Your body is a fascinating, well-oiled machine that's extremely effective at balancing the amount of protein in your blood and urine when everything is working as it should. However, certain health issues can arise, making it difficult for your body to handle excess protein on its own.
In these cases, you may need a little help getting rid of that extra protein. Keep in mind though, that high protein levels typically only go hand in hand with kidney problems. If you suspect that you have high protein in your body, or if your doctor has already confirmed that you do, make sure you closely follow the instructions of your health care team. Never try to treat high protein in your body on your own.
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Functions of Protein
When you hear the word "protein," you may immediately think of the dietary protein that's in your food, but that's not the only type of protein. Your body also has proteins in the form of albumin, antibodies and enzymes (among other things) that carry out essential functions in all of your cells and tissues. Some of the major things these proteins do is:
- Help boost your immune system so you fight off disease.
- Act as hormones to regulate your body functions.
- Build new muscles and help you maintain your current muscle mass.
- Transport oxygen, nutrients, vitamins and medications throughout the body.
While it's true that your body uses the proteins you eat to create new forms of protein that carry out all of these essential functions, eating a high-protein diet doesn't cause high levels of protein in the blood. When this happens, it's usually an indication that there's something undesirable going on with your health.
High Protein in Blood
High protein in your blood, also called hyperproteinemia, occurs when the levels of certain proteins in your blood are higher than they should be. It isn't a disease itself, but it's a clinical indication that something else is going on in your body. Because high blood protein doesn't cause any uncomfortable symptoms on its own, doctors typically discover it during routine blood testing or when looking for another problem.
If your doctor does find high protein levels in your blood, he'll begin investigating to figure out why your levels are high. The Mayo Clinic lists the following potential causes of high protein in your blood:
- Hepatitis (B and C)
- Multiple myeloma
- Monoclonal gammopathy of undetermined significance (MGUS)
Read more: Reasons for Low Protein Level in Blood
High Protein in Urine
Your kidneys serve, in part, to remove any waste or excess fluid from your blood, while allowing important things like proteins to remain. Healthy kidneys are really good at this job, but if you have an underlying disease or condition that affects your kidney function, proteins can pass through the filtering mechanisms in your kidneys and land in your urine. This is called proteinuria (which is a fancy name that means you have higher urine protein levels than normal).
There are lots of different conditions that can cause proteinuria, but some of these include:
- Chronic kidney disease
- Heart disease/heart failure
- High blood pressure
- Hodgkin's lymphoma
- Kidney infection
- Pregnancy and/or preeclampsia
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Sickle cell anemia
On the other hand, there are some things that can cause temporarily high levels of protein in your urine, according to the Mayo Clinic. In these cases, protein levels typically resolve on their own after some time passes or you remove yourself from that particular situation and your kidneys help filter out the excess protein. Things that increase protein levels temporarily include:
- Emotional stress
- Intense exercise
- Exposure to cold temperatures
Read more: Diet to Lower Protein in Urine
Getting Rid of High Protein
Because there are so many different causes of high protein in the blood or urine, the best way to balance your protein levels and get rid of the excess is to treat the underlying cause. To ensure you've identified the proper cause, you need to consult your doctor.
For example, if you have elevated urine protein because of high blood pressure, you need to work to get your blood pressure under control and within normal, healthy ranges. In most cases, if you do that, protein levels normalize and resolve on their own.
On the other hand, according to the National Kidney Foundation, if high protein levels are the result of dehydration, you may be able to flush out excess protein (or dilute the concentration) by drinking more water and making sure that you're getting enough electrolytes. This helps reverse dehydration and, again, helps protein levels return to normal.
If high protein levels are caused by emotional stress, you may be able to lower them by regularly engaging in stress reduction techniques, like yoga and meditation, and by talking to a therapist who can help you work through your emotions so you can handle them better.
Keep in mind that some of the conditions that cause high protein levels (in both the blood and urine) are serious and potentially life-threatening if not taken care of properly and under medical supervision.
Don't try to treat high protein levels at home without consulting with your doctor first. Once you figure out the underlying cause of the elevated protein, you can work together to put a treatment plan in place.
Your Protein Needs
Although healthy kidneys are really efficient at filtering out any excess protein in your blood, and high protein levels aren't usually caused by your diet directly, it's still a good idea not to go overboard with your consumption. Many people think that when it comes to protein, more is better, but that's not necessarily true. As long as you're getting enough to provide your body with what it needs, you don't need to consume a lot of excess.
The current recommendation for protein is 0.8 grams per kilogram of body weight. That means that, if you're 150 pounds, you need only around 55 grams per day. If you're extremely active or trying to build a lot of muscle, your needs may be slightly higher. A report in Harvard Health notes that you can consume twice the daily recommended amount of protein (and probably even a little bit more) without experiencing any negative effects.