Alternative Medicine
Got Protein?

After watching Michael Moore's film “Sicko,” I was flooded with thoughts and questions. ”“How can the wealthiest nation on earth regard healthcare as a business and not a necessity and a right…like education?” “Why can France, Canada, and England provide free healthcare and have medications cost so little?” We have lost the simple principles of health and recovery from illness. There was a time in America when a doctor spent a lot of time talking with his patient, getting to know the whole person, and often advised a patient, “Drink lots of fluid and get lots of rest.” Common sense!

There is so much the average person does not know about health. They don't know how the healthcare system really works, or why the concepts of prevention and wellness have not become the foundation of medicine. Sometimes I wonder why people don't know things that are vital to their life. As someone who has specialized in amino acid therapy since 1982, I am baffled about why the public and medicine remain almost entirely uninformed. This article will focus on protein, which is made up 100% of amino acids. The only people who know about amino acids are body builders and other athletes. No one else knows. Ordinarily, it takes 50 years for major medical breakthrough to become part of the normal practice of medicine. Fifty years has come and gone, and there is a good possibility that this huge body of knowledge may vanish. Governor, body builder, and former Mr. Universe, Arnold Schwarzenegger, knows vastly more about amino acids than do doctors.

As I've thought about this article, I have wondered, “After all these years…after all the articles I've written and lectures I've given, why do people in San Diego understand so little about amino acids and protein?” It is not my personal mission to carry the torch of amino acids, although I have been asked to write a definitive book by a book publisher. It is very much in the interest of the pharmaceutical industry that you don't know about the healing power of amino acids. Perhaps that is why amino acids and their uses remain “invisible.”

Let's start with the basics. There are 3 major food groups: protein, fat (essential fatty acids), and carbohydrates. Everyone has a natural sense about what protein is. It's in poultry, fish, eggs, beef, grains, beans, nuts, seeds, and a variety of vegetables. There is no agreement about how much protein we need, but here are some of the wide variations in opinion, based on the average American adult male weighing 190 pounds and the average adult female weighing 163 pounds.

World Health Organization recommendations:

Men: 38 grams per day Women: 29 grams per day


Men: 69 grams per day Women: 33 grams per day

UK Standards

Men: 55 grams per day Women: 45 grams per day

Regardless of recommendations, Americans, on average, eat 100 grams of protein per day. One reason we are confused about protein is that there is no scientific consensus. One area that does have wide scientific agreement is the zone diet, which consists of a daily food intake that is 40% healthy carbs, 30% protein, and 30% healthy fat. We have good guidelines from the zone diet, good research, but poor guidelines about how much total protein to eat.

What Is Protein?

This is the question that causes people's eyes to glaze over. What is protein? Protein is made up of strings of 20 primary amino acids. Think of amino acids as bricks, and proteins as houses. Amino acid bricks build protein houses. Forget about wood-frame houses for this metaphor. A protein is a string of 1,000 or more amino acids. The essential amino acids are those that we must get from our diet, and they are: arginine, histidine, lysine, leucine, isoleucine, valine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, and tryptophan. In researching this article, I ran across this quote at, “Proteins tend to be large molecules made up of several building blocks called amino acids.” Several?? Protein is not a string of 3 or 4 amino acids. In fact, a short chain of amino acids is called a “peptide.” A chain of 100 or more amino acids is a “polypeptide.” A chain, or group, of 1,000 or more amino acids is a “protein.” Protein is so important that the Greeks named it “prota,” meaning”“of primary importance.” The lack of knowledge about amino acids and protein is reflected throughout society, including the lack of medical training.

Amino acids are to protein as “bricks are to houses.” While these “bricks,” these building blocks of life, are tiny, next to water, amino acids make up most of our total body weight.

The conditionally-essential amino acids can be made inside our bodies from the essential amino acids, and they are: alanine, glycine, serine, cysteine, aspartic acid, asparagine, glutamine, glutamic acid, proline, and tyrosine. It is critical to understand that, with very minor compromises in our health, we can lose the ability to convert essential amino acids into conditionally essential amino acids. Under various kinds of stress, we need to get the full 20 amino acids from our diet . . . or at least more than the 10 essential amino acids. Under stress, conditionally-essential amino acids become essential.

Each gene in our DNA helps make one protein. DNA has 20 amino acids to work with, and that's it, just 20. Out of 20 amino acids, all proteins are made. Amino acids make up all protein, hormones, enzymes, and almost all neurotransmitters. Sex hormones and steroids are made of amino acids and essential fatty acids. Ordinarily, a healthy diet with enough protein provides all the amino acids we need.

It is my experience that people have a hard time understanding that amino acids are the building blocks of protein in the same way that we have a hard time comprehending that the human body, on an energetic level, is an electron cloud. Perhaps it is the mind of a scientist that thinks about electrons and amino acids, while the vast majority of people are thinking about getting a Big Mac, or salmon, or tofu into their stomachs. Our eyes and stomachs'“think big.” Amino acids are the tiniest building block of protein. When I mention amino acids, people often reply with something like, “Oh, you mean something like vitamins?” The letters, “Vitamin A, B, C, D, and E” have made their way into our consciousness, even though few of us know much about them. People have a vague understanding of minerals and words like, “calcium, magnesium, copper, and zinc” even though, like with vitamins, very few of us have any idea about minerals, other than that calcium has something to do with bones. More education is needed, more exposure, more books, more doctors trained in nutritional medicine, and more media coverage.

Digestion and Absorption

We can understand amino acids and protein by looking at the process of digestion. Let's say you're eating chicken or tofu for dinner. As it sits on your plate, you cut off a piece that might be a 3/4-inch square. Digestion starts by chewing, which breaks down that rather large chunk of protein into smaller pieces.

The stomach continues the process of manually squeezing and breaking down protein. In addition, pepsinogin and other proteases (enzymes that break down protein) are secreted into the stomach. Pepsinogen turns into pepsin, which begins to break down the bonds that keep protein together, breaking the bonds between one amino acid and another. Hydrochloric acid (HCl) in the stomach is also part of the process of digestion, of breaking down large chunks of protein into smaller and smaller pieces. For several hours our food swirls around in gastric juices, while stomach contractions join in the process of digestion.

These smaller pieces of protein leave the stomach, entering the small intestine, where the pancreatic enzyme trypsin is added to the mix to lead to the final breakdown of protein. The large chunk of protein that entered your mouth has finally been broken down into single amino acids in the duodenum of the small intestine. These single free-form amino acids can then get absorbed from the gastrointestinal tract into the blood. Those chunks of protein, no matter how small, do not ordinarily enter the body.

People often get confused when we start talking about amino acids and proteins, so let's take a minute to look at both. Due to lack of exposure, the public does not know the difference between bricks (amino acids) and houses (proteins).

Amino Acid Functions

While amino acids are the building blocks of protein, hormones, neurotransmitters, and enzymes, each amino acid has a number of unique functions:

Arginine— Essential for a healthy cardiovascular system and immune system. Arginine is also involved in the production of growth hormone.

Carnitine— Helps heart disease and is essential for energy chemistry.

Glutamine— Aids digestion, muscle chemistry, and immune system. In addition, glutamine is the precursor to GABA, our calming neurotransmitter. For almost all intestinal problems, high doses of glutamine will heal the cells that line the GI tract.

Tryptophan —converts into serotonin. When deficient, you get depressed and can have problems sleeping.

Tyrosine— converts into the neurotransmitter norepinephrine, which alleviates depression and improves concentration, focus, and memory.

Alanine— a key to blood sugar chemistry.

Taurine— stabilizes brain and heart tissue, so it is useful for people with seizures/epilepsy, mania, or heart arrhythmias.

Lysine— helps fight viruses. Strict vegetarians are usually deficient in lysine.

Taurine and Lysine —helps lower cholesterol.

Methionine —helps alleviate allergy.

S-adenosyl-methionine (a variant of L-methionine)— helps alleviate depression and enhances overall brain function.

Histidine— helps arthritis and is involved in the absorption of zinc.

Regarding neurotransmitters, some amino acids, such as GABA and Taurine, ARE neurotransmitters. Other amino acids are the Building Blocks of neurotransmitters. For example, Tyrosine is needed to make norepinephrine and Tryptophan is needed to make serotonin.

One of the most important functions of amino acids is that, brick-by-brick, they are used to build protein “houses.” But, not all amino acids are made into protein. Some of those amino acid “bricks” make protein, while others make hormones or neurotransmitters.

Protein Functions

Remember, protein is made entirely of amino acids, but amino acids are “bricks” proteins are “houses.” Here are some of the main functions of proteins:

1.Contractile Proteins make up muscle, and are involved in muscle contraction and movement.

2. Enzymes facilitate biochemical reactions. They speed up these reactions and are catalysts.

3. Hormonal Proteins (hormones) are “messengers” which help to coordinate certain bodily activities. Hormones act at a distance from the gland that makes them. For example, insulin, made in the pancreas, travels through the bloodstream, acting on every cell in the body.

4. Structural Proteins make up connective tissue, joint cartilage, and protective structures like fingernails, beaks, feathers, and rhinoceros tusks.

5. Transport Proteins move molecules from one place to another around the body. Hemoglobin is the best example, which carries oxygen from the lungs to the rest of the body.

6. When you eat protein, insulin secretion decreases, and glucagon increases. When you eat carbohydrates, insulin increases. The balance between protein and carbs . . . glucagon and insulin – is very important for health and longevity.

Now that you know about amino acids and protein, it might surprise you how many people are protein deficient . . . even though the average American consumes 100 grams of protein per day. I would guess that 50% of the people whom I treat for chronic illness are protein deficient, and that is something we discover from Amino Acid Testing. Often, I can look at a person, and know they are protein deficient. Much of the time that person will ask, “How can I be protein deficient? I eat a lot of protein.”

Comprehensive Digestive Stool Analysis

Comprehensive Digestive Stool Analysis often explains why you can be protein deficient even if you eat a lot of protein. There are no laboratories in San Diego that perform such testing. If you eat enough protein, but it's not in your blood, it means that you are having problems breaking down (digesting) protein and absorbing it into your bloodstream. Comprehensive Stool Analysis can reveal:

1. Dysbiosis, an imbalance between “friendly” and unfriendly bacteria.

2. Intestinal Inflammation.

3. Intestinal overgrowth of yeast or candida.

4. Parasites. Both parasites and candida can eat our protein . . . never allowing the protein to get into our body.

5. Food Intolerances, especially to dairy, soy, egg, and gliadin or gluten.

6. Food allergies, like food intolerances, signal the immune system to get activated which often leads to systemic inflammation.

7. Lack of the digestive enzymes that break down protein. We make less and less digestive enzymes with age.

8. Bacterial infection, like food poisoning.

9. Low levels of HCl (hydrochloric acid).

10. While the more common functional/metabolic tests don't test for this, the gastrointestinal tract can have slow or poor motility . . . sluggish peristalsis. In other words, it may be hard for your GI tract to move protein along at a normal pace, thereby interfering with normal digestion.

Any of these 10 digestive abnormalities can interfere with breaking down and absorbing protein. Most of us to have one or more of these 10 digestive problems.

Most people can grasp the functions of protein pretty easily. Here is one way to think about what's happening. You eat protein, large chunks of food, which gets broken down through the process of digestion into amino acids, which are the building blocks of protein. Those individual amino acids get absorbed into the blood. Amino acids have many functions and are the main component of total body biochemistry, the trillions of reactions going on every moment. One of the main functions of amino acids is to get re-assembled into protein within the cells of our body. So, protein is broken down into amino acids, and many of those amino acids, once inside the body . . . become various kinds of protein. Forgive the repetition, but after writing about amino acids for 20 years, most people don't understand them.

Through a test like Genova's Comprehensive Digestive Stool Analysis (CDSA) or Diagnos-Tech Lab's GI-2, we can find out why you have gas, bloating, constipation, diarrhea, heartburn, gastritis . . . and why you might not be able to digest protein. Through Amino Acid Analysis, we can see a number that tells us how much protein made it into your blood. We also find out from Amino Acid Analysis, if you have specific amino acid deficiencies. It is important to treat a protein deficiency and specific amino acid deficiencies.

The most important thing is to get enough protein into your system and to have a GI tract capable of digesting and absorbing that protein . . . as single amino acids. It is not going to help you to be placed on specific amino acids you are deficient in if you have a major protein deficiency. First, make sure that you are getting enough protein. When testing shows a protein deficiency, my recommendations are:

1. Diagnose and treat the digestive problems,

2. Add a protein powder to your daily diet.

Protein powders are made of tiny little flecks of protein, not 3/4-inch cubes of chicken, tofu, or fish. So, the digestive process has very little work to do to chop up a fleck of protein powder and get it absorbed into your system. The most common protein powders are whey, egg white, soy, and rice. Many experts agree that soy is as much a problem as it is a benefit. I like Jay Robb's whey protein, which is sweetened with stevia. It tastes good, is an excellent source of protein, and one scoop contain 25 grams of protein, which is easily absorbed.

Malnutrition in America

Protein deficiency is rampant, even in America. Many of our kids get very little good protein, and Pizza Hut and similar companies have gotten entrenched in our public schools. Contrary to what kids believe, pizza is not one of the main food groups.

On a macro level, I'd like to see the government provide a really good, tasty protein smoothie to every child in America, every day. Without protein, and the amino acids within protein, we cannot build adequate amounts of neurotransmitters. That means that our kids can't focus, concentrate or remember at their optimal level . . . and instead of protein, a lot of these kids are fed Ritalin.

If you want to do a simple experiment, without spending money on sophisticated, nutritional lab tests, try “Dr. G's Smoothie”:

1. 1 scoop of Jay Robb's whey protein (25 grams).

2. 1 tablespoon of flaxseed oil, which provides omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids.

3. 1 ounce of colloidal minerals.

4. 1 tablespoon of spirulina or your favorite “green powder.”

5. A piece of fruit.

6. Add water or milk. Goat's milk is better for us.

7. Add ice cubes if you like.

Blend. You can make this in 60 seconds, and if you are like a lot of folks who don't eat breakfast at all, toss in a straw and drink this on the way to work. If you're considering consulting with me for a chronic health problem, first give my smoothie a try for a month and see if you improve.

If our kids in school were provided one drink like this every day, we would see drastic improvement in mood, behavior, focus, concentration, performance, and physical endurance. Or we can treat many of them as having ADD/ADHD, label them as ill, and send them on the wrong course for the rest of their lives.

Now, that you know more about protein, if you want to learn more about amino acids, pick up Dr. Eric Braverman's book, “The Healing Nutrients Within: Facts, Findings, and New Research on Amino Acids.” Don't try to'“digest” the whole thing at once. Read about just one amino acid, stop, and”“absorb” that information.

Protein deficiency is not just a problem for third world nations and people living at a poverty level in America. A few years ago, I was counseling a teenager, Lance, whose older brother had some knowledge of nutrition. At the advice of the older brother, Lance added a scoop of protein powder (the Ultimate Meal) to his diet. That day his life changed. His energy went up, along with his ability to concentrate in school. Lance came from a conscious, knowledgeable family that provided excellent meals for the kids. But this young man was not digesting properly, was seriously protein deficient . . . and he had no idea there was even a problem. He just followed the advice of his older brother.

If different departments in the U.S. government provide vastly different figures about how much protein we need, and governments of different countries have different ideas, it is up to each of us to get a “minimum” amount of protein into our system, and then listen to our body and use our intuition about when we need more, or less, protein. Given the range of recommendations, my conclusion (based on the averages) is that men require 45 – 65 grams per day, and women require 35 – 55 grams per day. Obviously, individual height and weight make all the difference, as does activity level. Adequate protein is critical to health and well-being, but do not assume that “more is better.” If you consume protein far in excess of what you need, it can be hard on your kidneys, which remove the breakdown products (mainly nitrogen) of amino acid/protein chemistry.

Try out Dr. G's Protein Smoothie. If your life changes, you have been dealing with a major protein deficiency.

David Gersten, M.D. practices Nutritional Medicine and Integrative Psychiatry out of his Encinitas office and can be reached at 760-633-3063. Please feel free to access 1,000 on-line pages about holistic health, amino acids, and nutritional therapy at and information about the new science of Earthing at


Dear Louise

Dear Louise,

I looked up in your book Heal Your Body what you say about brain tumors. While I accept and sense what most of the affirmations and causes suggest, I don't understand how the word computer works. I assume you meant “thought input” when you say to “reprogram the computer” of the mind—is that correct?

The affirmation I am doing is: All of life is change, and my mind is ever new. Do you suggest anything else? Thank you!

I.N., Los Angeles, CA

Dear I.N.,

I think of our minds as computers. The thoughts in our minds are the files. It's always a good idea to go through these files on a regular basis, deleting any negative thoughts or beliefs. I have the feeling that the “rules of the house” were very rigid during your childhood. This often results in a person who grows up to be quite untrusting of Life.

The affirmations I recommend are: I am deeply loved by Life. Every part of my body is healthy and whole. I think only thoughts of love. Love heals me. Life loves me. I am safe. All is well.


Dear Louise,

I'm writing today seeking your help, as I have a semi-rare disorder. Since my childhood, I've been mildly allergic to the sun. In recent years, it's gotten much worse. I can't go outside in the summer even to mow my lawn. A 15-minute ride to work leaves any exposed skin covered in a horrible, itchy rash. I don't want to be confined to a prison the rest of the summers of my life.

What thought pattern causes this? Any affirmations you have would be most helpful. Thank you so much.

P.C., Detroit, MI

Dear P.C.,

On a physical level, I would like to suggest that you explore a few things. First, nutrition. Food can have a marked effect on allergic responses. Next, acupuncture often rebalances a body that has gone out of balance. Next, homeopathy is another natural form of rebalancing bodies. Even hypnosis could help your condition.

The thought patterns that contribute to all dis-eases are anger or fear. And the answers are forgiveness and self-love. Forgive those whom you feel have harmed you. Forgive yourself. Remove every thought that keeps you from loving yourself, Love your skin. Caress it and tell it how much you love it. Look in the mirror often and say, “I love you. I really love you.” This can work miracles in your life.


Dear Louise,

I've been trying to work on my finances for six months ever since I lost a job. I've been getting by with the help of jobs that don't pay nearly as much as I used to make and through assistance from my family. I also crave romance in my life. I'm just looking for a woman to hold in my arms and kiss at this point. I haven't had that happen to me in more than five years. What do you suggest?

C.R., Atlanta, GA

Dear C.R.,

As you move through your days, keep repeating to yourself: I am lovable, and everybody loves me. Look in the mirror and repeat this often. Love yourself so much that you even put a smile in your liver. The love you're seeking is also seeking you. These affirmations, if repeated often and with joy, will bring good experiences of all kinds into your life. And please take the expression “Yes, but . . .” out of your vocabulary. Just stick with the positive affirmations and see what happens! All truly is well.

Louise L. Hay is a metaphysical teacher and the bestselling author of numerous books, including You Can Heal Your Life , Empowering Women, and I Can Do It! . Subscribe to the Louise Hay Newsletter! Call for a Free Issue: (800) 654-5126. Questions for Louise? Write to: Dear Louise Column, c/o Hay House, Inc., P.O. Box 5100, Carlsbad, CA 92018-5100 (letters may be edited for length and clarity). Visit Louise and Hay House at: or