Are You Protein Deficient? The Hidden Signs & Ayurvedic Fixes.

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Many people struggle with protein deficiency—here are the telltale signs of when you’re lacking in protein, and Ayurveda-inspired protein building strategies to get you back on track.

Every winter I find myself treating an inordinate number of patients for protein deficiency. Most of them are quite health-aware and have made conscious decisions as to what they include—and don’t include—in their diets. But somehow, despite their best intentions, they find themselves with this very significant deficiency.

Many of these patients are vegetarian. Others—perhaps the majority—have 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 seems there is something in the way we are doing it that leaves us vulnerable to protein deficiency and its consequences.

Protein Deficiency & What to Do About It: At-A-Glance

We will look at three main areas about protein deficiency.

– Why is protein deficiency so common?
– Telltale signs of protein deficiency
– Effective protein-building strategies

Watch the video below and/or read on:

Why is Protein Deficiency so Common?

Interestingly, many traditional Asian cultures seem to do well eating 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 The Blood Type Diet and other body typing systems, including Ayurveda, have contributed many insights into this question.

Something not often brought up, however, is that most traditional Asian cultures still have someone in the family who cooks full-time. On my journeys to India I’ve observed that the cooks start cooking 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.

By contrast, many of us here are too busy to cook and 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 family cook, many parents have silently been elected the family superhero: holding down a job, driving and picking up kids, coordinating all of their 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 may be sacrificing our nutritional health.

I often say that to be a good vegetarian you need to cook at least two hours a day. That’s not to propose a strict numbers rule, simply to emphasize that being a healthy vegetarian takes extra work. And when we consider our current lifestyles, it’s not surprising that many of us don’t have the time for cooking, and our health may suffer for it.

So, how can you tell if you are protein deficient? Here are the signs:

The following discusses signs of mild and/or chronic protein deficiencies. Find a list of severe and/or acute deficiency symptoms at the end of this article.

Chronic Protein Deficiency 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 deficient (otherwise we would really be looking at a country-wide epidemic!), but protein deficiency and unstable blood sugar are intimately linked.

Try this Blood Sugar Stability/ Protein Deficiency Home Assessment

This short assessment may help discover a blood sugar imbalance that a blood test might not pick up.

1.    If you are a vegetarian or rarely eat meat and have a craving for carbs and just don’t feel satisfied until you are filled up on breads, pastas or sweets, you may have unstable blood sugar that may be due to a deficiency of protein.

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

3.    Try eating 3 meals a day without snacks. If you find you need to nibble or graze on anything other than water, you may have unstable blood sugar that may be due to a deficiency of protein.

4.    A blood test is most conclusive and indicated for anyone concerned about their blood sugar.

Chronic Protein Deficiency Sign #2: Muscle and/or Joint Pain

About fifteen 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!

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, to be used to rebuild the muscles and joints after strenuous exercise. When one is protein deficient, this reserve is the first to go. As a result, the joints stiffen and the muscles tighten. This kind of pain does not typically respond to standard musculoskeletal care.

I went down the checklist:
Yes, I had been a 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 deficient, I had two large whey protein powder shakes and added significantly more protein to my diet. With no exaggeration, my pain was gone by the end of that day. It just left. No pills or herbs, just more protein!

For Ayurvedic Meat Eaters (Meat as a Medicine, Not a Way of Life)

Ayurveda is a vegetarian system of medicine. In fact, cows are sacred and it is just not cool to eat them. But in the case of protein deficiency, Ayurvedic doctors will prescribe the medicinal eating of red meat. One of the prescriptions I learned to resolve a protein deficiency is this:

Eat 4 ounces of red meat at the midday meal, each day for two weeks.

As a medicine, not a way of life.

I have used this recipe numerous times for protein deficiencies with amazing results. That said, not all of the vegetarians I have treated were willing to do this, so below I have suggested alternative protein rebuilding strategies.

Why Eat Red Meat If You Have a Protein Deficiency?

  • Red meat is the most acidic of all meats and of all protein sources in general. The more acidic a substance, the deeper it penetrates the tissues and the better it is stored.
  • Alkaline foods are great cleansers. They flush the lymph and help the body detoxify. The more alkaline a food or diet, the more efficiently it will remove waste and toxins.
  • On the other hand, the more acidic a food is, the less easy it will be to remove or detoxify. While we tend to associate the notion of “acidic foods” with toxic or comfort foods, many acidic foods are actually very healthy and essential.
  • This is nature’s way of balancing: we help rebuild the body in the winter with naturally occurring acidic foods and cleanse the body in the spring and summer with naturally occurring alkaline foods.

Consider: If a squirrel ate only broccoli in the winter, the squirrel would freeze to death. Luckily, nature does not make broccoli available in the colder winter months. The harvest during a cold winter was traditionally loaded with meats, grains, and root veggies—all primarily acidic, rich in protein, and rebuilding. This principle of eating naturally with the seasons is the main focus of my book, The 3-Season Diet.

Ayurvedic Options for Treating Protein Deficiency

1. Medicinal Red Meat. 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 blood plan to rebuild protein and stabilize blood sugar: Eat 4 ounces of red meat a day for 2 weeks, preferably at lunch.

I believe this medicinal program is best and most effective when implemented with great respect and gratitude for the animal that gave its life to help yours.

2. Vegetarian Alternatives. If eating meat is not an option for you, try the following:

Have 3 whey, pea, rice, or hemp protein powder shakes a day; one with each meal.
Eat off the winter grocery list (see the winter grocery list from The 3-Season Diet in the library at and emphasize the vegetarian proteins and fats listed.
Eat more of the high protein foods listed below.

The Best Protein Sources In Your Food:


  •         Meat
  •         Poultry
  •         Fish
  •         Dairy
  •         Eggs


  •         Seeds, sprouted
  •         Nuts
  •         Beans
  •         Lentils
  •         Whole grains (in order from highest to lowest protein content): Wheat, amaranth, oats, rye, triticale, teff, spelt, wild rice, barley, buckwheat, quinoa, millet, sorghum, corn, rice.
  •         Soy
  •         Peas
  •         Peanuts
  •         Spinach
  •         Potato
  •         Sweet potato
  •         Algae
  •         Seaweed

>> Nature’s Ultimate Plant Protein & the Easiest Way to Reap its Benefits. {Partner}

Note: This article focuses less on severe and/or acute protein deficiency, and more so on mild and/or chronic, sub-clinical deficiencies that may contribute to numerous other chronic health issues. Below is a list of symptoms related to severe protein deficiency.

Symptoms of Severe Protein Deficiency:

  •     Edema (swelling)
  •     Thinning brittle hair and/or hair loss
  •     Ridges in finger and toe nails
  •     Skin rashes; dry skin
  •     Weak and tired
  •     Muscle soreness and cramps
  •     Slow healing
  •     Skin ulcers
  •     Sleep issues
  •     Headache
  •     Nausea
  •     Fainting
  •     Depression/anxiety

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

As you can see, your protein levels can really make a difference in how you feel, especially throughout the winter. Whatever your diet of choice, I hope you continue to stay balanced and use these tips to help find what works for you. And remember, your feedback is always valued!


> Guide to a Balanced Diet That Improves Brain Function.
> Vegan/vegetarian Sources of Proteins.
> Complete Protein? Complete Nonsense.

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anonymous Feb 1, 2016 6:28pm

Whey causes cancer! I can’t believe any doctor would recommend it. There is no such thing as medicinal red meat. That would be the equivelant of medicinal heroin. It is killing people. Watch forks over knives, then come talk to me. I have lost respect for elephant journal posting this crap which is just to push his book. Do your research, this guy hasn’t. Doctors usually have 20 hours or less of nutrition based studying in med school. Anyone who wants to know about nutrition should go to a nutritionist.

anonymous Feb 1, 2016 3:10pm

one of the best protein sources, for anyone: hemp hearts…they can be added to smoothies, sprinkled on salads, stews….included in baking…

anonymous Dec 9, 2015 11:43pm

What are your thoughts on beef proteins? There are a few brands on the market that market themselves as pure hydrolized beef protein which seems pretty awesome, plus they come in flavors like chocolate and vanilla, so you even if you don't feel like "tasting" meat you can still get the protein you need.

anonymous Apr 12, 2015 4:29am

Wow, I’ve been experiencing 10/13 symptoms for a few years now and have been vegetarian for 11 years. I could have sworn I was eating enough protein (I eat several foods listed above). I just thought the symptoms were from being graduate student. I’m definitely going to get my protein level checked and try out the whey shakes. Is there a certain brand/flavor you recommend? Thank you so much for sharing these helpful tips!

    anonymous Feb 1, 2016 3:12pm

    Add Hemp Hearts to your diet…it's one of the top (vegan) proteins, and easy to use.

anonymous Dec 27, 2014 8:55pm

I am so grateful for finding this article. I have Carcinoid cancer and for the last month, I have been experiencing symptoms exactly suited to protein deficiency. I know now that I need to add a lot more to my diet. Knowledge is power. Thanks so much.

anonymous Oct 14, 2014 9:43am

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Keep up the nice work.

anonymous Aug 17, 2014 6:50pm

Unfortunately there is no scientific basis for Dr. Douillard's argument. The largest study in history of those eating plant-based diets recently compared the nutrient profiles of about 30,000 non-vegetarians to 20,000 vegetarians and about 5,000 vegans, flexitarians, and no meat except fish-eaters, found that vegetarians and vegans get 70% more protein than they need every day ( Dr. Douillard perpetuates the belief that animal products are necessary for optimum health when the science shows the opposite. 97% of us actually don't get enough fiber–fiber comes only from plant sources, so perhaps eating enough plants should concern us more than eating enough animal products. That he cites evidence from pop science books like The Blood Type Diet which has been debunked thousands of times in peer-reviewed journals ( underscores the importance of calling out bad science when we see it.

anonymous Aug 16, 2014 10:08pm

I was vegetarian for 7 years and slowly got sicker and sicker. Then was diagnosed with celiac disease and started eating meat again. Everybody can choose what they want to eat but it's good to be informed before you risk your health.

    anonymous Aug 17, 2014 9:10am

    It's good to not support factory farms as much as possible.

    Also, I just read that Celiac disease is caused by eating gluten.

      anonymous Aug 17, 2014 1:27pm

      Yes, it is caused by gluten, more or less.
      Celiac disease damages the intestines making it harder to absorb nutrients. According to my GI doctor, this was the cause of my protein deficiency. Even though I was eating vegetarian sources of protein, they were hard for my body to absorb.

anonymous Aug 16, 2014 1:54pm

This is the best thing i’ve read on the internet in a long time ans i must say it has explained a lot to me..infact it cleares up all my questions about the problems i’ve been having for quite a while now since i haven’t been eating meet or thank you for this incredible helpful article, honestly i know now where i should start helping myself

anonymous Apr 2, 2014 3:34pm

'I believe this medicinal program is best and most effective when implemented with great respect and gratitude for the animal that gave its life to help yours.'
No animal has given it's life to help anyone, they don't have that voice, or freedom. The idea that by sitting at the dinner table and being respectful makes it OK that an animal most probably suffered pain, stress and discomfort during it's shortened life & dying moments, so that you could enjoy the nutritional benefits of it's flesh – is completely obscene. That really is such ignorance.
I've drastically cut down on the meat I eat, and choose vegetarian food except 1-2 times a week currently, but on those occassions I'd NEVER allow myself the false comfort of thanking and respecting the animal for some ridiculous imagined willingness.
I hate to sound like a ranty commentor but that really is a shocking attitude to be publishing.

    anonymous Apr 2, 2014 4:18pm

    Hi Holly,

    We are an open community of writers and readers and publish articles/encourage discussion on a broad range of topics. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, including yourself. Please keep comments as respectful as possible.

anonymous Apr 2, 2014 2:06pm

This make no sense at all, most people are not protein deficient quite the opposite and the reason they're craving sweets are because they're eating too much protein. You need to go back to school. The body craves a certain specific ratio of the macronutrients, carbs/protein/fats. If you over consume one of the macro nutrients the body will crave the others so that it will receive the perfect ratio. By having your clients eat more protein you will make them crave even more sweets or block their mineral absorption.

From a holistic nutritionist.

anonymous Apr 2, 2014 1:57pm

We do not need to contribute to the violence of killing animals for food. Living vegan is so easy and wonderful! 100 cals of broccoli has MORE protein than 100 cals of lean cut beef. As long as you are getting enough calories, you are getting enough protein. Americans get 2x the protein they actually need. Big myth 🙂…/vsk/vegetarian-starter-ki…

anonymous Feb 23, 2014 8:36am

Beautiful article Dr. Douillard! I would like to add that Chinese Herbs are a great idea for mild to moderate protein deficiency, too. I specialize in restorative diets, and I see so many people eating from 'ideals' rather than a willingness to experiment and acknowledge the results. Too strict of a diet leads to so many of the things you have listed above, plus a wrecked nervous system, tight tendons (more pulled muscles), adrenal fatigue, fertility issues, and advanced aging. Diets are so complex, and there isn't one basic diet that suits every person. Thank you for continuing to edify some of the nuances so beautifully. I love your work and recommend it to many clients!

anonymous Feb 23, 2014 3:44am

Why is dairy put under the category of non-vegetarian. Dairy IS a vegetarian food source. It is not a vegan food source.

    anonymous Apr 2, 2014 3:13pm

    Exactly what I noticed. Surely someone writing an article like this should be able to categorise these things correctly.

anonymous Feb 22, 2014 3:50pm

Thanks for the article. Last year I was diagnosed with a significant protein deficiency. At the time i had been a practising vegetarian for a number of years. To cut a long story short my body “told” me that i needed to reintroduce meat. I wasn’t happy about this but because id been feeling so bad …. Therefore it was with great interest that i read this article. Thanks again

anonymous Feb 9, 2014 9:25am

Protein deficiency = kwashiorkar. That is its medical name, or, in the lingo, "Enlarged liver due to protein malnutrition," which distinguishes it from enlarged liver due to other causes. Kwashiorkar is a Ghanan name meaning "older sibling's disease," since in Africa it commonly begins when a child is weaned too young in order to make room for a new baby. In many societies, children are breastfed for several years due to their higher per-calorie protein needs.

I was diagnosed with severe acute kwashiorkar when I was 22. It's not a happy thing. I'm sure everyone is going to jump on me now and try to discredit me. But I don't care. The way kwashiorkar becomes severe is when the person has so little protein that the body begins metabolizing protein from the muscles. The toxic byproducts of this choke up the liver, causing it to become enlarged, and begin to collect in the hands, feet, face and gut causing swelling. It is a form of starvation most common in children in the developing world, especially where the staple food is very low in protein (like cassava). As the disease progresses, protein from other sources is consumed such as the skin and hair, causing myriad skin problems and causing the hair to go turn orange or yellow and fall out. It weakens muscles in the body such as the heart, causing low blood pressure and low pulse. I feel like this article kind of takes severe acute malnutrition lightly when it is such a huge problem affecting millions of people–mostly children–all over the globe. Many hospitals in the developing world have a wing devoted solely to severe acute malnutrition. It is so sad to think of this kind of suffering being so rampant in our world. On the other hand, if American doctors begin to see how this disease affects the middle class, maybe they will be more responsive when it comes up as a problem affecting other Americans.

anonymous Jan 12, 2014 2:28am

This article is ridiculous. Protein deficiency is almost impossible to get, even as a vegan who trains.

"As long as you are eating any reasonable selection of unrefined plant foods, if you take care of the calories, the protein takes care of itself. The scientific evidence has been clear for over a century. In order to get a deficiency of protein, or any of the essential amino acids, you'd have to eat a bizarre diet. You'd have to eat nothing but apples, or nothing but extracted sugars and fats, or (as is much more likely) nothing but alcohol."


anonymous Dec 8, 2013 5:23pm

Most of this information is wrong. I'm a DC practicing paleo nutrition for 34 years. This article is about fat starvation not protein!
Ayurvedic is not vegetarian. Your list of high protein vegetarian foods have hardly any protein at all. It misleads people who want to contribute to the well being of the planet by not eating meat, to thinking they can do it without eating meat. Go to a nutritional seminar with a thousand practitioners and ask them, "for whom of you are your vegetarian patients the most sick" you'll see all the hands in the room go up.

anonymous Dec 6, 2013 9:08pm

Everyone is different. It is up to each one of us to tune into our bodies and figure out how much protein we need. True what someone else said that a piece of red meat from a cow that has lived outside in the sunshine and eaten it's native diet of grass is a COMPLETELY different food than a piece of meat from a factory farm. You can't even compare the two. Some of us do better on more animal protein, others do better on more grains/legumes. Again, it is up to you to figure it out.

A big issue missed by most vegetarians is that grains and legumes are difficult on the human digestive system. Traditionally, they were always soaked in some sort of acid medium for at least 12 hours before cooking. Grains and legumes contain phytic acid which inhibit the body's own enzymes and bind up minerals. Soaking, sprouting and sour leavening help to neutralize phytates and act as a pre-digestion process. It also unlocks some of the vitamin content in the food.

Lastly, many of us are protein deficient due to insufficient production of stomach acid. Age, stress, alcohol, and processed foods all contribute to this problem. Hydrochloric acid produced by the stomach is what breaks down proteins into their component amino acids which are used by every process in the human body, very notably the production of feel-good neurotransmitters.

As a Nutritional Therapist, these are the types of functional issues I work to resolve with my clients.

anonymous Dec 6, 2013 8:35am

Seriusly, if you like meat and want to eat it…do it. But don't say that you eat meat for the proteins or because you were "sooooo sick" without it. It's 8 years that I'm vegan and it's almost 2 years that I'm following the 801010 (10% of proteins, duh!). And I ran my first full marathon this year. Yes, you can be healthy on a plant-based diet! 🙂

anonymous Dec 6, 2013 8:34am

WHEY protein shakes? I hope you were kidding. One of the most unhealthiest foods available. Please read studies about the effects of whey.

anonymous Nov 21, 2013 6:13am

=]p4eeeeeeet5n nkn tuuuuuuuunnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnm,

anonymous Oct 19, 2013 1:07pm

I'm sorry to see the people who attack the position. Unfortunately this may be more prevalent in the older population than the younger. As you get older your ability to digest all kinds of nutrients lessens. I am a vegan. I eat reasonably well, but I also have fibromyalgia and acid reflux. The veganism is most ly for the acid reflux. But it is easy for me to experience everyone of the symptoms and even more including an increase in my acid reflux even when I'm not eating anything that should set it off.

I have to take 80% protien powder made from rise to keep these symtoms at bay. However, I have to admit that before I turned about 55, I didn't seem to be bothered by the deficiency. I'm betting that none of the negative posters are above 60 in age.

anonymous Oct 16, 2013 9:59am

What if you don't eat red meat at all? I can't do the "therapeutic" regimen for protein deficiency. I have never had beef, buffalo, and pork ever in my life, and I actually have a very stong aversion to them. I can't even sit at a table with someone eating beef – it makes me gag. I do eat eggs, chicken, turkey, fish, seafood, nuts, legumes, beans.

anonymous Sep 30, 2013 11:16pm

Purely from a writing perspective – what is the connection between the squirrel's broccoli and the acidic harvest in the winter?

anonymous Sep 30, 2013 2:58pm

This doctor is a chiropractor and thus, is unqualified to give nutritional advice. DC's are not medical doctors, dieticians, nutritionists or even naturopathic doctors. I'd even feel more comfortable with a practitioner of ayurvedic medicine. Why he is giving advice on nutrition is beyond me and I wish Elephant would refrain from promoting health advice from dubious sources. Especially when he is just pulling in cultural nutritional practices (ayurveda) without obvious expertise. What just because it is from another country, you get to culturally "borrow" and give advice based on that system? My respect for Elephant has been going downhill lately and if it were me, I'd stay far away from this DC who is practicing WAY outside his scope.

anonymous Aug 2, 2013 4:41pm

I didn't think seaweed, besides dulse, really had any protein? Are there varieties of seaweed that are more protein-rich?

anonymous Apr 27, 2013 6:42pm

I just started using the shake. i been feeling full so i am sure i will loose some weight. i have been exercising every day aswell…

anonymous Feb 16, 2013 10:16am

I'm really shocked that protein defiency is still being labeled as an illness. There is no techinal name for protein defiency therefore it doesn't really exist. Every food contains protein, in the winter wouldn't it be more correct to say we crave more calorie dense foods therefore carbs. However what is connected to animal protein is cancer, strokes, impotency, fatigue etc etc etc. How can you say that red meat is medicinal when you are putting death into your body and putting something toxic which means that it is not meant to be eaten. Have you read the China Study or at least watched Forks over Knives?

    anonymous Sep 30, 2013 10:48pm

    Okay, I would just like to make it clear that protein deficiency absolutely exists! In fact, there are sadly a lot of people on this world that do not get adequate protein – yes, in the developing countries. It's called kwashiorkor, google it. Funny, how much we worry about the details of our food intake while there are still so many people who do not have the plain basics…

    anonymous Aug 16, 2014 10:21pm

    I'd like to echo rosacanina here.
    Protein deficiency exists, and can have serious consequences.
    You can be deficient in any nutrient that a human body normally needs.
    As an example, when I was vegetarian, I was infertile for 4 years – I didn't ovulate or menstruate at all. I devloped osteoporosis at age 26. After beginning meat, my cycle started again and my bone mass improved steadily.
    You can rationalize till the cows come home, but when something like that happens, you have to listen to your body.

      anonymous Aug 17, 2014 9:28am

      Andrea, I don't mean to pick on you, but osteoporosis is caused, according to WebMD by a diet low in calcium, low exercise, and smoking cigarettes, primarily. The foods with the most calcium are not meat! The only meat in the top ten is fish and it is number 10. I'm not saying you should be a vegetarian, it might just not be possible with your particular situation, but to insinuate that being a vegetarian causes osteoporosis and Celiac disease seems like misinforming. Most studies show that a vegetarian diet is the most healthy diet (if you do it right) and it's also better for the environment.

        anonymous Nov 4, 2014 1:07pm

        I didn't mean to misinform, EJ. It looks like my celiac comment was deleted. Let me try again.

        Celiac disease affects a person's ability to absorb nutrients. This is sometimes true even after they go gluten-free. So people who have celiac, or certain other health conditions, may need to eat meat. A friend of mine, for example, returned from Thailand with a parasite that wiped out his adrenal glands. He had also been vegetarian, but a naturopath recommended that he eat primarily vegetables and meat while he was recovering.

        I don 't remember all that my deleted comment said about celiac, but the comment above speaks solely to individual needs and is not a blanket statement about vegetarianism.

        There's some evidence that meat is unhealthy, but there's some also evidence that it's healthy. I don't see why it's unreasonable to state that it depends on the person. Also, although I don't enjoy eating meat, and have tried ways to avoid it, I don't need to be censored for pointing out that it can be healthy in certain cases. This is important information for my health and potentially for others as well.

        As far as osteoporisis, I have read in reputable holistic health books that protein can reverse the loss of bone mass. I stopped relying on Web MD a long time ago.

anonymous Feb 13, 2013 8:01am

Suppose all the protein in the world doesn't solve your "protein deficiency".
Having been treated for hereditary high blood cholesterol for over 15 years with statin drugs, my "protein deficiency" increased my cravings for carbohydrates big-time. My waistline girth increased.

Not too long later I was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes. Had I remained obese (despite being underinsured), it would have been diagnosed well over year sooner … because American doctors fear the fat person's comorbidities the most.

And I know this from my blogsite where I blog about nutrition.

Unstable blood sugar could be a symptom of something lifelong, and not a cause of diabetes or a marker of "protein deficiency" … such as former obesity, and rampant major weight cycling – which I had done …

anonymous Oct 10, 2012 6:01pm

Extremely interesting blog post thanks for writing it I have added your blog to my bookmarks and will check back.

anonymous Aug 13, 2012 2:33pm

People, RELAX. No need to freak out here- There has to be a middle ground and there has to be acceptance.

I used to be a fanatical vegan, PETA protester (for 12 years)- I once ordered over 1,000 Meat Your Meat pamphlets and spent my day walking around mall parking lots sticking them on people’s windshields.

I used to say, “I would rather die than eat an animal” as well as preach the China Study and all the other research that claims eating meat essentially kills you (You can find research to support just about any opinion/idea you find yourself clinging to)

However, when I put my emotions aside I was able to really come to a more balanced place. I kept reading, kept learning, kept educating myself. I was wondering why, when I was doing everything so ‘perfect’ (sprouted nuts, seeds, grains, raw smoothies, raw protein powder, b12 supplements, all organic, nutritional yeast) with my diet, I was so completely sick (all the symptoms of protein deficiency).

I came to realize (thank-god) that I was extremely deficient in many vital nutrients and protein. I started adding grass-fed dairy, pasture eggs and organic whey, and felt slightly better- but not until making the heart-wrenching decision to eat meat again did I start to regain my health.

Everyone is different- mentally, physically, there are so many factors. Some can thrive on a balanced vegetarian diet, others cannot. And, while I would love to believe, as one commentor said, that with our thoughts we can rise above any dietary need, that is simply not 100% true. You cannot alter what your body needs. This is exemplified by purists who have attempted to live off the air. It just doesn’t work no matter what level of enlightenment you are at. We have physical bodies, with physical needs. We need to respect this.

The focus should be on doing what we need to stay healthy and listening to our bodies. It should also be on choosing to nourish ourselves with food that is sustainably sourced, raised, etc. and animal products that are produced responsibly and as humanely as possible- a good source for finding food that fits this ticket in your area:

    anonymous Feb 16, 2013 10:35am

    Did you think about increasing your calories? Did you try to combine your foods better? In my opinion eating meat is the easy option and the easiest isn't the best. Why is it then that in the US people with the longest life expectancy are vegetarians and vegans? Such a shame that you took the easy route after being such a "fanatical" vegan

      anonymous Nov 21, 2013 10:41am

      Why so judgmental?

      anonymous Feb 1, 2016 12:27am

      My grandparents lived a healthy life up to their 80 s and 90 s working the field and growing farm animals in eastern Europe. …..people have lived for the last 100.000 years eating meat and veggies. ..changing that in our DNA is like changing an active lifestyle for a sedentary one and hope to be healthy….it just cannot be…our the body isn't designed that way…

    anonymous Apr 2, 2014 1:55pm

    The "focus" should not just be on ourselves. It should be on how to stay healthy and not harm other beings.

    anonymous Aug 16, 2014 10:11pm

    Agreed, G! Thanks! 🙂

anonymous Aug 13, 2012 2:33pm

I think it is important to remind people that red meat is only as healthy as the cow it came from. Really do your research to make sure that the cow wasn't fed sub-par byproducts, GMO corn, antibiotics and raised in filthy, overcrowded conditions. We are what we eat, and so are animals. You can't expect to be healthy by eating meat from unhealthy sources, and it is difficult to find quality meat unless you know the farmer or raise it yourself.

anonymous Aug 3, 2012 1:06pm

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anonymous Feb 13, 2012 7:42am

We are Humans. We are HUNTERS and GATHERERS. Meat and Veggies are what we are made of. BALANCE!

    anonymous Sep 30, 2013 11:32pm

    I have to agree. I am very reverent as to the animals whose flesh I eat. I don’t process grains well, and beans and other legumes are off limits. My system feels and works best with a moderate amount of red meat. I never gorge on animal flesh. I find chicken and fish help my fms, panic disorder, pms issues: and when I dropped processed cheese for fresh milk cheese and lots of veggies as my staple with quinoa I feel thinner and less sickly. My blood feels cleaner, richer, and like it pumps faster. I have to say that with anything, began or meat eater, the most important thing is drink water and teas.

    anonymous Apr 2, 2014 1:54pm

    But………Are you hunting for your food, or paying for someone to kill animals who suffered in metal concrete sad factory farms? We don't need to eat animals. We don't need to contribute to the violence.

anonymous Jan 18, 2012 3:38pm

Wonderful article. So thorough. Thank you!

anonymous Dec 17, 2011 5:51pm

Dear Dr Douillard, I would have appreciated you stating from the beginning of your article that it was written for a vegetarian audience (you draw your conclusions from your past experience and the vast majority of your patients who are vegetarians). There are many others unstated (or very poorly documented) assumptions in your article.
First, the vast majority of Americans( and Westerners) who crave sugar (and/or suffer from diabetes) are read meat eaters. Second, the main reason why in India cooking is a full time job for one (or more) person(s) in the family, is not because of their vegetarian diet! In my country (Rwanda and Congo were I grew up) cooking does take even more time in rural areas and it is not a vegetarian culture. Their is a cultural context that you are completely missing there (cooking for a huge family which includes extended family and daily visitors, the kitchen "equipment", etc.. and last but not least the importance given to food beyond nutrients)
Third, addressing a vegetarian audience (well this is not openly stated in your article) in a alarming tone and offering, as the first solution, eating read meat does not show consideration for their choice.
Fourth, except edema and fainting, a person eating a highly proteinic diet (based on flesh) would show all your listed symptoms of Severe Protein Deficiency (plus not so nice body odor and breath…to stay on the physical level)
Last but not least, the most acidic invisible food we (whatever our diets) absorb is stress.
Living (even eating an ethical vegetarian diet) always involves some suffering, but as yogis (or aspiring yogis) the idea is to minimize, minimize this suffering…
I cannot be grateful that somebody is killed to feed me and pay for that "service". It cannot serve my life to participate to killing friendly people. It cannot. That's why eating a vegan diet is easy. I am happy that in the USA, there are more and more people "leaning into veganism" (as would say K.Freston), spiritual masters and MD's who have accumulated science and experience in that field (ie Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine). It goes against many cultures to eat a vegetarian/vegan diet, and thanks God, Mother Nature can still offer us everything we need in the vegetal world…. maybe that will not last, but for sure, eating meat will only contribute to deplete her (and thus us).


PS: I have the utmost respect for His Holiness, and when I listen to him, he goes far in taking the responsibility of what is going on in Tibet…


    anonymous Nov 21, 2013 5:06pm

    You go Jeanine!

    Thoughts create reality. Meat consumption hurts our health, the environment (big time!) and it causes countless billions of animasl a short life of suffering. It is not right and there is no way around that.

anonymous Dec 14, 2011 5:33am

damn, I was hoping for a more educated article. I went to Dr. John Douillard's website which has a disclaimer on it about how it's "just his opinion". elephant, do you need to publish every quack you can find?

anonymous Dec 13, 2011 6:54am

How does one determine the sufficient number of grams of protein to consume every day for their individual needs?

    anonymous Dec 13, 2011 1:40pm

    This is a difficult question as it depends on the individual constitution, genetics and strength of digestion. The range for protein needs seems to range from from 10%-30% of the diet. I believe we have to be open to experimenting with our protein needs and adjust accordingly. The winter is from the Ayurvedic perspective is the time to increase protein and fat intake and then less is needed in the spring and summer.

anonymous Dec 11, 2011 10:25am

Ayurveda is not a vegetarian system. A cursory knowledge of Ayurveda and review of texts such as the Charaka samhita, Sushruta samhita and Ashtanga Hrdaya will dispel any such notion. In fact, one is hard pressed to find ANY condition described in Ayurveda in which meat in some way is not recommended. We have to be careful to separate out relatively recent cultural changes in India and Hinduism with Ayurveda. Meat is not forbidden to the Hindu, even the Manu Smriti states this as such. Eating meat is a reflection of genetics, geography and season. If you live in south India, it is easy to be a vegetarian. But even the Kashmiri brahmins eat meat in northern India, so clearly religion isn't the issue here.

    anonymous Dec 7, 2013 10:42am

    Actually it is a vegetarian system. Unlike other forms of medicine Ayurveda and spirituality go hand and hand. It is not separate from the teachings of the Sutras. Everything you take in is karma, every moment of life is karma. every action creates the next reality. That is an essential part of Ayurveda, whether you choose to believe it or not. I have read the texts you mention and it only recommends meat for vata wasting. That is a choice as everything is. It is also not the only route and does not need to be permanent. Most vegetarians who pay attention to what they eat will not have any problems. It is unfortunate that he choose to open up other practitioners not as famous as himself to judgment when they are working with the public. I would not dedicate my life to Ayurveda if it was not a vegetarian medicine. And unlike Chinese medicine it has not been changed by culture and is still living in the sprit world.

      anonymous Dec 7, 2013 2:30pm

      Good article except for one large mistake where he states, "Ayurveda is a vegetarian system of medicine." This is false as Ayurveda is not at all a veggie system. In both the Charaka and Sushruta Samhita it very clearly describes various types of animal protein from beef, yes the sacred cow of India, to fish, peacock and and even camel. Direct from the Charaka Samhita, sutra 158, "Meat of a peacock, partridge, rooster, goose, swine, donkey, cow and buffalo is beneficial for developing one's body."

anonymous Dec 11, 2011 9:32am

the most successful vegetarians live in warmer climates where fruit, veggies, and grains can be available all year. but most civilizations and traditional cultures included some form of animal protein in their diets on a regular basis – meat, seafoods, milk, and in Africa, blood from their animals (the Masai). and I have also noticed that many vegans are very judgemental about others' diet and lifestyle choices – thing is, it would be impossible for us to continue to exist without exploiting other living things – no bees? no plants. no mammals? no fertilizer. Know yourself (not who you think you are or who you wish you were) and do what you can to practice ahimsa knowing that it's impossible to be perfect.

anonymous Dec 11, 2011 5:42am

I am curious about your list of grains and protein content. I have always understood that grains such as spelt and quinoa were HIGHER, not lower, in protein than modern wheat. Now I'm confused. Could you explain your research on that? Thank you!

    anonymous Dec 14, 2011 10:33am

    The reason quinoa is so good for vegans is because it is a COMPLETE protein (has all 9 essential amino acids in appropriate proportions). It doesn't necessarily have MORE protein per unit of measure, it just doesn't need to be coupled with other complimentary protein sources with to be "complete".

      anonymous Aug 3, 2013 11:32pm

      Ummm, yes, but not a good source of DENSE protein. 1 serving of Quinoa has 3 grams of protein, while one serving of beef has a whopping 26 grams. How much quinoa do YOU want to have to eat? This is where veganism goes off the rails – by saying that vegetables have even CLOSE to similar levels of nutrient-density pound for pound. They just don't. Yes, they all have protein, vitamins, and minerals, but not in such a small, neat, easy to eat package. 1 serving of beef is a far smaller portion for 26 grams of protein than what you would have to eat to get the same amount of protein from quinoa. After years of trying to meet one's protein needs with beans, seeds, nuts, and grains, one could conceivably put a tremendous strain on the pancreas and wind up with diabetes. This is where the beauty of animal proteins shines. Far more protein in a smaller portion, perfect fats, and negligible carbohydrates.

        anonymous Sep 30, 2013 3:15pm

        Registered dietician:

        1 serving of beef is technically 3oz which is 12g of protein
        1/2 cup cooked quinoa is a portion with 8g of protein

          anonymous Sep 30, 2013 8:46pm

          beef… dense protein with virtually no fiber putrefies in the human digestive system before full utilization can be realized… this causes distress and inflammation to the digestive system… whereas plant based proteins have much fiber and water slowing the absorption rate which increases utilization where then the body needs less to do more… think of the 200mpg carburetor on internal combustion engines …

        anonymous Nov 1, 2013 6:35am

        The whole complete protein idea has been debunked. Your body does just fine with potatoes if that's all you have. This is a weak defense of an antiquated and destructive paradigm. I eat all the fibrous fruits, veggies, and grains my body desires and I feel amazing. I was a meat eater for most of my life, and I never felt as good as I do now.

          anonymous Feb 1, 2016 1:50pm

          I agree…feel great as vegan.

anonymous Dec 11, 2011 2:13am

wow Protein deficiency wow:))) is there such an animal, and if there is what the doctors call it. as far as i know there is no medical term about protein deficiency. it is like oxygen deficiency :))))))))))))))))))))0
check 80-10-10 by Duglas Graham are you serious or you are just telling us a short anecdote about vegetarians:)).

    anonymous Dec 6, 2013 9:43pm

    Kwashiorkor is the medical term for a form of malnutrition in which calorie intake is sufficient, but the diet lacks protein. It's also very uncommon outside of widespread famine and severely limited food supply/variety. 🙂

anonymous Dec 10, 2011 12:56pm

Very similar symptoms to Celiac Disease and/or Gluten Intolerance as well. Thanks for the info. Always good to be aware of all possibilities for causes of symptoms. Namaste, Lisa

    anonymous Sep 11, 2014 8:52am

    Not to mention hypothyroidism.

    A vegetarian diet usually needs supplementation with vitamin B12 … and if you don't take B12, that throws off the body's chemical balance.

anonymous Dec 10, 2011 11:42am

Very interesting. Thank you. Helps me understand some things I have been noticing for myself–like an affinity for greens in the spring and summer and not so much in the fall and winter. when I find myself leaning toward root veggies and animal protein.

I am a fit, middle-aged woman. I recently had an inguinal hernia repair. I came across something in my research related to understanding my condition and possible treatment options that linked hernia and protein deficiency, so this issue is definitely something I want to pay attention to.

Thank you for the tips and insights.

anonymous Dec 10, 2011 11:29am

thanks for the wonderful info. totally corroborates my experience.

anonymous Dec 9, 2011 6:26pm

Wow , what a bunch of bitter comments! Amazing how people get offended so easily.

    anonymous Dec 10, 2011 6:06am

    Maybe everyone needs some extra protein. Is "grumpy" a symptom? :o)

    anonymous Dec 10, 2011 12:42pm

    Sadly, some of the most narrow-minded, aggressive, dogmatic folk I've run across in the yoga community are vegan. I hasten to add I am NOT saying ALL vegans are so. In one yoga training, some vegans and vegetarians literally created a divisive atmosphere that I have never experienced in years of teaching at yoga trainings.

    One wonders if perhaps they truly are not balanced in their food choices?

    I think whenever ideology overrides the common sense Doulliard presents above, there's trouble!

anonymous Dec 9, 2011 5:44pm

Time to open your eyes friend and wake up, you are not only what you eat but also what you think… break free of the old paradigms mentally and you may surprise yourself to find that you no longer conform to their rules. I personally have NO problem (in fact the opposite) eating less protein and being vegan- and would recommend it to anyone who can see past the old belief systems.

    anonymous Dec 10, 2011 2:29pm

    I'm betting you're a Kapha, then. 😉

    anonymous Aug 11, 2014 9:45am

    I agree Nadine. The last time I ate meat was in the 80's. I don't have any of the above symptoms and feel great. You are 100% right that we are what we believe. We see what we believe and believe what we see.

anonymous Dec 9, 2011 4:21am


    anonymous Jan 3, 2013 7:34am

    Kind of weird it was not mentioned at all….it is one of the highest packed grains!

      anonymous Sep 30, 2013 11:20pm

      It was listed under grains with protein, it’s at the lower end but higher than corn and rice.

anonymous Dec 10, 2011 10:57am

Thank you for your comments. My point is that there are many folks who just not thriving on a vegetarian diet. Perhaps they switched too fast but this is just an opportunity for them to self evaluate and be sure are not missing protein.

I wrote this article only because I see it so frequently and it is good for all of us to be sure if they are not feeling well to rule out protein deficiency

One the deficiency is ruled out or resolved then perhaps they will resume their vegetarian diet and thrive in the way you are

Thx for listening


anonymous Dec 10, 2011 10:58am

Yes I couldn't agree more

And many folks have a balanced diet and get into trouble

The red meat is only an 2 week option used to rebuild protein reserves

Once deficiencies are ruled out then a balanced diet as you suggest is all that is needed

Thx for your response


anonymous Dec 15, 2011 2:37pm

What's EP?

anonymous Dec 13, 2011 9:40pm

Good on ya Lyn 🙂

anonymous Dec 15, 2011 2:33pm

Amen! Thanks for the respectful comment. We looove constructive debate—we all can learn from one another. I'm vegetarian (easy for me), and have seen studies that show that most Americans get way tooo much protein. ~ Waylon

anonymous Dec 15, 2011 2:34pm

Thanks for the respectful criticism. I'd love to hear a respectful, informed response on this—I'm veggie myself and have seen studies showing USers get way too much protein, overall. ~ Waylon

anonymous Feb 16, 2013 10:38am

Thanks for posting this. Kwashiorkor is not just a protein defiency but a lack or calories that leads to low protein levels, up your calories and eat lots of greens then there is no possibility for a defiency

Michael Blott Aug 8, 2018 4:13pm

Trent Thornton Bull as in BS

Trent Thornton Aug 8, 2018 3:05pm

"Bullony?" Do you mean "bologna?"

Jennifer Monk Oct 26, 2017 9:04pm

I totally disagree. No need for red meat whatsoever and it’s definitely not a good idea for people who have been off red meat for a year or more. I do not eat sugar or packaged food. I’m adopted a whole foods plant-based diet and my protein levels are amazingly high. What he should be telling people is to cut out all the crap all the sugar all the junk food all the packets food and go for Whole Foods. For the life of me I cannot figure out why he would make these recommendations. very dangerous!

Cynthia England Oct 21, 2016 3:54am

Blood type diets are complete BS first of all... I could go on...

Allegra Phoenix Oct 1, 2016 4:10pm

Vedrana Vujica BOOM

Allegra Phoenix Oct 1, 2016 4:09pm

This has got to be the DUMBEST article ever. What a stupid thing to tell people who are doing their best to eat a diet that doesn't involve others' DEATH AND SUFFERING to just give up because "it's too hard" to get adequate protien. Meat eaters fucking propaganda. IGNORANT. Dear everyone trying to be vegetarian.... do even better... GO VEGAN. And guess what... PROTIEN is just AMINO ACIDS. And what this stupid article DIDN'T mention is that not only do yes you need to eat a full spectrum of plant based foods... Daily... including super foods and good fats... but you also need to supplement. Good thing is.... it is easier than EVER these days to let go of EVERYTHING animal in our diets. There are thousands of websites and other avenues of information on how to do it right. It is completely possible to THRIVE on a vegan diet. Not only that but also while bodybuilding! Oh... because the Dalai Llama can't even let go of his fucking meat addiction we are supposed to think that makes this bullshit VALID.??? LAME A.F.

Vedrana Vujica Aug 21, 2016 12:17am

past milennia, hahahah. Go back to elementary school - immediately!

Vedrana Vujica Aug 21, 2016 12:08am

Ugh, go away you idiot

Miguel Sanchez Aug 20, 2016 11:09pm

Vedrana Vujica ... speaking of coming back to reality, meat eating in the past millennia is the only reason our brains got big enough to even have this debate. If you're the typical veggie, I want no part of your dietary habits. OH yeah, and way to disrespect traditional native culture re: respecting the animal spirit. Nothing like good ol' fashioned racism to further your argument.

María Feliza González Ch. Aug 19, 2016 9:07pm

Vedrana Vujica

Vedrana Vujica Aug 19, 2016 6:30pm

And you're even asking me that? An expert sticks to information that comes from credible scientific research, not referencing quackery such as blood type diet and "ayurveda" medicines. And how the hell does he know he had protein deficiency, he did blood test? No, he had neck pain. A doctor self-diagnosing and suggesting others to do the same. It can't go stupider than that. And then this: "I believe this medicinal program is best and most effective when implemented with great respect and gratitude for the animal that gave its life to help yours." - Another guilt ridden idiot comforting himself with the idea that an animal *gave* her life. Tell your "doctor" I told him to stop living in fairy tales and come back to reality. Perhaps visiting a slaughter house, where the animals are all happily ligned up and eager to *give* their lives to him, would help. Such as here: But hey, all if fine, if Dalai Lama eats it so can I, and you, right? Ugh, idiots everywhere.

RM JG Aug 4, 2016 11:12pm

haha...Folks...he's not a DR...he's a chiropractor.

Elephant Journal Jul 2, 2016 2:29pm

First, Dr. Duillard is a well-respected expert. Second, he is merely making informative suggestions based on his knowledge and extensive experience. He also notes some vegetarian/vegan protein sources above. While we welcome constructive feedback, I'm not clear as to what you are offended about, here...can you clarify? ~ Ed.

Vedrana Vujica Jul 2, 2016 1:43am

What the fuck is this? I have never read such stupidity in my entire life. Dead cow "medicinal" for protein deficiency? I have been vegan for 5 years and prior to that pescatarian for 13 years (who very, very rarely consumed dairy and fish), and I have never had protein deficiency nor supposed smyptoms of it listed above. This is quackery at its finest. Who is this guy anyway? While I certainly do not claim protein deficiency is a myth and cannot occur (yes, it can, and it usually happens to some vegans on low fat, low protein fad diets) the symptoms listed above, or the claims that red meat is some kind of "magical cure" are absolutely ridiculous. Symptoms of possible protein deficiency are mostly fatigue, low energy levels and problems with focus and concentration. But these same symptoms occur with B12 deficiency, magnesium deficiency and even epa and dha deficiency so no one can know for sure where exactly is the problem until they visit a doctor and do blood work. Legumes, seeds and nuts are an excellent sources of essential amino acids for complete proteins and they are videly available (and equally effective) during both summer and winter. During summer I incorporate more fresh veggies and fruits in my diet while during the winter I focus much more on foods such as kidney beans of all colors, lentils, peas, green peas, broccoli, potatoes, pumpkin, seeds, soy beans, organic tofu loaded with protein and calcium, oats, butckwheat, some nuts and so on. Yes, I cook, and in our culture cooking (intead consuming pre-packaged and/or highly processed, industrial products) is still more or less prevalent. When you eat healthy and balanced there is no fear of protein deficiency.

Michael Blott Jun 27, 2016 12:18am

I am a doctor and this BULLONY....he is going to hurt people....blood type diet......really?

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Dr. John Douillard

Dr. John Douillard, DC, CAP is a globally recognized leader in the fields of natural health, Ayurveda and sports medicine. He is the creator of, the leading Ayurvedic health and wellness resource on the web with over 7 million views on YouTube. LifeSpa is evolving the way Ayurveda is understood around the world with over 1000 articles and videos proving ancient wisdom backed by modern science. Dr. John is the former Director of Player Development and nutrition advisor for the New Jersey Nets NBA team, author of 7 health books, a repeat guest on the Dr. Oz show, and featured in USA Today, LA Times, and dozens of other national publications. He has been in practice for over 30 years and has seen over 100,000 patients. —————————————————————————————————–
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