Tag Archives: Wound Healing

All about PROTEINS

Our dear mother Nature has provided us with various food options; all of which have varied nutritional profile.  Every nutrient has a specific role to play in our body. Amongst them, proteins have always intrigued us because of their functions, properties and usages.

Proteins are of prime importance in the structure and function of all living cells. As bricks join to make a wall, amino acids bind together to make proteins. 20 amino acids in all, out of which 8 are essential (need to be there in the diet) and rest are non-essential (our bodies can synthesize them). A protein which provides all 8 essential amino acids in required amounts is called ‘A’ class protein. These are required the most during periods of growth (e.g. adolescence, pregnancy), physiological stress (e.g. any illness, pregnancy, surgery, burns, etc.).  ‘A’ class proteins include proteins of animal origin like milk & its products, egg, meat, fish, chicken, etc.

Does that mean plant proteins are different from animal proteins?

Definitely. Animal proteins are superior to plant as they provide better quality protein; but vegetarians should not lose heart. They can also improve the quality of protein they take by making simple combinations like cereals with pulses / milk or milk products in the ratio of 3:1 e.g. Rice and DalChapatti (made using wheat flour and chana flour), breakfast cereals with milk, Curd rice, khichri, etc.

Role of protein in our body

  • Body Building: This is the primary function of proteins i.e. tissue growth and maintenance. Proteins are present in all parts of our body be it muscles, bones, skin, blood, hair or other organs.
  • As Enzymes: Enzymes are present in our body which are needed for digestion of the food we eat and for various reactions to occur inside our body. Most of these enzymes are proteins in nature. E.g. amylase
  • As Carriers: An important carrier of the body, haemoglobin (carries oxygen) is a protein in nature. Fats cannot be transported in the body unless bound to proteins.
  • As Hormones: There are lots of hormones produced by human body, most of which are protein in nature. E.g. Insulin
  • As structural units: Lots of our organs are majorly made of proteins. E.g. liver: it has 50-60% of protein, muscles have 20% protein, keratin (which makes hair and skin), melanin (which gives colour to skin) are all proteins.

The above list is non-exhaustive and we can see that apart from pumping our muscles; proteins are also essential for our general well being. Quantity of protein to be included in diet depends on lots of factors: age, physical activity, physiological condition, etc.

  • Age: Certain periods of life when growth is rapid a person requires more dietary protein e.g. infancy (0-12 months), pre-school years, adolescence, etc.
  • Current Nutritional Status: A person having deficiency of proteins will have a higher protein requirement compared to a well nourished one.
  • Physical Activity: An increase in physical activity calls for increased protein intake.
  • Weight and Height: For a normal weight person, protein intake of 0.8 to 1 g / kg body weight / day is required to fulfill the daily needs. E.g. a 60 kg person needs 48-60 g protein daily.
  • Physiological Condition: protein intake needs to be increased or decreased depending on certain physiological conditions. In pregnancy, lactation, recovery after a disease or injury, protein intake needs to be increased whereas in diseases of liver or kidneys, protein intake needs to be decreased or monitored.

Sources of proteins: milk and milk products, nuts and oil seeds (flax, sesame, sunflower, etc.), pulses and legumes, egg, flesh foods like lean meat, fish, chicken, etc. Drumstick leaves are an exception being the only leafy green rich in protein.

Protein intake more than required can be deleterious for health: Proteins are needed for numerous functions in our body. Once all these are fulfilled the excess needs to be removed. Liver processes this excess protein which is then removed via kidneys as part of urine. Protein intake more than required thus burdens kidneys and liver. Also, a diet high in meat can contribute to high cholesterol levels or other diseases such as gout (gathiya). Rate of fractures, osteoporosis, bone pains and kidney stones are higher amongst people with excess animal protein consumption. Plant based proteins do not have these effects on bones.

Deficiency of protein though rare can be life threatening: Severe protein deficiency is seen majorly in growing children (in developing countries). This could affect their growth and can even be life threatening. Mild protein deficiency can be seen in various diseases, pregnancy, lactation, etc.

A nutritionally balanced diet provides adequate protein. Approximately 12-14% of the day’s total calories should be derived from proteins. 2-3 servings of protein-rich foods is capable of meeting the daily needs of most adults. Protein supplements though might be needed by those with increased demands (illness, injury, physically active people, etc.).

For more on comparison of proteins from soybean, whey and casein.

Image Courtesy: www.vegparadise.com

The Magic Healer

My mother developed Paronychia (a fungal or bacterial infection leading to redness, swelling and pus formation around the nail) in her right big toe nail just before my sister’s wedding. She was in so much pain that she could hardly move about leave aside doing any work. When my grandmother arrived and saw her state, she quickly plucked a leaf from a pot in the balcony, slit it halfway after heating and covered the toenail with it. Mom not only felt better but the infection also subsided in a few days.

Do you know what that magic plant was? It was Aloe vera.

Aloe vera also known as Aloe barbadensis, quargandal or ghrita kumari is a shrub which grows in dry areas of India, Africa, China and other dry places. There are around 300 known varieties of this plant but only few of them have medicinal properties. The plant is known worldover for its multifold benefits.

Benefits of Aloe Vera:

  • Digestive System: useful in acidity and related problems, ulcers, constipation. It has a soothing effect on digestive tract lining and also acts as laxative.
  • Heart: lowers cholesterol levels.
  • Diabetes: decreases blood sugar levels in diabetic patients.
  • For Women: considered one of the best medicines in Ayurveda, for female reproductive system.
  • Wound Healing: Aloe vera may be effective in treatment of wounds. Some studies have shown that it promotes the rate of healing in first and second degree burns.
  • Skin and Beauty: purifies blood, promotes healthy hair and provides natural glow to skin. Helps in skin conditions such as acne, pimples, allergy rashes (when applied as a cream), scalp problems, falling hair, dandruff etc. Stimulates production of collagen & elastin (proteins), which are necessary to prevent aging.
  • Other Benefits: Anti-cancer effects, enhances immune function.

It can be ingested as juice or gel, applied topically as a gel or an ingredient in creams, moisturizers, etc. Numerous research studies are underway to ascertain the mechanism of action or dosage to be taken for these above mentioned benefits.

Aloe vera also has an excellent nutritional profile. It is a mixture of more than 200 constituents, including amino acids,
enzymes, vitamins (A, B1, B6, B12, C, E & Folic acid), minerals (Calcium, Chromium, Copper, Magnesium, Manganese, Potassium, Sodium, Zinc), Hormones, etc.

Though this magic healer has shown its magic in healing Paronychia, we still need lots of studies to include Aloe vera as a medicine for serious ailments like cancer, ulcers, etc.

Let’s wait and watch!!!