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What Happens When Your Protein Levels Are Low?

author image Tammy Dray
Tammy Dray has been writing since 1996. She specializes in health, wellness and travel topics and has credits in various publications including Woman's Day, Marie Claire, Adirondack Life and Self. She is also a seasoned independent traveler and a certified personal trainer and nutrition consultant. Dray is pursuing a criminal justice degree at Penn Foster College.
What Happens When Your Protein Levels Are Low?
Low blood protein can only be confirmed through a blood test. Photo Credit: Belyjmishka/iStock/Getty Images

The blood contains a number of proteins in different percentages; 60 percent of the protein in blood is albumin. Healthy people eating a balanced diet should have a steady amount of protein in their blood throughout their lives. Low levels of protein in the blood are usually caused by chronic or long-term health problems such as hepatitis, cirrhosis, bone marrow disorders, celiac disease and kidney problems. Treating the cause of the problem will help the levels of protein to rise.

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One of the most common consequences of low protein in the blood is edema. This accumulation of fluid is most commonly found in the extremities, but it can sometimes be a more general problem. In some people, it can appear as an overall swelling of the body and face. A swollen abdomen often indicates liver problems. Since poor liver function is a cause for low protein levels, this could help identify the problem.


Protein is an essential factor in the production of muscle. If your protein levels are low, your muscles will suffer. You might experience muscle loss or simply experience an overall feeling of muscle weakness. For example, you might get tired more easily after a simple walk. You can also experience frequent muscle cramps.

Cause and Effect Relationship

Understanding what’s causing low protein levels will also help you understand the consequences. For example, low protein levels in the blood can indicate kidney or liver disease, as well as malabsorption problems such as celiac disease. In these cases, any symptoms you might be experiencing might be connected to the disease itself, rather than to the low levels of protein.


Many people with low protein levels experience no symptoms, so it’s important to have your blood tested if you suspect a problem. Talk to your doctor also if you experience fatigue that doesn’t seem to have an obvious cause. Low protein levels can lead to severe, ongoing fatigue, even if you’re sleeping well and eating properly.

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