What is hypoproteinemia? | Treatment Options | Nutrition

Hypoproteinemia | Causes and Treatment

What is hypoproteinemia?

Hypoproteinemia occurs when a person has low levels of protein in the blood. Every part of the human body needs a lot of protein. Bones, muscles, skin, and almost all vital organs or tissues contain them. The body needs protein to function, survive, and get it from food. However, the body does not store protein long-term for future use, so people need to eat enough protein every day to get enough to function properly. Hypoproteinemia is common in developed countries, where most people eat a balanced diet. However, people with certain health conditions or on a protein-free diet can develop this condition. Hypoproteinemia is lower than the normal level of protein in the body.

Protein is an important nutrient found in almost every part of your body, including your bones, muscles, skin, hair, and nails. Protein keeps bones and muscles strong. It makes a molecule called haemoglobin that carries oxygen throughout the body. It also produces chemicals called enzymes, which cause many reactions that make your organs work. You get protein from foods like red meat, chicken, fish, tofu, eggs, dairy, nuts. You need to eat protein every day because your body doesn’t store it.

Lack of adequate protein can cause problems such as:

  • Muscle damage
  • Growth slowed
  • The immune system is weakened
  • The heart and lungs are weakened.
  • Severe protein deficiency is fatal.

What are the symptoms of hypoproteinemia?

Symptoms of hypoproteinemia:

  • Swelling in the legs, face, and other parts of the body due to fluid build-up.
  • Loss of muscle mass
  • Dry and brittle hair comes out
  • Lack of growth in children
  • Cracks pitted nails
  • Infections
  • Fatigue
  • Mood swings and irritability
  • Craving for foods rich in protein.

These symptoms can be signs of other health problems, such as iron deficiency anaemia or problems with the immune system. Hypoproteinemia can only be diagnosed with medical tests.

Causes of hypoproteinemia

Hypoproteinemia is often caused by health conditions that affect digestion or the absorption and consumption of protein from food. Limiting your food intake or following a very controlled diet can also lead to a protein deficiency in the body.

Malnutrition and under treatment

Hypoproteinemia is directly related to a person’s diet, especially if a person does not eat enough calories or avoids certain food groups.

Diet-related hypoproteinemia can occur in the following cases:

  • If a person has enough income to buy food and does not eat enough calories from protein.
  • During pregnancy, women need more protein than usual for fetal development. People who cannot eat enough calories from protein sources due to extreme nausea and vomiting are at increased risk for hypoproteinemia.
  • A person has an eating disorder such as anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa. They often eat foods that do not provide enough protein.
  • People who follow a prohibited diet that eliminates almost all sources of plant and animal protein are at increased risk of hypoproteinemia.

Liver disorders

The liver plays a key role in the processing of proteins in the body.

If the liver is not fully functional, the body may not get enough protein to perform its vital functions. It occurs in people with a variety of liver disorders, such as hepatitis or cirrhosis.

Kidney problems

The kidneys help filter waste products from the blood into the urine. When working properly, the kidneys allow proteins to remain in the bloodstream.

However, when the kidneys are damaged or not working fully, they can lose protein in the urine.

It can occur in people with high blood pressure (hypertension), diabetes, and certain kidney diseases. As a result, a person may have a combination of hypoproteinemia and proteinuria (protein in the urine).

Celiac Disease

Celiac disease is an autoimmune disease in which the immune system mistakenly attacks the body’s cells in the small intestine.

This reaction occurs when a person ingests a protein called gluten, which is found in wheat, rye, and barley.

Autoimmune damage to the small intestine causes the loss of many nutrients, including protein.

Inflammatory bowel disease

Some types of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) cause inflammation in the small intestine. This is where the body breaks down the most essential nutrients and absorbs them.

Damage to the small intestine can lead to a number of nutritional deficiencies, including hypoproteinemia.


A blood test shows if a person has enough protein in their body.

A doctor can perform a series of blood tests called total protein, albumin, and albumin/globulin (A / G) ratios. Albumin and globulin are two proteins made by the liver.

This test will show if your total protein levels are low and if your albumin and globulin proteins are at the correct level.

If these two proteins are out of balance, it could indicate a medical problem such as a liver disorder, kidney disease, or autoimmune disease.

Hypoproteinemia treatment

A doctor will prescribe a treatment directly for the cause of the lipoprotein. Treatment also varies depending on a person’s diet, health, age, and medical history.

The doctor will need a complete medical history, physical exam, and diagnostic tests to determine the cause of the hypoproteinemia. Once the cause is identified, a doctor will formulate a treatment plan.

Examples of treatments:

  • A person with an eating disorder may need treatment, including psychotherapy. They can then work to maintain a healthy, balanced diet that contains enough protein.
  • A person with celiac disease must follow a gluten-free diet. Improves the absorption of nutrients in the small intestine, including proteins.
  • Liver and kidney disorders often require extensive medical treatment and monitoring, followed by a doctor on a regular basis.
  • Pregnant women with severe nausea and vomiting may need treatment to reduce their symptoms. This will help your baby get enough calories and protein for healthy development.

You can treat low levels of protein in your diet by increasing the amount of protein you eat. Foods that are good sources of protein:

  • Red meat
  • Poultry
  • Fish
  • tofu
  • Eggs
  • Walnuts
  • Dairy foods like milk and yogurt

Children in developing countries with quasi cor are treated with ready-to-use therapeutic foods (RTAs), which are prepared by:

  • Peanut butter
  • Milk powder
  • Sugar
  • Vegetable oil
  • Vitamins and minerals

Other treatments depend on the cause of the low protein and may include:

  • Antibiotics or antiparasitic drugs to treat infections.
  • Vitamin and mineral supplements to treat other nutritional deficiencies.
  • A gluten-free diet that can damage your intestines from celiac disease
  • Steroids, immunosuppressive drugs, and other drugs to reduce inflammation in your intestines.
  • Medicines or surgery to treat liver damage.
  • Dialysis or kidney transplant to treat kidney disease.
  • If you have trouble absorbing protein from the food you eat, your doctor will treat a condition that can cause malabsorption.

Hypoproteinemia in pregnancy

Some women develop protein deficiency in pregnancy due to:

  • Severe nausea and vomiting that prevents them from eating a normal diet
  • A vegetarian or vegan diet that’s low in protein
  • Inability to afford to eat a well-balanced diet

During pregnancy, you need extra protein and other nutrients to supply both your own body and that of your growing baby. The Institute of Medicine (IOM) recommends that you get an extra 25 grams of protein daily starting in the second trimester of your pregnancy.

Can it be prevented?

You can prevent hypoproteinemia by getting enough protein in your diet. The recommended daily allowance of protein (RDA) is 8 grams of protein for every 20 pounds of body weight. So if you weigh 140 pounds, you’ll need about 56 grams of protein daily. (This number can vary slightly based on your gender and activity level.)

If you’re vegetarian or vegan, eat more plant-based sources of protein, such as:

  • Soy and almond milk
  • Tofu
  • Tempeh
  • Beans
  • Legumes (lentils, peas)
  • Nuts (walnuts, almonds, pistachios)
  • Nut butter
  • Whole-grain bread

If you have a condition like liver disease, kidney disease, infection, celiac disease, or Crohn’s disease, follow your doctor’s recommended treatment. Getting treated will help improve your body’s ability to absorb protein and other nutrients from food.

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