Protein is considered a macronutrient, like fats and carbohydrates. Protein makes up at least 50% of your body. By definition, protein is a nitrogen-containing macronutrient made from amino acids.
Our body needs 20 different amino acids to make all the proteins it requires for:
structure (tissue, bone, teeth, skin)
catalysis (enzymatic activity)
movement (muscles, ligaments, tendons)
transport (across cell membranes)
communication (hormones and cell signaling)
protection (skin, immune system)
regulation of fluid balance
regulation of pH
energy (source of glucose)
Of the 20 amino acids 9 are essential (the body cannot make them or not enough that the body requires), 11 are non-essential (the body can synthesize under some conditions, but sometimes they are conditionally essential depending on the circumstances like for optimal growth and development in infants).
Food proteins are categorized as complete (contains all the essential amino acids) or incomplete (lacks or contains very low amounts of one or more essential amino acid). The only food source of complete amino acid profile is meat, poultry, eggs and dairy. Plant sources are incomplete and require protein complementation (rice and beans or corn and beans). If avoiding all animal products is part of your lifestyle, then careful assessment and consumption of plant-based proteins is paramount to maintaining health.
Lack of adequate amino acids may result in lack of collagen production, difficulty with digestion of nutrients, muscle wasting, anemia or vitamin deficiencies, difficulty coordinating hormonal regulation, weakened immune system, edema and swelling, pH imbalance, or difficulty with blood sugar regulation. On the flip side, over-consumption of protein and amino acids will lead to fat storage.1
One protein that has been well studied in the diabetic population is whey protein from dairy. The diabetic populations, those who suffer with metabolic disorders, also have a difficult time healing. Specifically, whey protein has been shown to improve wound healing. 2-7 Whey protein has been linked to decreasing oxidative stress in experimental burn injuries as well.8
The benefits of protein extend beyond diabetics into other patient populations. For example, a cluster randomized controlled trial in 2014 found protein-enriched diets (from lean red meat) to be associated with improvements of muscle strength and tissue mass and reducing inflammatory cytokines (IL-6) in elderly women. 9 Even bone marrow cells have been shown to improve skeletal patterning and osteoblast differentiation for craniofacial bone repair and wound healing. 10
What is the take home message?
We need protein and adequate amino acids to provide our bodies the equipment it needs to heal from injury, surgery or illness. Protein is essential and invaluable in its contribution to our health and recovery.
Remove, Replace, Restore.
Remove inflammatory foods like refined sugar, refined grains, and refined vegetable oil.
Replace with healthy proteins, along with plenty of fruits and vegetables. Whole organic, wild/free range/grass fed is always optimal, but not essential. Refined amino acids, as in protein powders, are not always optimal, but they are useful in certain conditions temporarily. They can be “negative nutrition” in many cases however. Be sure to always read the label on the protein powder and be sure it is pure and without additives and sugars. Consider including bone broth (see blog http://www.renosoar.com/holistic-health-tips/fix-it-and-forget-it-rotisserie-chicken-that-turns-into-3-meals1) and include long bones for the marrow to aid in healing and recovery.
Restore structure, function, and health by including healthy proteins into a balanced diet including whole fruits and vegetables, along with adequate exercise and rest.
EAT WELL. MOVE WELL. THRIVE ON.
1. McGuire M, Beerman K, eds. Nutritional sciences; from fundamentals to food. Third Edition ed. Wadsworth; 2013.
2. Badr G, Badr BM, Mahmoud MH, Mohany M, Rabah DM, Garraud O. Treatment of diabetic mice with undenatured whey protein accelerates the wound healing process by enhancing the expression of MIP-1alpha, MIP-2, KC, CX3CL1 and TGF-beta in wounded tissue. BMC Immunol. 2012;13:32-2172-13-32.
3. Badr G. Camel whey protein enhances diabetic wound healing in a streptozotocin-induced diabetic mouse model: The critical role of beta-defensin-1, -2 and -3. Lipids Health Dis. 2013;12:46-511X-12-46.
4. Badr G, Badr BM, Mahmoud MH, Mohany M, Rabah DM, Garraud O. Treatment of diabetic mice with undenatured whey protein accelerates the wound healing process by enhancing the expression of MIP-1alpha, MIP-2, KC, CX3CL1 and TGF-beta in wounded tissue. BMC Immunol. 2012;13:32-2172-13-32.
5. Badr G. Supplementation with undenatured whey protein during diabetes mellitus improves the healing and closure of diabetic wounds through the rescue of functional long-lived wound macrophages. Cell Physiol Biochem. 2012;29(3-4):571-582.
6. Ebaid H, Ahmed OM, Mahmoud AM, Ahmed RR. Limiting prolonged inflammation during proliferation and remodeling phases of wound healing in streptozotocin-induced diabetic rats supplemented with camel undenatured whey protein. BMC Immunol. 2013;14:31-2172-14-31.
7. Ebaid H, Salem A, Sayed A, Metwalli A. Whey protein enhances normal inflammatory responses during cutaneous wound healing in diabetic rats. Lipids Health Dis. 2011;10:235-511X-10-235.
8. Oner OZ, Ogunc AV, Cingi A, Uyar SB, Yalcin AS, Aktan AO. Whey feeding suppresses the measurement of oxidative stress in experimental burn injury. Surg Today. 2006;36(4):376-381.
9. Daly RM, O'Connell SL, Mundell NL, Grimes CA, Dunstan DW, Nowson CA. Protein-enriched diet, with the use of lean red meat, combined with progressive resistance training enhances lean tissue mass and muscle strength and reduces circulating IL-6 concentrations in elderly women: A cluster randomized controlled trial. Am J Clin Nutr. 2014;99(4):899-910.
10. Han Q, Yang P, Wu Y, et al. Epigenetically modified bone marrow stromal cells (BMSCs) in silk scaffolds promote craniofacial bone repair and wound healing. Tissue Eng Part A. 2015.
Dr Carolyn Dolan DPT, Cert MDT, MSHN
Where physical therapy, nutrition and lifestyle meet, because how you live your life determines whether or not you soar. Inspiring action with information so you can reduce pain, optimize healing and improve function naturally during recovery from injury, surgery or painful condition. This is a website for the open-minded; obstinate need not apply.