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Edema & Protein

by
author image Sukhsatej Batra
As a scientist and educator, Sukhsatej Batra has been writing instructional material, scientific papers and technical documents since 2001. She has a diverse scientific background, having worked in the fields of nutrition, molecular biology and biochemistry. Batra holds a PhD in foods and nutrition, and a certificate in professional technical communication.
Edema & Protein
A physician can diagnose the cause of edema. Photo Credit patient image by Andrey Kiselev from Fotolia.com

Edema is swelling caused by excess fluid trapped in your body's tissues. Although it affects all parts of the body, one of the first indications of edema is typically the presence of swollen feet. While a low protein intake may be one of the many causes of edema, consult a doctor to determine the cause in your case. You might have a serious medical condition if you notice symptoms of swollen feet along with facial puffiness and abdominal bloating.

Causes of Edema

Edema can occur to anyone at any age. Some common causes are high or low blood pressure, hormonal changes during pregnancy or menstruation, as a side effect to medication, eating salty food, or even sitting or standing for a long time. Nevertheless, you should not take the presence of edema lightly, as it could indicate a severe medical condition such as congestive heart failure, liver cirrhosis, kidney damage or a weakness of veins in the legs.

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The Protein Link

As blood circulates in the body, it exerts pressure in the blood vessels that can force fluid out into the tissues. Albumin, a protein in blood, generally prevents the fluid from leaking out and accumulating in the tissues. However, if serum albumin levels are low, it cannot carry out its function of maintaining fluid balance, so fluid escapes into the surrounding tissue. As we stand or sit during the day, the fluid tends to build up in the lower extremities. This results in swollen ankles and feet.

Reasons for Protein Deficiency

One of the simplest reasons for the occurrence of edema is protein deficiency, leading to a decreased ability of the body to make serum albumin. Starvation, low protein consumption, decreased absorption, or liver disease are typical reasons for hypoalbuminemic or low serum albumin levels. On the other hand, increased loss of protein from the skin, in the urine or feces, can also cause low serum albumin levels.

Treating Protein Deficiency Edema

When your doctor rules out all medical causes of edema, he may recommend increasing protein intake. Lean meats, poultry and fish are excellent sources of protein.

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