No talk about nutrition would be complete without an understanding of protein metabolism because the amount of protein you eat could actually be wearing down your body and leaving you susceptible to disease.
Many enzymes and most hormones are primarily protein, and as such, protein becomes vital in the functioning and regulation of the body.
Your body cannot do without protein.
The importance of protein cannot be overemphasized. Yet, too much dietary protein is probably our most dangerous health problem, with animal protein consumption being the greatest offender!
A heavy animal protein eater’s body will be acidic. In an attempt to eliminate this acid, the body will first produce a very acidic urine, then later, under exhaustive conditions, will produce a very alkaline urine. Whichever it produces, the body in its perfection is doing the very best possible to get rid of the end products of excessive protein consumption.
To maintain homeostasis in the presence of excess acid, the body uses built-in buffer systems to re-establish the normal, slightly alkaline conditions of the body.
So in essence, the problem with excess protein lies in the body’s various efforts to get rid of it. But if it didn’t make these efforts, the strong, caustic acid would burn and destroy delicate tissues.
The critical thing to remember is that each time sulfuric or nitric acid must be neutralized, some of the body’s vital sodium is lost in forming the buffering necessary for it to be eliminated in the urine.
The “lack of sodium” in the body might seem almost ridiculous when you think about the amount of sodium the average American consumes daily. But, please understand that table salt is bonded by an ionic, strong bond, and the body cannot break the NaCl ionic bond in order to utilize it for this purpose.
Instead, the vital sodium needed is found covalently bonded to protein and organic acids in fruits and vegetables.
So, the more animal protein you eat, the more sodium you lose from the body’s alkaline reserve. Only the consumption of fruits and vegetables can replace this sodium.
If all the sodium is used up, two very undesirable things happen. One is that the body goes to the bones for calcium as the next best mineral with which to neutralize acid. Also, because it is unable to produce bile with a pH of 7.6 to 8.6, the liver shuts down a portion of its activity. Initially, this causes no apparent problems, as the liver has a tremendous reserve capacity.
However, as more and more of the liver becomes inactive – you guessed it – you get sick.
So, the big question is: Just how much protein do we really need? That only about 1.5% of our dietary intake should be protein is quite a surprise to most people.
The bottom line is that by eating less animal protein, less acid is produced, which means that less need be neutralized. We need to eat more fruits and vegetables to restore the alkaline reserve, making sodium available again for use by the buffer systems.
Your body does need dietary protein to survive. You need enough protein. You just don’t need too much!