat and have a craving for carbs, just not feeling satisfied until you are filled up on breads, pastas, or sweets, you may have unstable blood sugar due to protein insufficiency. 

2. If you are vegetarian and have a secret stash of candy, jelly beans, or dark chocolate, you may have unstable blood sugar due to protein deficiency. 

3. Try eating three meals per day without snacks. If you find you need to nibble or graze on anything other than water, you may have unstable blood sugar and cravings due to protein insufficiency. 

4. A blood test (fasting glucose [goal: 70-85 mg/dL] and hemoglobin A1c [goal: below 5.2]) is the most conclusive and indicated for anyone concerned about their blood sugar

Protein Insufficiency Sign 2: Muscle and/or Joint Pain 

After 35 years in practice (working with athletes a majority of that time), I have seen many cases of chronic joint and muscle pain linked to a dietary lack of high-quality protein. 

About 20 years ago, I had a sudden attack of severe neck pain. I got a massage, saw a few chiropractors, and got Rolfed, but nothing seemed to touch this pain. I remember it was in the fall because I had the thought that I might be protein deficient! 

https://lifespa.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/10/thyroid-screening_joint-pain_image2.jpg

According to Ayurveda, during fall and winter, the body starts to store proteins and fats to insulate and rebuild the body during the cold winter months. The body stores much of its protein reserves in the synovial fluid around the joints, which is used to rebuild muscles and joints after strenuous exercise. In fact, synovial fluid is so rich in protein, one study found 267 different proteins in the synovial fluid of the knee.1 

During a chronic lack of adequate protein, synovial fluids are among the first protein reserves to be depleted and the joints may start to ache, the muscles can stiffen, and the body may become more vulnerable to injury. 

This kind of pain does not typically respond to standard musculoskeletal care. 

I went down the checklist: 

  • Yes, I had been vegetarian for many years. 
  • Yes, I did have a sweet tooth and loved carbs. 
  • Yes, I was becoming a snacker. 
  • Yes, it was winter and my joints were stiff and unresponsive to standard care. 

The day I realized I might be protein insufficient, I had two large whey protein shakes and added significantly more protein to my diet. With no exaggeration, my pain was gone by the end of that day. It had just left. No pills or herbs—just more protein! 

Protein Insufficiency Sign 3: Can’t Sleep Well 

Another concern that can be a result of protein lack is an inability to sleep deeply through the night. Without protein, the body tends to crave excess carbs and sugar, which creates a dependency on sugar for energy. However, sugar and carbs burn quickly, creating energy level highs and lows. In fact, vegetarians who tend towards quick bites of comforts foods have a higher prevalence of anxiety, depression, and sleep issues.5 

Sleeping through the night requires burning fat (a long-lasting fuel), rather than sugar, for a stretch of at least eight or nine hours. If you are only accustomed to burning sugar and carbs, you’ll wake up every 2-3 hours looking for your next meal. 

A body trained in burning fat will be calmer and more able to sleep through the night. Enough protein at each meal will help stabilize blood sugar and avoid the carbohydrate rollercoaster, freeing up the body to learn how to burn fat.4 

Protein Insufficiency Sign 4: Low Energy, Moodiness + Stress 

Tired Boy with Pillow

The last sign to look for that might indicate a lack of protein is a feeling of low energy, moodiness, and inability to handle stress well. Studies show a higher-protein diet can support a healthier and more stable mood.3 This is not to say that we cannot get too much of a good thing—the shift to a more plant-based diet just needs to happen with care.3-5 

Without protein to stabilize mood, the tendency increases to experience exhausting highs and lows in mood and energy. Over time, highs and lows exhaust the body’s reserves and leave you without the energy you need to calm yourself down. 

Yes, the body actually needs energy to be calm and composed, to get through the day smoothly, and to sedate itself for bed and sleep through the night. 

Options for Treating Protein Insufficiency 

1. Two-Week Red Meat Therapy 

Ayurveda is a vegetarian system of medicine. In fact, cows are sacred and it is just not cool to eat them. However, in the case of protein deficiency, Ayurvedic doctors will prescribe red meat, as described in the Ayurvedic texts.6 According to most authorities, consumption of meat in Ayurveda is as a medicine, not a way of life—although this is an area of debate. 

Even the Dalai Lama and many of the monks in Kashmir eat meat. If you are not totally offended by this option, try the two-week red meat therapy to rebuild protein, reset fat burning, and stabilize blood sugar: 

  • Eat four ounces of red meat per day for two weeks, preferably at lunch. 
  • Have an extra protein source as part of a balanced breakfast and lunch, such as a protein shake (in protein powder, look for concentrates rather than isolates). 

I have used this protocol numerous times for protein insufficiency and, when needed, the results are often life-changing. 

Why Red Meat?

7 Reasons to Reduce Red Meat Consumption Steak Image
  • Red meat is the most acidic of all protein sources. The more acidic a substance, the deeper it penetrates the tissues and the better it stores. These foods go from more alkaline to more acidic: legumes, beans, seeds, nuts, eggs, chicken, fish, and red meat.7 
  • Alkaline foods are great cleansers. They flush lymph and detoxify. The more alkaline a food, the more efficiently it will remove waste and toxins. 
  • On the other hand, the more acidic a food, the more difficult it will be to remove or detoxify. While we may associate acidic foods with toxic or comfort foods, many acidic foods are actually healthy and essential. 
  • This is nature’s way of balancing: we help rebuild the body in fall and winter with acidic foods, and cleanse the body in spring and summer with alkaline foods. The principle of eating with the seasons is the main focus of my book The 3-Season Diet. 

2. Vegetarian Strategy 

Not all vegetarians I have treated were willing to do the meat protocol, so I have some alternative protein-rebuilding strategies. 

While these vegetarian strategies do work, they never deliver the truly miraculous results I see with the two-week red meat therapy. 

If eating meat is not an option for you, try the following: 

  1. Have three whey, pea, rice, or hemp protein powder shakes per day (one with each meal) for a total of 75g extra protein per day. This is in addition to your regular balanced diet. 
  1. Eat off the winter grocery list and emphasize the vegetarian proteins and fats. 

What’s A Balanced Diet? 

While everyone has different needs, based on factors including age, body type, dietary conditioning, genetics, and cultural background, for most people, the most balanced diet for health and longevity means most of your meals will consist of about 50% veggies, 25% non-processed starches (whole grains or starchy vegetables, such as potatoes, yams, or corn), and 25% protein, with 10% of the diet coming from animal sources.8, 9 

Non-Vegetarian Protein Sources 

  • Meat 
  • Poultry 
  • Fish 
  • Dairy 

Vegetarian Sources of Protein 

protein deficiency Group of nuts image
  • Seeds 
  • Nuts 
  • Beans 
  • Lentils 
  • Whole grains: quinoa, buckwheat, amaranth, wheat, rice, corn, oats 
  • Soy 
  • Peas 
  • Peanuts 
  • Spinach 
  • Potato 
  • Sweet potato 

If you have some of these symptoms and suspect you may not be getting adequate protein, please see your primary healthcare provider for a blood test and evaluation of your total serum protein. 

As you can see, protein levels can really make a difference in how you feel. You may notice this especially throughout winter. Whatever your diet of choice, I hope you continue to stay balanced and use these tips to find what works for you.  

To dive deeper, take our Protein Deficiency Quiz
For a more comprehensive understanding of how to remedy inadequate protein, download my free eBook The Protein Solution

REFERENCES

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4184458/ 
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5748783/ 
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3649463/ 
  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3139783/ 
  5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3466124/
  6. Vagbhata. Astanga Hridayam. Ch. 6: Sutrasthana. Chowkhamba Krishnadas Academy, Varanasi, India. 
  7. http://www.medinat.ca/list-of-acid-alkaline-food/?lang=en 
  8. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4547605/ 
  9. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5048552/ 

References

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4184458/ 
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5748783/ 
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3649463/ 
  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3139783/ 
  5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3466124/
  6. Vagbhata. Astanga Hridayam. Ch. 6: SutrasthanaChowkhamba Krishnadas Academy, Varanasi, India. 
  7. http://www.medinat.ca/list-of-acid-alkaline-food/?lang=en 
  8. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4547605/ 
  9. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5048552/ 

150 thoughts on “Are You Protein Deficient? The Hidden Signs”

    • Hi Tara,
      Lamb, cow, bison and game are all considered red meat, therefore more acidic and have medicinal properties to stabilize blood sugar-related issues.
      John

      Reply
      • If I can’t store fat in my body, could this be because I have a protein deficiency? I’m 20 years old and I weigh 94lbs. I really want to collect fat on my arms. Lifting weights arn’t helping.

        Reply
        • I have got same problem.My weight is 114 lbs and my body don’t collect fats. I too have iron deficiency. My age is 23 years. And i don’t even look like that my age is 23. i feel younger (like about 18 yrs).

          Reply
          • Hi Anz and Priscilla,
            Likely the inability to gain weight isn’t a protein deficiency but a compromise in the ability to assimilate nutrients like fats, proteins and carbs. Of course much depends on your appetite and how much you are ingesting. Hard to say for sure but I recommend that you check out my digestive reset articles where I help run a fine tooth comb through all aspects of digestion. From there we can have more to go on.
            As for the iron deficiency, this suggests a inability to absorb so again we have to look at the health of digestion and the integrity of the intestinal skin.
            Hope that helps.
            Be well,
            Dr. John
            https://lifespa.com/teleseminar-run-fine-tooth-comb-digestion/
            https://lifespa.com/reset-digestive-fire/

    • Just looking for the data. I am wanting to prove some people wrong. They need to see the truth. Your article seems quite convincing. Would you mind sending me a link or a reference to at least one peer reviewed health study of a case of dietary protein deficiency? I’m searching all over the net and all I need is one documented case of dietary protein deficiency. Can you send me just one? Thanks.

      Reply
      • Also having a lot of trouble finding any source or peer reviewed study. Most health organisations advise REDUCTION in red meat, not the inverse.

        In terms of ayurveda.. eating red meat goes somewhat against the yogic principle of ahimsa (doing no harm) too.

        I see the author has conveniently not replied to your question.

        Reply
        • In modern western countries you’d be hard pressed finding a case of to TRUE protein deficiency like you do in places where there are famines.

          Generally if you’re eating enough calories, you’ll be getting enough protein.

          — Oh and quoting ancient medical treatments is kind of flawed… Just 150 years ago, doctors used to conduct foot bleeding… It was thought to relieve pressure.

          Modern nutritionists say that most people need around or less than half a gram of protein per lb of body weight. For a 150 lb active male, that’s 75 grams which is plenty and accounts for 300 calories. (Protein has 4 calories per gram. So, roughly 1500-2000 calories should be coming from whole fruits, veggies, rice, beans, and healthy fats from nuts and avocados.

          Reply
      • I completely agree with you. Its these kind of articles that confuse the heck out of people!! A plant based/nutrient dense diet is MORE than enough to sustain an amazingly healthy lifestyle. Red meat is never the solution! Its quite a shame really that so many buy into this kind of ridiculous advice that is out there to merely serve the animal agriculture industry….

        Reply
        • You trust him until he says something you disagree with. ‘Even the Dalai Lama eats red meat on occasion’. He’s not saying you must, he even states ‘if you’re not morally against it’ but you read what you wish. Eating red meat is good for some people, in moderation. Not everyone can thrive on a vegan diet. We are omnivores, you do as you wish but understand where you came from

          Reply
        • There are many reports published by the CDC, doctors, pharmaceutical companies that vaccines are good for you and they keep increasing the number of vaccines that are required for children to even attend school. I’m guessing you all believe it’s true because they have published data to support it?

          His patients are his data. He never said you must do this. He gave options. Closed mindedness causes more issues than anything else. If you don’t agree, ok, move on. If you want to try it, try it, learn for yourself. Why do most people have to argue because something doesn’t line up with what they believe? Geez

          The funny thing is pharmaceuticals and government control the information. Got a problem there’s a pill for it, if that’s one doesn’t work, here’s another one to add to it. Medical schools curriculum doesn’t include holistic care. As nurse for 20 years, I’ve seen enough to do my own research to include trying different holistic treatments on myself. There are no guarantees and 2 people are exactly the same. Try what’s right for you and if works… great! If not, just know that and try something different. I hope you all find the healing your looking for.

          Dr. Douillard, thank you for sharing the information and plan to use this information for me. I am very happy to have found your website and information on lymphatic drainage. I’ve had swollen lymph nodes for 17 years and doctors tell me it’s normal and nothing to worry about. I’ve had skin issues for over a years with numerous Dermatology appointments and treatments including methotrexate for skin conditions they have no idea what it is. My last visit, I was told I probably have lupus that hasn’t completely manifested yet, testing doesn’t show autoimmune. But, I was told there’s nothing they can do until it gets worse. The lymphatic system makes complete sense as to what could be going on. So, I say kudos to you for looking for causes and solutions… and not just throwing in another pharmaceutical drug to see if it works.

          One of the best quotes I ever learned,
          “You don’t know what you don’t know until you know what you didn’t know.”

          Reply
  1. Dear Dr. Douillard,

    I wanted to let you know how helpful this article is for both my husband and myself. At the risk of being long-winded, I would like to personally confirm several of the points you made.

    My husband and I are currently following dietary recommendations from Dr. D’Adamo’s clinic, Center of Wellness. (Eat Right for Your Type.) I am Blood Type B and Pete is Blood Type O. We have been amazed at the difference it has made for each of us. So the story I’m about to tell occurred in the past.

    We had carefully followed a vegetarian Macrobiotic diet for about five years when two surprising events occurred. First, my husband was transferred to a position across the country that required a good deal of traveling and business and corporate seminar dinners (in a masculine dominated industry). I was home selling the house for about three months while he came home every other weekend. Pete started eating chicken on his trips. Within weeks, friends who saw him on his weekends home raved about how great he looked. Macrobiotic friends especially: “What is Pete doing?”

    The second event was that I had a hysterectomy eight months after we moved that I couldn’t seem to recover from–despite the optimism of the (brilliant) surgeon and all our friends and ourselves that I would do fine because I was fit and followed such a “healthy” diet. Well, I wound up back in the hospital where I was forced to eat the hospital food because my husband was traveling five days a week and we had no friends. I was too tired and dispirited to ask for special meals and just ate what I was served (except for desserts.) The beef tasted especially good to me. When I came home, I started buying turkey sandwiches once or twice a week from the health food store. I was my old self in a matter of weeks. Better actually.

    A Macrobiotic friend who knew the above went to the beach with her (non-Macrobiotic) mother the following summer; on a whim she bought one of those hams in a tin. She ate ham every day for two weeks and called me the minute she arrived home to say that she felt a depression just completely lift along with all mental fogginess and indecision.

    I love reading your articles and almost never fail to learn something important. Thank you for all you are doing.

    Best,

    Kate

    Reply
      • John my names Kat and I’ve always eaten anything I wanted growing up but now that I’m in my early 40’s a lot has changed I have muscle pain all over and checked my intake of protien and to my surprise I wasn’t event getting 25 percent of it daily so now I’m struggling on how to achieve getting the addiqueyte amount any tips u can throw my way would be greatly appreciated I’m tired of feeling tired am sleepy and having muscle tenderness an joint pain I need nutritional help badly

        Reply
  2. Makes a lot of sense. I was craving red meat, and I slept better when I had a glass of milk before bed, albeit it was chocolate milk, but maybe the protein, as well as the calcium helped.

    Reply
    • Hi Melissa,
      That is hard to say. To be clear, I am recommending red meat as a regular part of the diet, but as a medicine if you have a protein-related blood sugar instability issue. That said, I have seen numerous patients who have not eaten red meat in 20-30 years have nothing short of miraculous results when eating red meat for just two weeks to rebuild protein reserves.
      Hope that helps,
      John

      Reply
      • Don’t be a fool John. Red meat is not a medicine, it is a carcinogen.
        What are your qualifications?
        What research suggests that protein deficiency is common (or exists)?
        What research shows that vegetarians or even vegans suffer from it more than human omnivores?
        How many grams per day is the minimum to avoid protein deficiency (cite research please)?

        Reply
        • There exists false equivalence in source of red meat in USA so only half of comment is correct- slandering messenger fogs things for all involved; clearer now for others; thank you

          Reply
  3. The information you have shared about protein deficiency is in the March list of articles and yet there are references to winter. Is the 2-week beef diet meant to be done in the spring or can it be done any time of the year?

    Reply
  4. I would like to hear the response to this last comment about timing as well. I am about to begin the 2 week Colorado cleanse in April, and I am wondering if 2 weeks of this protein regime might be appropriate before beginning the cleanse.

    Reply
  5. Hello,
    I’m not sure I have a protein deficiency, but I’ve been told that I may not be absorbing protein very well. Symptoms: burning throat, tongue, as well as tingling tongue and lips. Could there be another cause for these symptoms?

    Thank you.

    Reply
    • Christina, That sounds more like a B12 deficiency. Look up the symptoms for this and have your blood tested along with D vitamin levels.

      Reply
  6. hi, I am seeking advice for my wife who was diagnosed with osteoporosis in august last year plus suffered 7 fractures of the spine, after being treated with various painkillers she has lost a considerable amount of weight since then and has suffered badly with mouth ulcers making it almost impossible to chew things like etc, so eating is a major problem and she is unable to put on weight (went from 55.8kgs down to just under 42kgs). Her skin is very dry and itchy which keeps her awake at night scratching, how do I go in putting proteins back into her so the itching and the painful joints go away.
    Looking forward to some solution to help get her back on her feet and feel better.
    Regards Ray

    Reply
    • To Ray Newman. Hi Ray! I just read about your wife’s health problem. Soak half teaspoon of gelatine in one glass of tap water overnight and give her to drink in the morning for 1 month. If it is helping her continue a bit longer. Thanks!

      Reply
    • Ray, you need to get a vitamix blender and make green smoothies she is not absorbing nutrition. Last year I had terrible stomach problems and couldnt eat for months and lost 32lbs my skin and hair have suffered terribly and the vitamin brought me back to life. I made green smoothies using protein powder, kale, spinach, banana, carrots, berries, yogurt, coconut water, you can out anything in there but this way she will absorb it better. Make sure it’s all organic and have her D, B12 and iron checked in sure she is deficient in all. I was as well and I was also taking liquid vitamins because they absorb easier and hold under the tongue before swallowing. bio D Mulsion Forte (must be emulsified vitamin D) 3 drops a day for a couple of months if her levels are as low as 30. Mine too 2 months to get to normal. I was doing 2 smithies a day and eating regular food plus protein shakes like ensure will help. The itching could be nerve pain which is a sign of low b12 it will get a lot worse and can cause nerve damage if she is low on that so please get that checked. I had the same problem.

      Reply
  7. I’ve been eating a fruitarian/vegan/plant based diet for 4 months. Then I started feeling weak & tired. I started eating plant based/vegan because i got severe eczema & bloody, pus, skin lesions on the inside of my arms. I found out it was from the milks & eggs I was eating. I’m allergic to milk & eggs. I read about many people healing eczema on a healthy, plant based/vegan diet. I also wanted to lose weight so i stopped eating milk, eggs, and meat. I only ate potatoes, fruits & vegetables with no meat, fat, sugar, or salt. The eczema went away but then I started feeling weak, my heartbeat was slow, and i havent gotten my period for 8 months. So i went to the doctor and they told me i have a protein deficiency. They took blood tests and said I actually have a B12 deficiency. And B12 is only found in meat, fish, and seafood…

    Reply
    • Hello Eseul,
      I am very hesitant to make any recommendations in a Comment without the full intake and health history acquired during a consultation. In addition to Ayurvedic wisdom, extensive clinical experience and the personal experience of being mostly vegan for the last 23 years (12 of which were 100% vegan), I will make some general recommendations to get you started:
      It makes complete sense to me that you experienced these symptoms on a nonfat diet of only potatoes, fruit and vegetables. This is a good recipe for depletion, poor digestion, imbalanced blood sugar levels, mood instability and an exhausted nervous system.
      I suggest you start taking a B-12 supplement every day (with B-6, Folic Acid and Biotin and B-12 as methylcobalamin).
      In addition, ensure that you enjoy a good source of protein and fat at every meal. A good formula is ½ the plate is vegetables, ¼ is protein and ¼ is a complex starch, in addition to a good fat.
      As a meal of only starches and vegetables is not enough protein, make sure you are getting a strong source of protein such as legumes and nuts/seeds at every meal. Follow the 2 week protein protocol Dr. John recommends, which is to add one protein drink to every meal for two weeks (in addition to a food source of protein).
      Fat is essential for good digestion, sleep and calm nerves, so focus on avocado, nuts/seeds and/or or your favorite healthful oils at every meal. Be very careful of not eating too low fat. When we remove meat and dairy from the diet, we remove an essential dose of fat (and protein). You must replace this fat.
      A little salt is necessary – do not go salt-free.
      Very important: start testing your fasting glucose every morning, with the goal that your levels are 85 or less.
      You may need to reduce your intake of fruit, which can be hard to digest and create imbalanced blood sugar.
      Read all of Dr. John’s articles on protein, fat, fruit and blood sugar (including the ebook on blood sugar).
      Try this for a few weeks. If you don’t feel better, please consider a consult.

      ~ Tauna Houghton, CAP, Ayurvedic Practitioner at LifeSpa

      Reply
      • Hi Tauna,

        Thank you so much for the reply. I will try to follow your recommendations. I’m so confused about what to eat because ive been brainwashed by all the low fat/fat free vegan advocates on the internet but i don’t think it’s right for my body. I used to eat a moderate amount of meat, dairy, eggs, and seafood all my life until the last 2 years when i decided to do a plant based/vegan diet.

        I never had digestive problems like this before. All my poop is coming out crumbly and undigested and i think it’s bc im not eating any fat like you said. im also constantly bloated…i think it’s because it’s too much fruits, vegetables, and starchy food.

        I tried some milk & eggs again and i didn’t get eczema so i think i can eat it again. I think i had an allergic reaction before because i was eating too much milk & eggs at one time. So it created an imbalance.

        I think I’ll do the 2 week red meat therapy & take one whey protein shake each day. I don’t mind not eating a vegan diet. I was just doing it because i thought it was healthy to eat a fat free plant based diet…but i guess not since it’s giving me digestive problems & nutritional deficiencies. And I did already start taking a methylcobalamin B12 multivitamin since my doctor recommended it.

        Is it okay to leave out fruit completely? And why does too much fruit cause digestion problems? Does that have to do with food combining? There’s a lot of talk about food combining in the vegan diet. I was trying to eat a fruitarian diet for a while. I tried eating 10-15 bananas a day and lots of other fruit….it didn’t feel right… I never used to eat that much fruit….but i just wanted to do it anyway. I think im ready to change things up cause im not feeling well with this whole fat free vegan & fruitarain diet.

        Reply
        • OMG THAT IS A LOT OF FRUIT! WAY, WAY, WAY TOO MUCH SUGAR! IT’LL MAKE YOU FAT! !! YOU CAN GET TOO MUCH OF A GOOD THING! Your body needs a variety of fruits and vegetables…protein. ..etc. No wonder you were sick. DON’T LISTEN TO THOSE FAT FREE IDIOTS!! your brain needs a certain amount of fat to live.
          Brainwashing is exactly what it is. They are using fat-free to promote higher-priced processed foods that they add more sugar to to make taste better so you’ll buy it. Avocados, flaxseed oil, fish oil, and all these other omega fat that you’ve been hearing about in the media lately. These are good for you! These will help ward off dementia, lubricate your joints, and keep your brain in working order. So do your joints and other parts of your body! Definitely do not buy into the HYPE of fat free so called “healthier” versions of your favourite foods. Just because it’s healthy doesn’t mean it’s healthy to eat LOTS of it. Fruit also tend to be acidic so too much of it can be like pouring acid on your innards…so to speak. Bananas I wanted the fruits with the highest sources of sugar and they are not as high in potassium as everybody thinks they are. A better source of potassium would be fresh spinach. Fresh spinach tastes a lot better than canned spinach so if you’ve never tried it go have a bite it’s really good! Good luck and make sure you do research into fruits, vegetables, and marketing ploys.

          Reply
          • My understanding is that the fat-free diet is just a temporary healing diet, same as the 2-week (temporary) red meat diet recommended by Dr. Douillard. Some people take it too far, then get sick again. We have to pay attention!

        • You really should not be following your own idea of a diet.. It sounds like you have no idea what you are talking about and you will do harm to your self. I really hope you went to a nutritionist or a Dr.
          Low fat /non fat vegan……sounds idiotic.

          Reply
      • Also, I started getting eczema again on the low fat vegan diet even though it was supposed to heal my eczema….my skin has been really dry, itchy, and scaly. bleeding. It’s on the inside of my arms. I think it was because i wasn’t eating any fat. I still haven’t gotten my period. it’s been 8 months. Last time i got it was Around September 20th 2014 (last year).

        And is 1-2 servings of fruit a day okay?

        Reply
    • No, B12 is created by bacteria, in your gut. But doctors only take a few hours of nutrition in medical schools, so obviously they have no clue about this.

      Reply
  8. And I don’t have a protein deficiency but I do have the B12 deficiency. I did some research and plant foods are rich in protein. Some plant foods actually have more protein than meat. Like grains, greens, and beans. So I’m not concerned about the protein, just the B12. I was also having trouble sleeping and felt stressed & anxious. And i was having trouble digesting food. Bloating & sometimes diarrhea. Tried to exercise but I have no energy to do so.

    Reply
  9. Omg, I think I found the missing puzzle piece I have been searching for for over 2 decades!

    I became ill with CFS & FMS because of over training in karate when I was 20. I am now 48 and still haven’t recovered. I have since found out my CFS & FMS is in actuality Adrenal Fatigue & Candida.

    Of course protein deficiency makes sense bc it is probably the reason I became sick in the first place. Over training and eating an average poor American diet? I was basically asking for trouble. I realize, only lately, that when training hard like I did, a person needs to have extra protein.

    Thank you so much for your info, it really hit me and gave me the wake up call I desperately needed.

    The protein deficiency symptoms you wrote about could have been written about me. Those symptoms are what I have been trying so hard to fix. And I’ve tried so many things. I’ve tried to eat more protein, but I’ve never been a protein eater. My body responds positively when I DO eat protein, but I have a natural dislike of just about all protein

    So now that I plan to go out and buy protein powder, asap, can you please educate me on what type of protein powder I should get. I am totally clueless about protein powder.

    Thank you for the much needed info you wrote about,
    Susan.

    Reply
    • Hi Susan,
      Look for the least processed protein powder and avoid soy. Hemp protein is often sold in a simple, ground up form in health food stores. You can also make your own protein powder using a blend of sesame, hemp and chia seeds. There is a recipe on thefirstmess.com that looks good.
      Keep us posted on your progress!

      Reply
      • Thank you! I have always been hesitant to buy protein powers as many have ingredients that may not be organic. The idea of making your own is a great gift as these are regulars in my pantry.
        In health, Suze

        Reply
      • I have found a product – no, I have no financial interest in the company – made of partly defatted hemp flakes or powder.

        I have found this food to be way, way better than the easy-to-find whole-fat hemp seed (called “hearts”) or the regular “hemp protein powder”. The whole-fat hemp hearts are just too oily and can cause diarrhea when starch is also included in the diet; the ground-up protein powder is gritty and includes the husk. I don’t think our bodies are designed to have ground-up, hard husks of any kind.

        The defatted flakes I’m referring to are high in protein, but reduced in oiliness. Only reduced, not eliminated.

        However, this product is not widely available and I order it from the mfr in Alberta, Canada.

        The owner of the company is quite generous in giving out free samples if you ask him.

        Again, I am not personally acquainted with this mfr and have nothing to gain by giving this info.

        Reply
  10. I have had very bad muscle pain in my shoulder for months. Also I have had planned her so she -itis for almost a year. I’ve tried everything that’s been suggested with no good results. I was wondering if protein may be the problem with me not healing. Do you have any suggestions? Thank you

    Reply
  11. I read that protein deficiency (and or B1 deficiency) show itself by body water retention. Is this true?

    I eat 1-3 tablespoons nutitional yeast daily, then salmon sushi once a week. Yet Ive been holding water more the past year or more being 99% produce based vegan for over a decade (other than fish 1xweek). Protien blood tested levels were normal .

    Reply
  12. Hi,
    Than you for such a interesting article. My problem is that my DT, says from blood test taken, I have a protein difficienty, I cam sleep all day, and don’t seem to have any energy , is this a sympton.
    Thank you

    Reply
  13. After reading your stuff im sure im protein deficient, also fat. Cant digest oils well. Thought it was my gall bladder, but had it and stones removed almost 2 yrs ago. So been on lots of starches, minimal meat and yogurt. Why isnt soy protein isolate any good? Allergy to hemp, pea,and cant digest whey and soy concentrate, nor digest many added vitamins. Also allergy to rice

    Reply
  14. Thankyou for this post! I have all of the symptoms above (craving sweets, snacking, moodiness, glucose levels outside of the provided range) and I also have blood tests to show that I am protein deficient. However, I am not a vegetarian and eat a ton of protein- yet my levels have not improved over the last two years. So while I am not a vegetarian, I do not eat red meat very often. Do you believe that even though I am not a vegetarian, adding in more red meat would be beneficial?

    I will also add into my diet your suggestion of the protein shake three times a day. Currently I have just one in the morning in attempt to balance my blood sugar levels first thing in the morning.

    Thank you!
    Elizabeth

    Reply
  15. I recently started feeling a tangling sensation at the bottle of my feet. At first I thought it was because I was on my feet to much because I was feeling it at night when I lay down in bed but then I realized that it was becoming more constant during the day and night. I keep a pretty healthy eating habit. I juice a lot, do yoga, and usually walked about 10 to 15 miles a week. I did a self evaluation and thought maybe I might have an iron deficiency. I was craving ribs and burgers something I had removed from my diet. I have had 2 Angus burgers within the past two days and I think I feel less tangling on my feet. So my question is Dr. Douillard is the tangling sensation a sign of iron deficiency?

    Reply
    • In my humble opinion, your symptoms sound more like a B12 deficiency. Animal products are required for B12 and if you eat no animal products (including fish) then you will need to supplement B12. I’d suggest you get a standard blood test to check your levels of B12. What I’ve also found is that there is now another test for B12. The standard one gives you total B12. However, there is another test you can get that shows your “active” B12. It can be possible to have healthy levels of total B12, but the “active” B12 can be low. This would likely reflect a digestive issue such as low stomach acid, or a gut problem for example. Then it would be wise to look into Dr D;s suggestions and further information on digestion.

      Reply
  16. You are totally wrong on vegetarians/vegans. If you don’t eat a high carb high calorie plant based vegan diet you will not have enough nutrient and can’t last on the lifestyle simply because you need carbs and calories. You need to eat as much as you want/care for. right? Well that’s what you do with a high carb low fat plant based vegan “diet”.

    Reply
    • Hi Jelena,
      If you follow the plate portioning of 50% veggies, 25% non-processed starches (whole grains, starchy vegetables such as potatoes, yams or corn), and 25% vegetarian protein it will be quite high in carbs.

      Reply
  17. Hi Dr. Douillard,
    Divine timing to read this article, as I have had severe neck pain for a week, with no specific injury or etiology. I have also recently increased by exercise routine, and in addition to doing 30 minute high intensity workouts daily, I have increased running to 3 miles a week x 4 days. My legs muscles are always tight and sore and don’t seem to recover. Do increased workouts mean that one should increase even more than the 75 gms of protein?

    Reply
    • Hi Martha,
      It is not always a protein issue. In your case, make sure you rule out over training, mineral deficiency and dehydration as causes. It doesn’t sound like yours is a protein lack.
      Be well,
      John

      Reply
  18. I have systemic worms that I have been unable to rid my body of.

    I read that worms (probsbly Ascaris in my case) can switch off enzymes like Trypsin, making it much harder for even meat eaters to absorb protein.

    I am diabetic and have tried all sorts of diets to resolve my health issues. I reversed some, namely IBS, restless legs, burning feet (neuropathy), palpitations, GERD, hernia and fungal issues by dumping grains/gluten 7 years ago, but from eating either LCHF or all fruit and veg, I have neither lost weight, resolved my diabetes, stopped my hair falling out or got rid of the worms. On top of that, about a year ago I developed daily dry mouth syndrome – ok in the morning but worse as the day goes on.

    I an hypersensitive to the worm hyperinfestation and can feel them everywhere. I am wondering whether, despite my generally normal meat intake, I am protein deficient and my body cannot fight these beasts as a result.

    Reply
  19. I had gastric bypass surgery 12 years ago and have maintained my weight well but the last 2 weeks have been waking up in the morning and my hands, fingers, ankles and knees, actually everywhere is stiff and painful. My doctor checked my protein level and it was low. I also had Lyme, West Nile, ANA, RF and Sed Rate and all of those test were normal. I have not been taking any vitamins at all for the last 6 years or eaten any significant amount of protein. I just ordered vitamins from the bariatric website but wanted to see if anyone feels the lack of protein could cause this much pain. Any other suggestions?

    Reply
  20. From 35 years as a Rolfer and former holistic medical clinic owner–we have never seen a vegetarian who had tissue that would change. For years I see clients, particularly women, who are protein deficient. Most aren’t vegetarians, they just think eating meat is bad.

    I’ve seen ‘miracles’ happen from eating meat. I’ve told some clients that eating meat helped them more than the Rolfing. I still have to tell some clients I won’t Rolf them unless they eat meat.

    I understand why Dr. Rolf wouldn’t Rolf vegetarians.

    Reply
  21. Hi im currently vegan and I have cfs and I feel it’s not working out. I am so exhausted . Feel weird all the time. Have cravings so bad . Had to eat 2 slice toast as needed Bread that much I was climbing the walls.i have had a pregnancy and surgery a couple times and I feel like I’m falling apart. Have kind of weird eating disorders too like if I eat eggs or meat I will get heart disease or things. The vegan lifestyle has quite badly affected my mind.

    Reply
  22. Dear John,

    I’m having a hard time discerning whether I should use whey protein concentrate OR whey protien isolate. Dr. Mercola says concentrate is the way to go, while Marks Daily Apple is saying the opposite.

    I’d love to hear your opinion. What do you use?

    Thank you!!

    Katie

    Reply
    • Hi Katie,
      I prefer concentrates over isolates. Eating whole foods is best for the body so look for minimally processed powders without too many added ingredients.

      Reply
  23. Hello John !
    Although I am intrigued by the idea of meat as medicine,  I am not sure I could do it (I don’t eat meat or poultry, but do eat seafood, although not nearly enough).
    How effective do you think eating fish every day for 2 weeks be?
    I plan to get better at incorporating it into my diet in general, but am wondering if a 2 week fish regimen would have similar therapeutic effects you describe with red meat.

    Thank you for the interesting article !

    Reply
    • Hi Kat,
      Yes, I am on board with your reluctance to eat meat.
      Fish would be okay except for the mercury exposure issue. Even the FDA suggests only eating fish twice a week.
      I would do my vegetarian alternative in the article – protein shakes.
      Be well,
      Dr. John

      Reply
  24. Hi John.

    Whats your take on entomophagy for a good protein source? I know mealworms contain much more prorein than meat and half the fat.

    Another question is how much protein gets lost as result of roasting, cooking ect in general. Eating mealworms raw are tasteless, i haven’t tried them roasted yet but its next on my list.

    Reply
  25. I have a question. I’ve eaten meat all my life. Mostly chicken, probably twice a day. My average daily meal would be something like: 1. Breakfast: Oats with a teaspoon of cinnamon, a banana and a cup of black coffee 2. Snack: a handful of almonds 3. Lunch: two cups of chicken and two cups of green leaf veggie. 3. if I have a snack again: yoghurt. 4. Dinner: two cups of chicken and a two cups of green leaf veggie and half a cup of brown rice.

    I usually would workout between 30min to an hour 5-6 time a week in the evenings, which is why I eat rice. That’s been my diet for years.

    As of the past year, I’ve changed my diet quite extensively trying to be a vegetarian. So my daily diet would look something like breakfast: Oats, a banana and a cup of black coffee 2. Lunch: salad: spinach, kale, almonds, cheese, cucumber, tomato, green pepper, carrot, dried cranberry , tofu and balsamic vinegar 3. snack fruit and nut kind bar. 4. Dinner: two cups of dhal makhani and a two cups of green veggie and two wheat khakara.

    Keeping my workout routine, I had been on that diet for 5 months. And I slowly found my skin on my face itching, like I get red bumps which I thought were rashes and it disappears on its own throughout the day. It’s extremely itchy when it’s active. I thought it was allergies so I’ve been taking a double dose of zyertec. That said, I also found my nails easily chipping and my hair oh my hair. the front of my hair has extreme thinning I look double my age now :(. More so even with my active workout schedule my body seems to ache every morning especially. I wake up feeling like I’ve been whacked with something and it’s all sore. I lost 5lbs too.

    My mom pointed it maybe a protein deficiency. I saw this article and thought ok perhaps. So I basically have an egg every morning and I also ensure I have meat 3 times a week – chicken, salmon and even beef. After each workout I now have a whey protein shake. I’ve found myself better for about 2 months sticking to this, but I’m starting to feel like the signs are starting all over. Is there something I am missing? I do take my women’s one day multivit.Please help. I’m really lost. Only thing that’s really changed is winter closing in and I’m used to tropical weather.

    Reply
  26. I only find when I go to give plasma . They do a finger prick test to check my plasma to red bill of ratio and protein level. 2 times in the last 4 months they turned up too low. Last time it was 6.7
    This time, after drinking 2 protein milkshakes was 5.7. I don’t believe there testes.

    Reply
  27. Hi
    I m 68, and vegetarian for 21 years. Well, I d have seafood a couple of times a week because I was busy and stressed a lot and knew it was hard to find enough protein. I was always a pretty healthy adult. I m retired, lost 30 pounds 2 years ago, and 18 months ago was diagnosed with gout, so removed all animal protein, and have a cup or so of milk daily in tea, cheese daily, and eggs twice a week. Lentils and beans a few times a week. lots of veggies. Crave chips and ice cream and sometimes a steak which I would never eat. I have been constantly sick for over a year now: flu, pneumonia, bronchitis, asthma,cellulitis, more flu and lung infections and asthma, over and over. I get better and then hit again. My doctor is not very interested or available but there are no options where I live.

    I m trying to figure out what s wrong that I get so sick and have got Vitamin D drops, B Complex with 12, C, and just started hemp powder. I m not treated for gout as there was only one episode and I cant seem to find anyone to help me balance my nutrition to get healthy and postpone another attack. Lots of quacks and I dont know how to find reliable help. Even the Mayo and such sites recommend avoiding veggie protein but some gout evidence says its not plant protein that s the problem. I havent had another attack since but this sickness must have a reason. Can you help or advise me where to look for guidance?

    Reply
  28. I am a 250 lbs PROTEIN DEFICIENT VEGAN BODY BUILDER. There are thousand of us out there. Lately my strength increased and also my recovery time and sleep got better and blood work is perfect and also I beat depression and food cravings and I 10 times better and bigger and stronger than WHEN I WAS EATING 250 grams of animal protein a day. I also have 0 risk of cardiac disease because cholesterol intake won’t affect my arteries and IGF-1 because of dairy and meat products won’t feed cancer cells and propagate them in the body. I also won’t have pus and feces and blood in my food and.Bovine leukemia virus that gets transferred to people from milk and can cause prostate and breast cancer won’t affect me.
    And there is no such thing as protein deficiency, but CALORIE DEFICIENCY. People that have problems and they blame it on vegan diets etc have no clue how to eat properly, whether they are eating meat or vegetarian diets. In America No1 killer is heart disease and No2 is cancer. Suggesting people to eat animal product to cure a disease that doesn’t exist while putting them at risk for these other major diseases, that is very serious.

    “‘Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food”-Hippoctares-the father of Medicine- you know, the Do no harm guy.

    Reply
    • There exists false equivalences in meat sources in USA-

      Read omnivore dilemma and learn cafo v natural and what is diff in protein source butt not said due to greed profit rejecting society and environment-

      Much of what is written is correct if false equivalence in sources is not understood-

      Reply
  29. Hi i recently realised that i have protein deficiency
    The first thing that i did is search it online and i found this website.
    It is already one week that i have started eating 4 ounces of red meat every day
    how long do you think it wll take me cure this
    Hope to hear from you

    Many thanks

    Reply
  30. Dear John,
    I suspect ‘Extra-Pulmonary Tuberculosis’ for myself. Due to which I am feeling ‘Protein Deficient’. I am losing muscles all over my body. I eat daily two boiled eggs and once in a week fish. My question is, if I increased my protein intake through heavy rise in Lean & Red Meat consumption, will I suffer dangers of raising Bad Cholesterol? Please guide me.

    Reply
  31. Hi
    Its me oresti again its two weeks since i have started the 4 ounces of red meat per day ….I have seen results but i was thinking how long will it take to fully cure the deficiency? Another issue is that in the therapy i did not include the protein shake but instead tuna chunks and other rich-protein foods ..so i was wondering if that was wrong or not ? And last but not least, some changes had occurred in my hair texture while i had protein deficiency …will my hair come back to normal after my protein levels come back to normal as well ?

    Your article has been really helpful and i thank you from the bottom of my heart

    Hope i hear from you soon

    many thanks

    Reply
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    Reply
  33. Very Interesting Article, thank you for posting. In regards to the protein therapy, is it possible that recovery from protein deficiency may take months?
    I am an active 54 year old female who started a vegetarian diet a year ago. Last December, after a heavy day of hiking with a walking stick up a volcano, my hands became swollen. They stayed that way for a month until I had a chiropractor adjust the wrists to relieve the fluid from my hands. Then I began to feel the tightness in all my joints. After a few more weeks of doctors, tests, and no relief, I ran across this article and started adding protein to my diet – with miraculous results! The pain in my joints decreased, the color has returned to my face, and I can think more clearly.
    However, I still struggle with intermittent pain in my joints after 6 weeks of protein therapy. Should I be looking at other possible causes?
    Thank you.
    Arden

    Reply
  34. Howdy. Very interesting article. I know someone who might bery well benefit from the 2-week red meat medicine. Do you think that an equal amount of eggs or fish would do the trick for him? He won’t consume mammals’ flesh. He has virtually all the signs of protein deficiency you list.

    I think your attitude is a good one, namely, that you can eat something for a temporary period to balance yourself, without going whole-hog the rest of your life.

    Many thanks for your generosity.

    Reply
    • Pam, my elderly mother eats red meat 3 times per week. No cancer and she recuperated incredibly fast from a hip surgery @87 which I don’t believe was a coincidence. I become ill if I try being vegan or vegetarian. Don’t digest grains or beans, blood type O. Feel great with a little animal protein and lots of veggies and salads. It’s called BIOINDIVIDUALITY and genetics is the key to health and the future of medicine!

      Reply
    • Pam, please stop spreading that nonsense as if green juice will fix everything. For some people, it truly can make them worse! That’s coming from someone who almost went blind living on a plant based diet and juicing daily due to vitamin deficiency. I’m really fed up with vegans demonizing animal protein consumption (not to say there isn’t problems in the meat industry) when some of us truly need it because our body doesn’t convert beta carotene or what have you. A lot of those vegan documentaries cite biased studies and for every study that recognize health benefits from a vegan diet, there’s at least 20 that recognize benefits of eating a with animal product. So lets quit the nonsense.

      Reply
  35. I know you’re on the mark with this because I just experienced something short of miraculous by having a steak for lunch after 30 years of not eating meat except maybe once or twice a year. My muscle and joint pains disappeared within hours! I’m a health coach and follow a clean organic diet, but am also blood type O and had been feeling deficient, knew that red meat was one of the most beneficial foods for my blood type. I’m going to start eating it a few times a week from the purest, best source I can find. I shared this article with a friend who I believe would benefit greatly from eating additional animal protein. Thank you so much for stepping out of the box and publishing this!!

    Reply
  36. This was an interesting read. I have recently been diagnosed with 9 food allergies and feel like I’m struggling to feel satisfied with anything I’m eating. I am craving protein but also craving carbs and chocolate. I actually ran to the store for a chocolate fix like I was pregnant or something and NEVER do that. I ate cheesecake and turkey when I got home. I’m wondering if I’m protein deficient from my new diet. It’s been about a year now that I’ve been diagnosed. This article was right on with joint pain I have recently noticed in my elbow and knee, as well as cramping I have. I’ve been told I am an extremely light sleeper, moody, and stressed! I’m gonna try this 2 week red meat diet and see if it does the trick. Fingers crossed!

    Reply
  37. Don’t forget that healthy, traditional vegetarians often lived near the coast and ate foods much richer in iodine, sometimes including sea vegetables. Quote: “Iodine helps us utilize our proteins properly. In all likelihood an iodine deficient person will remain protein deficient.” -Dr. Bryce Vickery … Also, proper cooking method is important, as so many plants have guards against the consumption of their nutrients – things that bind nutrients and prevent their absorption. Another very important one: intestinal flora. If “bad bugs” dominate the intestinal environment, vegetarians will struggle to maintain health with even the best diet. In fact, it may be nearly impossible. Vegetarians largely depend on clever biochemistry internally to derive nutrition from ‘cold’ plant sources. Good bacteria make available what the plant would otherwise have kept for itself, because they’re clever biochemists too, and they don’t mind sharing. Home-made sauerkraut is a great way to go; and if you have a juicer, collard green juice and cabbage juice are a huge help. In addition, for our bodies to be able to “use” protein, we need the necessary cofactors and amino acids. Vegetarians are often lacking in sulfur aminos because of a ‘cold’ diet. Eating more onions and garlic isn’t the best way to recover from deficiency in sulfur. Rather, a person with this problem can add sesame seeds, mild-tasting seaweeds (raw dulse, kelp, etc), collards, kale, cabbage to their diet. Sulfur deficiency in general (including of the sulfur aminos) causes nearly every symptom of your typical protein deficiency, and it isn’t likely to be remedied by plant-based protein supplements or grain concoctions, for two reasons: 1, the material has to be sulfur-positive (heavy on sulfur, low in competing nutrients), and 2, sulfur-deficient individuals have worked themselves in “debt,” meaning potent long-term therapy may be required before good results are seen. Proper homocysteine metabolism is important for this, too, but unfortunately the nutrients required to make this happen are rarely consumed by American vegetarians. Lots of dark greens (lots!) are required, like kale, collards, parsley, beet/turnip/dandelion greens, etc – and at the same time as getting more sulfur in the diet. Sometimes that simply means eating the whole plant (example: if you juice or stew beet greens, consider adding beets as well). Methyl-B12 supplements provide the methyl-donor capabilities missing in normal American vegetarian diets (thru lack of real plant nutrition) that are required to recycle sulfur amino acids in the body, by altering homocysteine. The end result is a happier heart and brain, cleaner blood, better oxygenation and circulation, stronger joints and elastic tissues, a powerful liver, and a low chance of protein deficiency. High molybdenum and copper containing foods may need to be avoided for those who are protein deficient vegetarians struggling to gain weight. If you find you’re generally consuming large amounts of either of these minerals, cut back and add foods containing more sulfur and zinc.

    Hope this helps someone! 🙂

    Reply
  38. There has been such a big hype about bone broth and it’s benefits (I am a vegetarian and try to consume many suggested vegetarian protein sources you discussed).
    Anyway, I would love to hear your thoughts on bone broth and now their is a bone broth protein powder?
    I am a big fan of yours and have done the group Colorado Cleanse and I am getting ready to do it again on my own. The best holistic cleanse I have ever done! I recommend it to all my friends!
    Thank you for all you do 😉

    Reply
  39. I have a question. I usually eat meats everyday at my house but I’m currently stay with my girlfriend whose family rarely eats meats, could this cause a protein deficiency. I ask this because I’ve been at her place for two weeks and have gained a ravenous appetite when I usually rarely eat. My carvings have been mostly sweet and salty things and I’m a bit worried because I know I have eaten to my stomachs limit a few times but quickly returned to the carvings after about an hour.

    Any suggestions to help with this, or at least whats going on with my system.

    Reply
  40. My husband has an autoimmune disease, polymyositis and he eats a relatively high animal protein diet — 4 oz. red meat 3-5x/week, along with large amounts of both raw and lightly steamed vegetables on daily basis, with ample amounts of grassfed butter and yet he seems to have a protein deficiency. He has great difficulty staying asleep at night (averages 4 hr/night), and he has sweet cravings and some blood sugar swings. I am wondering if he lacks the ability to break down the proteins that he is consuming because of a lack of digestive enzymes for proteins. I read one of your articles that does not recommend taking digestive enzyme supplements. Could you see a benefit in taking them for a small time period, and if so, what would you recommend? Or do you think he should focus on rebuilding his gut? He takes a pretty strong probiotic to try and counteract the antibiotic that he needs to take because of his disease. Thank you for any help you can offer.

    Reply
  41. I have low protein. I eat 3 meals a day including red meat and 2 veggies.. doctors can not figure it out. Could it be my asthma meds or a torn muscle.

    Reply
    • Does not matter how much you eat. The important thing is how much you digest and absorb. As I discovered. Mear (especially red) is hard to digest

      Reply
  42. Hello – I gave up red meat about 5 years ago and all meat a year ago. A few weeks ago I started getting shaky and heart palpitations and cannot sleep. I started getting headaches and neckaches a few months after becoming full vegetarian but never related it. I also have bouts of fatigue and dropped energy levels along with spikes of energy levels back and forth. Although I try to keep up with natural and healthy ways, I never attributed my meat or no meat diet to my problems. My natural MD put me on DHEA a few months ago (which I read can cause that) and I stopped it 2 weeks ago. I noticed yesterday that after I drank a green juice with Protein Powder in it I felt better. Today I did not drink it and I am back to shaky with heavy beating heart (like I drank a lot of coffee), yet sleepy. I had my heart checked and it is fine. I am going to try your ‘meat diet’ and see if it works. Thank you for the wonderful video.

    Reply
  43. Interesting data – but so many comments. I am male.
    I have all the symptoms – exhausted , huge muscle pain, poor sleep etc. I don’tt believe you touched on low stomach ph. I started taking 5,000 HCL With meals a week ago and things are coming back in line. I am O Negative and a meat eater per D’Adamo and I eat tons of it, plus nuts plus home made yogurt – I have had all the symptoms for 18 months after retiring at age 73.
    BTW why don’t you put the comments input at the top? Your comments would be appreciated
    Peter

    Reply
  44. Further input to my last comment
    My red blood cell count is low as is hemoglobin, hematocrit and Ferritin (which I gather is serious)

    Peter

    Reply
  45. I’m not pushing a vegan diet, but I would like to point out that some people who eat meat, eggs, etc. on a regular basis also have Vitamin B12 deficiency. It is not a simple matter. It has to do with the strength and health of your digestive system.

    Reply
  46. Thank you so much dr. Douillard for this article. I found it during one of my many sleepless nights. This condition has been so severe for 25 years now and NO dr. has been able to help me. I have suffered very much. I could hardly wait until morning so I could go to the store and buy my ground sirloin. I have been trying to make a vegan diet work for years now. It has been only two days now eating my 4oz meat and I am so obviously better. This is such an answer to my prayer. I so thank you for this sooo much.

    Reply
  47. Dear Dr. Douillard,

    First I wanted to thank you for this article. I became a vegetarian last year and this year a vegan. I noticed both years in the fall a stiffness in the hip joints. I would not only not be able to find a sleeping position at night, but I would wake up and be stiff for a couple of hours. Essentially, I got very low quality sleep both falls and winters.

    Additionally, as I have Vata in my constitution (I am Vata-Pitta), I would get cold feet and would need to not only warm up my feet before bed, but sometimes during the night, as they would be freezing when I would wake up.

    I wanted to share that I started following your 2 week protein protocol. I combine red meat with fish and noticed that I still wake up some nights, but if I eat the proteins at night, with added fat (coconut, olive oil), I last well throught the night, I do not freeze and my joints are almost perfect in the morning.
    One other think, is I dropped tomatoes/patatoes/peppers/etc., as I read that they are toxic for the joints of Vata doshas. I actually ate mostly raw tomatoes and peppers in the winter, since I love both.

    I was wondering, what is your take on nightshades. I read they agravate Vata and Pitta doshas?

    Also, I noticed that I seem to digest better fish. I mix red meat with fish, but since I dropped meat for 2 years, I feel may be I am having a hard time digesting it. What is best, considering my constitution?

    Lastly, is there any way to detox my joints from the nightshades effect? Would Boswellia or a lymph detox be a solution? I purchased it, while I was researching your website and have not started taking it, but was planning to do so.

    I am currently out of the US for a while, therefore, I am not able to come to your center at the moment…

    Thank you so much for your guidance!!
    Warm regards:
    Milena

    Reply
  48. For about a year now, I’ve experienced mild edema (puffiness), joint pain, low immunity, hair loss, muscle wastage, weight gain, cravings. I was a vegan for 8 years. I noticed whenever I had a plant based protein smoothie, the puffiness would go down about 30%. I just recently started eating meat and I feel better in a lot of ways. But I still seem to be unable to lose weight. My thyroid is fine. I’ve checked with numerous doctors. I try and exercise but my body is just not strong anymore. I also struggle to put on muscle. I get very sore the next day. How long do you think it would take for my body to truly begin healing?

    Reply
    • If you are a vegan and don’t want to eat meat, eggs and cheese, but instead take protein powder, be aware that some 100% plant-type protein powders are low in methionine (a sulfur containing amino acid), which is very important for health. There is a sulfur supplement, MSM, an easily digested sulfur powder. The label should say Opti MSM regardless of the brand.

      “Methionine contents were low in microalgae (0.0%), oat (0.2%), lupin (0.3%), pea (0.4%), soy (0.4%), and wheat (0.9%), but reached the WHO/FAO/UNU requirements in potato (1.6%), corn (1.7%), hemp (2.0%), and brown rice (2.5%).”

      The above is from:
      https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s00726-018-2640-5
      https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5793247/ (more info on sulfur)

      Tons of interesting info here about amino acid distribution in plant and animal protein and advice on filling your needs for all the amino acids. We have to study nutrition to be healthy, whether we eat meat or not.

      Reply
    • ? Hi Gina,
      Try eating your main biggest meal at lunch 11am -1 pm.daily.

      Then a Lite early dinner!
      Pounds will come off easy as pie. See Johns articles about this Ayurvedic code to live by!
      We were not meant to eat a big meal relax and then go to bed it’s so hard to digest all of that especially as we get older we don’t digest it very well and it just puts pounds on in there how much you exercise and you wake up with Adema facial edema and all that good stuff not to mention not getting a good nights sleep which is all about repairing cells in and helping us and you feel better so I see it is kind of a fountain of youth to eat a really late dinner and you wake up and you feel so great !
      Good luck!
      ? Emily

      Reply
      • ? hi Dr, John /Staff,
        Is it ok to do the red meat protein in March as we are near Spring?
        I have the symptoms ,
        But didn’t want to affect liver time come spring with red meat.
        Thank you,
        Em

        Reply
  49. Im a 15 (almost 16) year old male and ive been having the symptoms you’ve mentioned and ESPECIALLY the one about cravings. ive been craving SOMETHING for the last couple of months but i just go crazy every day trying to figure it out. Ive been picky with food all my life. I’ve always hated vegetables and most red meats. I have tried these things its just if i hate the smell of them, then i cant bring myself to swallow them.I know its sounds like an excuse for not trying them but i really have tried most of the common vegies and meats but i just hate them to peices.There are only two that i like and i love them, bacon and pork chops. so hating most common foods, my pediatrician put me on these high protein shakes called ensure. and how many am i supposed to have per day. and will these give me the vitamins and nutrients from vegies too? ive also used v8 veggie juice to get vitamins and nutrients from vegetables. but am i supposed to only have ensure or v8? or both? it just seems to me that if i need both of these every day, than it seems like im going to be spending all day drinking and not being able to eat anything. (btw i promise my email is not a troll, i created it when i was 12 so i didnt know what i was doing.)

    Reply
  50. I’ve got to add an addendum to this… questionable article.
    You started off so well, right up until you told your readers that slaughtering animals is a requirement to be a healthy vegetarian.
    Meat is one of the most difficult things for your body to digest – ESPECIALLY red meat, so when you tell people to eat red meat for medicinal purposes, you’re not giving very good info, are you?

    I grew up on a vegetarian diet for 18 years, and during that time I grew faster than my peers, was stronger and healthier, I could run twice as long as anyone… I was the picture of health.
    After leaving home and deciding to try red meat, my health dropped into the toilet faster than a wet shit.
    Years later, I am heading back into a vegetarian lifestyle, with a few vegan properties, the result? Increased energy levels, higher brain function, ability to go an entire day without feeling the slightest bit tired, and the list goes one.

    What’s the secret? Easy, if you’re on the run with activities all day, simply pick up a vegan protein powder (incredibly easy to digest) and a vegetarian vegetable powder, after one combined shake a day, I barely feel the need to eat solid food, and my energy just keeps going up, and up, and up.
    Combine some easy to drink powders, with a decent vegetarian diet, and you’ll be feeling like gold in no time.

    It’s not difficult, it’s not even expensive, and it took about a day for me to feels the effects of a changed diet.
    Best part is, you won’t have to justify the brutal and horrific slaughter houses that we use to satisfy our cravings of meat.
    If you need a kick in the ass to go vegetarian, just google “horrific slaughterhouses”… animals weren’t meant to go through that, not ever.

    So don’t listen to people that tell you a healthy diet HAS to include red meat – it doesn’t – I am living proof, as are many, many other vegetarians.
    If you’re deficient in something as a vegetarian, it just means you need to sort out your diet, it doesn’t mean that meat is the solution.
    Articles like this have no business being published, when they ignore basic laws of diet: meat does not digest well!!!!!! Period!!!!

    Reply
    • That worked for you but not for me, I became run down, weak, ungrounded, spaced out, over sensitive it was only after reintroducing some meat back into my diet that I became well again. We all have different body types.

      Reply
  51. The only protein deficiencies found in man is of someone who is starving. This stuff that you advocate is just wrong. Do you know how many vegans are great athletes? You are another one of those scary people giving out incorrect data.

    Reply
    • The data was spot on for me, I had no protein showing up in my blood on a very healthy vegetarian diet (but having suffered digestive challenges) it was only by eating red meat as a medicine that this changed.

      Reply
    • John is an Ayurvedic physician. The Charaka Samhita, the main text for Ayurveda, advocates different types of meat as medicine, temporary use, for different diseases. My own Ayurvedic Dr, who is Hindu and vegetarian, recommended red meat, not cow, and pasture raised, organically, for a stubborn case of iron deficiency anemia. I ate lamb 3x week for 3 werks, and the anemia cleared up. Please read the article again, he is not recommending meat eating forever, just for 2 weeks to correct a problem.

      Reply
  52. Nice info by the way, I am a diabetic, with protein deficiency. I am currently taking groundnuts 125 gm everyday and egg on week ends.
    As your article said, I experienced craving, sleeping problem and low energy. Noways I feel much better and energetic.

    Reply
  53. As for the 2-week red meat push, I think it is important to consider the amount and the size of the person ingesting the meat. A 100 pound woman would not want to eat the same amount as a 200 pound man. 4 oz for the woman could likely be reduced to 2 oz. This important consideration is overlooked in medications, herbal prescriptions, etc.

    Reply
  54. Why will you recommend people to eat carcinogens… Red meat is same as smoking tobacco in regards to cancer… I would have expected better advice from you. I mean you are highly educated, why not looking into floral proteins?

    Reply
    • whatthehealthfilm.com
      What the Health is a 2017 documentary film which explores the health impact of meat and dairy products consumption, and questions the practices of the leading health and pharmaceutical organizations

      Reply
  55. I 100% agree with John. People who have made light of his recommendations, have in fact , never been on vegetarian diet. This must be the normal meat eaters speaking. Yes I agree that you might want to go on a week therapy of eating meat and see the differences, ie if you are a normal vegetarian. I usually leave meat when I have stomach related disorders, but after a year usually feel cravings to go back to Chicken (I do not eat beef). Excess of meat causes liver issues, and to have it in moderation as a therapy is good. So one needs to strike a balance, and that’s where the Ayurveda therapy comes in.

    Reply
  56. Hi John,
    I don’t know why you would be pushing red meat so readily, while there are many more issues that can come up from this diet. I’ve been eating a vegan diet for the past 3 years (never eaten meat); and was surprised to see after using cronometer.com – I was having to cut down my protein intake.
    Was looking up symptoms for a friend as suspected protein deficiency and was a bit shocked to see how everything was supposed to be remedied from red meat.

    Reply
    • Hi Dr. Paine,
      Thanks for your comment. We at LifeSpa do not push red meat as a lifestyle. You can see in the article that it was suggested as a traditional Ayurvedic therapy for 2 weeks, not as a lifestyle. In the article are also alternatives if meat is not an option. There is no denying the protein content (as well as other important elements of diet including iron) of red meat, but once again there are alternatives that you are welcome to explore. We have a Whey Conentrate that our clients commonly choose to use for protein supplementation: http://store.lifespa.com/whey_pure.html

      Be Well.

      Reply
  57. I hope you get a chance to read my comment. I have PKU and battle protein deficinecy on a regular basis. Recently I have been dealing with neck pain, random pains in my veins, and joints. I had been eating too little and working out too hard. Im trying my best to recover. But its been really challenging to get the extra protein and blood sugar stability when I am restricted to 15-20g of protein a day. My amino acid supplement is whey based, so hopefully that will help since the others I was taking were synthetic. I get 90g of protein from my whey protein supplement but Im not a fan because whey makes me very congested and Im worried this will contribute to my blood clotting too much. Any insight or experience woudl be helpful. Thank you

    Reply
  58. Hello

    Interesting read

    I suffer from Ulcerative Colitis, and therefore find it both difficult to digest meat, and also absorb nutrients from it.

    Cannot have red meat at all as allergic to it – which leaves mainly fish and chicken

    Periods stopped five years ago.

    This year I started to take a protein powder supplement every day, as that seems the easiest way for me to absorb it, without the associated pain, bleeding, and gut upsets.

    Within six weeks of starting the supplement, my periods returned and had them every month since.

    I thought the periods had stopped because I was in early menopause. Now 47 and obviously it was a protein deficiency and nothing else.

    Wish my doctor had mentioned this. Could have saved a lot of $$$$$ with tests that found nothing.

    Reply
  59. Hi,
    I thought I should add the following advice: There is no problem with eating red meat (or any other) but always pick the most wild meat you can. The problem with eating lots of meat is not the meat but the hormones and steroids that are used to raise the animals you are eating. So please make sure you buy something that has no hormones and antibiotics in it. This is a much overlooked issue especially with paleo diet people. Always go for the most natural way possible – then all food is beneficial for you.

    Reply
  60. *Tried it, and protein increase definitely works!*

    I tried this out and increased my protein intake to eating meat 3 times a week, and only within a week it had a huge affect on my joints. It probably reduced joint pain by about 80%. I’m not encouraging others to eat meat, as I know there is probably a lot of vegetarian readers on here. I also get my weekly protein intake from eating eggs daily and eating shellfish, like mussels. Since then, I have not been eating that much meat, but stretching often, and before runs for example, makes a huge difference too, with joint pain. The above article, from trying it out, definitely does work and I have found the above solution – spot on.

    Reply
  61. Red meat and dairy contribute largely and dangerously to inflammation in the body, not good healthy sources of protein at all. In fact we only need our diet to be 10 grams of protein per day or it can actually harm us. We can function on less protein than people think.

    Reply
    • If I only ate 10 g of protein a day I would be on the floor. Within two weeks of taking meat protein out of my diet, I’m spaced out, unable to function properly, ungrounded and tearful. The advice in this article made sense of this.

      Reply
    • Current recommendations based on the latest evidence for protein intake are 1.2 g/kg for healthy people and up to 1.5 g/kg for elderly or chronically ill people. That’s the MINIMUM to avoid the effects of malnutrition, likely nowhere near the optimal level of protein and it’s just about 82 g/d for the average weight adult. It’s simply not possible to get *enough* protein for long term health and well being on a vegetarian diet, and certainly not the the vegetarian form of the SAD. I’m so pleased to see this issue addressed on this site.

      Reply
  62. Hi Dr John . Your concern about protein deficiency is good but let me tell you that in vegetarian foods there is enough protein. Here in india we have dal which is high in protein which is around 11 grams per 100 grams . And there there is green gram which has 24 gram protein compared to chicken which has 28 grams protein so there is not much difference. And meat has so many issues like cholesterol triglycerides. Also our intestine is not meant for animal meat . The body also develops toxicity . Here in india we say you are what you eat . If you eat meat you have a different mind . Even if one wants to eat it should not be red meat at all. Little bit of fish n chicken is okay . But best is to not eat any meat . Also when the animal is going to be killed , obviously it doesn’t want to be killed so it releases all poisonous toxins n hormones out of fear . And all that goes into your system . So meat is not at all a good idea when you have the option of sattvic wholesome foods .

    Reply
    • I completely agree. Promoting red meat is so wrong. Meat is linked with causing cancer. Dr Douillard please do look into the positive millets diet and there is so much more to it than just protein!!!

      Reply
    • Absolutely, you hit every point. I am shocked by his recommendation of eating Meat for 2 weeks. I would like to also add the Karmic reaction of killing and eating the flesh of animals unnecessarily and you also are taking in the lower consciousness of death and of the animal through the consumption of meat . Meat in ayurveda is considered Tamasic (lowest energy that creates ignorance and covers our consciousness. On a physical level its not easy to digest, we also know that we clearly do not have the digestive system of a carnivore, we are not meant to be eating meat. There are plenty of high protein plant sources which the iron is also more easy to assimilate the animal sources. Where do you think the animals that are eaten get their iron and protein from? I find this extremely disappointing.

      Reply
  63. Hi, I donate plasma twice a week and though I eat hamburgers and chicken every day and drink a half gallon or milk a day, I still get told my protein is low every four month when they take a blood test. I eat nuts all the time and I eat eggs and sausage for breakfast almost everyday. So why is my protein low? I would appreciate your opinion. Thanks John

    Reply

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