Protein poisoning or overdose was once a term used only in animal husbandry. However, in the recent past, more and more people are being diagnosed with an overdose of protein. While it is a rare condition, the physician’s committee for responsible medicine has reported that people are eating more protein than is needed by the body. So, if you did not think protein overdose is a thing, you are wrong!

What is protein overdose?

Protein is a macronutrient needed by the body for everyday functioning alongside carbs and fats. However, the three are like your body’s holy trinity; all must function together. Therefore, an intake of too much protein without any or minimal carbs and fats for too long will be harmful to the body.

Protein poisoning occurs when there is too much intake of protein only and less or no intake of other macronutrients. The liver and kidney, which play the active role of metabolism of proteins, then produce excessive levels of ammonia, amino acids, and urea. Protein poisoning is rare but can be fatal. Even though you may be getting all the calories the body needs in a day from proteins, you could still suffer malnutrition due to lack of other macronutrients.

A protein overdose occurs when you consume more than 35% protein calories in your diet, which is typically consuming more than 15 grams of protein in a 2000-calorie diet. The acceptable macronutrient distribution range (AMDR) is;

  • 10-35% protein of the total calories
  • 45-65% carbs of the total calories
  • 20-35% fats of the total calorie intake

What are the causes of protein overdose?

According to research carried out, a typical adult requires 0.4-0.6 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight every day. The amounts will differ depending on the sex, weight, and activity level. Any amount more than the amounts mentioned could lead to an overdose. So, what are the causes of this protein overdose?

Protein intake for weight loss

Those losing weight are mostly advised to cut the intake of carbs and fats using a protein diet to compensate. Some dietary regimes even recommend that dieting people should take protein only for the first few days. There is an extreme danger with this as a person can suffer from diseases of the gut from slow digestion of protein residues in the intestines leading to protein poisoning. Luckily, we have high-protein diets like keto, paleo, and Atkins, which encourage high fat intake and just enough carb intake, which makes protein poisoning or overdoses highly impossible.

Poor protein intake

Let us take the example of athlete bodybuilders. Experienced athlete bodybuilders know that proteins and supplements only work when you follow instructions to the later. However, newbies in pursuit of quick results often fall into the temptation of exceeding the recommended dose, which can lead to protein overdose and poisoning.

Consumption of substandard proteins

You can also suffer from protein poisoning from consuming infected, improperly cooked, or spoilt proteins. For instance, you can get protein poisoning when you fail to adhere to the set preparation rules for your meat. Also, it is very dangerous to con some proteins which were refrigerated for more than two days.

Symptoms of protein overdose

How can you tell you have taken too much protein than the body can handle? As mentioned, protein poisoning is fatal because of the toxicity of ammonia and urea released into the body. It’s, therefore, vital to identify the signs and get to a doctor as soon as possible. Take a look at the signs in humans;

  • Nausea
  • Dizziness
  • Headache
  • Low blood pressure
  • Slow heart rate
  • Fatigue
  • Body weakness
  • Mood changes
  • Sharp pain in the intestines
  • Increased temperature
  • Dark urine
  • Diarrhea
  • Hunger and food cravings
  • Severe bloating

Other heightened symptoms include kidney stones and kidney disease. It is not always easy to determine whether it’s really protein poisoning or another disease, so it’s better to see an expert.

Treatment solutions

If you only experience vomiting or diarrhea, the first solution is to relieve yourself, and maybe the excessive proteins will get washed out of your system. However, if diarrhea or vomiting persists, ensure you see a doctor. Excessive diarrhea or vomiting can lead to dehydration and weakness, which can cause other complications.

Also, for symptoms that last more than three hours, its best to see a doctor. Only a medical expert can determine what you are suffering from and recommend a suitable treatment. Avoid taking over the counter meds or self-treatment as it can worsen the condition.

The doctor will be able to suggest when to do a gastric lavage or enema, depending on the severity of the condition. These procedures are meant to remove any remnant of proteins from the digestive tract or intestines.

Another basic treatment is to have a balanced diet. No macronutrient is more important than the other. Eliminating either from the diet will lead to digestive problems and malnutrition. Ensure you are taking the right proportions of fats, carbs, proteins, and fiber to guarantee good health. A proper high-protein diet should include all macro and micronutrients in proportions that will still ensure you are dieting.

Protein toxicity vs Protein poisoning

Protein toxicity occurs when the body is unable to digest the excessive proteins in the body. Kidney functioning then fails to lead to excretion of excess ammonia and urea, leading to toxicity in the body. Toxicity is also extremely dangerous to your health. Protein toxicity basically occurs when there is an excessive buildup of metabolic wastes due to poorly functioning kidneys and liver.

Protein poisoning, on the other hand, occurs due to excessive intake of proteins, which is not matched with the intake of carbs and fats macronutrients. Having too much protein does more harm than good for your body.

Protein Takeway:
protein overdose

Although protein overdose is rare, it can happen due to diets that contain or promote too much protein. Ensure your proteins are prepared appropriately to kill any microorganisms, and you are taking the recommended quantities. Also, remember that too much of anything is never a good thing.


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