Protein 101

By Samantha Gilbert, FNC, CHNP, CNC     Last updated on September 23rd, 2021

I’ve been getting a lot of emails lately asking about what I eat, and more specifically, the role protein plays in healing undermethylation. As a high copper, undermethylated individual, I thrive on a higher protein diet.

Protein and Undermethylation

Contrary to all those “studies” citing how bad animal protein is for us, the role protein plays in repair and healing is critical, especially when it comes to brain health and cognitive performance.

Unfortunately, it’s been hammered into our heads that higher-protein diets cause cancer and kidney disease and that the only way to achieve optimum health is through big bowls of kale.

So if you’ve bought into the acid-alkaline myth (foods don’t influence blood pH), or the belief that too much protein turns into glucose by spontaneous gluconeogenesis (there is no solid evidence to support the idea that excess protein is turned into glucose because gluconeogenesis is demand-driven, not supply-driven) then this article is for you.

It’s taken me years to figure out how to eat optimally for my biotype, but one thing’s for certain, I feel a heck of a lot better eating more animal protein than I ever did subsisting on avocados and green leafy salads.

And to be clear, I love vegetables (I eat about a pound of them per day) and at the time, I loved being vegan, but my health really declined on this lifestyle because I wasn’t honoring my true biochemistry.

Of course, there are valid reasons for limiting protein intake for certain folks, but to suggest that animal protein causes kidney disease/failure and cancer is really misguided.

Keep in mind that everyone’s protein requirements will vary based on activity and stress levels, methylation status (overmethylators do better with less protein and more plants), blood sugar levels, and metabolic issues. And as you know, my motto is “we are all biochemically unique, each requiring different nutrients to thrive.”

Why is animal protein important (especially for an undermethylator)?

  • Unlike plant-based proteins, animal proteins are much more similar to human proteins, which makes them more readily available for our own protein synthesizing reactions. This includes supporting methylation cycle enzymes to ensure SAMe, homocysteine, and creatine synthesis.
  • Plant proteins are compromised by their limitation of one or more amino acids, aren’t so great at regulating blood sugar, and contain chemical defense systems that can be toxic to humans and animals (this is why cooking is important for many vegetables because heat neutralizes these toxins).
  • Animal protein also contains the most abundant supply of bioavailable zinc, which is critical for proper brain function (not to mention the healthy functioning of over 300 enzymatic processes in the body).

Who might benefit from a high protein diet?

  • Individuals with methylation imbalances. Undermethylators thrive on higher protein diets because protein is needed to create methyl; whereas carbohydrates and fats have no effect. Overmethylators thrive on folates (folate is a powerful demethylating agent) and thus do really well on a plant-based diet (but still need some protein). Keep in mind that a high folate, plant-based diet is a cancer-promoting diet for undermethylated individuals.
  • Individuals with blood sugar and metabolic problems. High protein diets have a stabilizing effect on blood sugar. Excess copper reduces zinc levels, which interferes with glucose metabolism and therefore blood sugar regulation. Zinc is also needed to create/regulate insulin, so when these levels stabilize, inflammatory markers from insulin sensitivity to cholesterol and triglycerides also stabilize.
  • Women who are estrogen intolerant. Copper affects men and women differently. It is especially damaging to women because we have higher levels of estrogen. Copper rises with estrogen when a woman is pregnant and should naturally lower after baby is born, but too often copper levels do not go back to normal. The baby is out of the womb, but copper is still feeding the blood vessels that were created to support the child in utero. Protein is an excellent stabilizing macronutrient and craving eliminator when copper and hormone production is imbalanced. Keep in mind copper also comes from exogenous sources such as birth control pills, hormone replacement therapy, multi-vitamin and mineral supplements, and water.
  • Individuals that are under a lot of stress and suffer from depression, high anxiety, and panic disorders. As I mentioned above, protein has a calming, stabilizing effect on blood sugar. High stress levels frequently lead to hypoglycemia and other blood sugar imbalances. Starting your day with protein can boost energy levels, improve sleep, sharpen brain function, and reduce anxiety and mood swings.

Are you confused about all the conflicting information out there on protein? If so, try these:

  1. Have protein for breakfast to see if your energy increases.
  2. Have protein at regular intervals throughout the day to see if your mood improves.
  3. Create a food mood journal notating physical and emotional responses.
  4. Check out my Low Folate Cookbook for help with meal planning, food lists, and delicious recipes.

As always, I’d love to know how this works out for you in the comments below. It is through sharing your experiences that we create community, eliminate guilt and shame, and bring about healing.


37 thoughts on “Protein 101”

      1. What does this test find place can it be taken in denmark through a hospital doctors ward or lab. What is the name of the test. Does gluthation help methylizing.

  1. I also have high copper and undermethylater. I find it difficult to get enough protein in my diet how do you do it. I know it’s the major reason why I’ve had so many problems lately with Lyme disease the methylation and a few other things is because I didn’t get enough protein in my diet so I was lacking amino acids which I knew all about but I just wasn’t getting enough. How much is enough per day?

    Thank you

    1. Hi Patty,
      Smaller meals though out the day will help acclimate your body to protein and reduce digestive distress from larger meals, in addition to balancing blood sugar.

  2. Dear Sammy,
    I’m very thankful for your site and all your informations you share.
    Just one question: do you take the HTMA test reliable? Or should we go along only blood tests? I just ask it because my HTMA showed lower copper to zinc ratio, and I have huge insuline levels, and a massive insuline resistance too, with worsening blood sugar levels during last years.
    The HTMA advised me more animal protein too, and showed a very elevated tin level, so I need to change my amalgams as well. It also stated that it can lower iron in body, and 20 years of bloodworks seem proving it, with the strong anemia symptoms together.

    But can I trust these results, or is it better to go along blood copper, zinc, ceruloplasmin and other tests?
    Thank you very much!

    1. Hi Vicky,
      It’s a myth that HTMA is the gold standard of testing and superior to blood and urine. All must be used to create a healing protocol.

  3. Hi Sami, thanks for this article. How much protein as a percentage of total calories are we talking for an under-methylated individual with pyroloria, high copper and low zinc?
    Would be helpful to know what to shoot for. Thanks 🙂

  4. Hi Sami! I am so excited to have a consult with you next month and to start working with the Mensah clinic!! This is a huge piece of my health puzzle and it only took me 5 years to find it! (ugh). Anyway, what do you and Dr. Mensah do with regards to the large portion of the population that have the Apoe 4 gene or a partial mutation? Dr. Dale Bredesen has a protocol to monitor lipids, sugars and other issues with Apoe 4 (and apoe 3/4) and the Apoe’s are hyper absorbers of FAT so it was suggested for me to increase my consumption of olive oil and avocado (now I know to avoid that as I suspect copper and undermethylation) but also to have up to 10 cups of veggies per day and much more fish and even vegan sources of protein. Very confusing. Also when you and Dr. Mensah see copper levels in the normal range but people are presenting with copper toxicity symptoms do they they have to go out and get hair analysis? Thanks so much!

  5. Hi Sami – I’m happy to say I’ve had great results switching to a low copper diet, focusing on animal protein, avoiding folate and taking a couple of key supplements like zinc, B6, magnesium, wholefood C. I feel really good and from what I can see there is more improvement to come.
    I’m 47, have had issues with eating and weight my whole life and until very recently was a vegetarian eating lots of avocadoes, spinach, empty carbs and feeling increasingly terrible. A couple of big events in my life tipped me into a fairly significant depression and luckily I was very motivated to do something about it, and ended up reading a lot of your blogs and taking a few simple principles on.
    Thanks very much for the information I really appreciate it, and am grateful for the reasonably direct message you’re promoting, without to much focus on the finer details and confusing chemistry I could never hope to understand.
    Dave (Sydney, Australia)

  6. I am undermethylated and do well with higher proteins where I feel like my energy is stable throughout the day. I was diagnosed with CIRS, POTS, and MCAD. Because of POTS, my digestion is slowed. I am intolerant to histamine. My question is, if I consume protein at every meal and my digestion is slower, will the undigested protein produce more histamine as it sits? Also, do you know of any protein powders that an undermethylated individual can consume without reacting? Is it the histamine in whey protein that make me react or the glutamate? Forget vegetarian protein powders, they make me feel “crazy” and anxious when I drink them due all the greens. Would love a free consultation with you! Btw, 3 years ago I had my copper IUD removed because I felt like it was turning me into a different person. Whew, so glad I did that!

  7. Hey Sami,
    Thanks for the lovely article. What are you thoughts on the role of animal proteins on the microbiome and more specifically how high animal protein diets have shown to enhance purtrification in the gut and shift our microbial communities to the dominance of less favourable species?

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