High-Protein Levels in Blood – A Comprehensive Guide by CARE

When we think of blood, we envision a red fluid coursing through our veins, carrying oxygen and nutrients throughout our body. However, blood is much more than that. It's a complex mixture of various components, and one crucial element in this mix is proteins. Have you recently got back a blood test result with high protein? High protein levels in the blood plasma can cause concern and may indicate an underlying health issue. But what causes high protein levels in the blood? And why is there even protein in our veins? In this article, CARE will delve into the fascinating world of blood proteins. We will explore what causes high protein levels in the blood, the role of blood proteins in our body, and how a blood test for protein levels can shed light on your overall well-being. Are you ready? Let’s get started.

Blog Author Elena Health Coach at CARE
Elena Iagovitina

Health Coach

Published in General Health
7 min read · Jan 16, 2024

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What Causes High-Protein Levels in Blood?

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Before we explore the causes of high protein levels in your blood count, we want to explain how protein even get in there. After all, not many people know that proteins are part of their blood. So, how does the protein make its way into our bloodstream?

If you eat something that contains proteins, these proteins will later end up in your bloodstream. This process begins with the digestion of dietary proteins in your stomach and the small intestine. Amino acids, the building blocks of proteins, are absorbed into your bloodstream through the small intestine's specialized cells and are transported to the liver, where they are used to synthesize various proteins.

These proteins are then distributed to tissues and cells throughout the body, where they each play individual vital roles. The bloodstream acts as a transport system, ensuring that the body has a constant supply of amino acids and proteins to support various and diverse biological functions in your body.

Role of Proteins in Blood – Two Protein Groups

Before we get to the reasons behind elevated protein levels in blood plasma, it's essential to understand the indispensable role proteins play in the circulatory system. Our blood is an intricate fluid, and proteins are the unsung heroes that maintain its balance and functionality.

Blood proteins can be categorized into two primary groups: albumin and globulins. Each of these groups has distinct functions crucial for our overall health. [1]

Albumin – Maintaining Pressure

Albumin is the most abundant protein in blood plasma, constituting about 60% of the total protein content. This protein is produced by the liver and serves various critical functions in the body.

One of its primary roles is to maintain osmotic pressure within our blood vessels. This osmotic pressure is essential for the movement of fluids, nutrients, and waste products between the blood and the body's tissues. Albumin also acts as a carrier for many small molecules, including hormones, fatty acids, and drugs, helping them move through the bloodstream to their respective destinations. [1]

Globulins – Immune Defense

Globulins constitute the rest of the protein content in blood plasma. This diverse group of proteins can be further divided into types of protein like alpha, beta, and gamma globulins. Every type of globulin has specific functions, such as immune system support and transportation of lipids.  [1]

For instance, gamma globulins are primarily antibodies, which are crucial in our immune defense against infections.

In essence, blood proteins help maintain the fluid balance, transport vital molecules, and support our immune system. With this foundational knowledge, let's explore why high-protein levels in the blood can occur. [1]

But let’s get back to this article's main topic: What causes elevated protein levels in blood?

Elevated protein levels in the blood plasma can result from various factors, including underlying medical conditions, lifestyle choices, and even temporary situations like dehydration. [2]

CARE has summarized some of the most common and possible causes for high protein levels in the blood serum:

The Most Common Causes For Elevated Protein Levels

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1. Do You Drink Enough? — Dehydration

Mild to moderate dehydration can cause an apparent increase in your blood protein levels. As the body loses water through perspiration, respiration, and urination, the concentration of proteins in the blood increases. [2]

This doesn't necessarily imply a medical issue; simply rehydration can often normalize protein levels. Therefore, make sure you stay hydrated throughout the day.

2. Chronic Inflammation

Conditions associated with chronic inflammation, such as autoimmune diseases (e.g., rheumatoid arthritis, lupus), infections, and chronic inflammatory disorders, can lead to increased levels of certain globulins, particularly gamma globulins. [2]

This is a response by the immune system to combat the underlying issue. In the presence of chronic inflammation, the immune system becomes activated. It releases various proteins, including antibodies (gamma globulins), as part of the immune response to combat the perceived threat, which could be an infection, autoimmune disorder, or other underlying condition.

3. Alcohol Intake & Liver Disease

The liver is the primary organ responsible for producing many blood proteins, including albumin and most globulins. If the liver's ability to produce these blood proteins is compromised, say because it is kept busy due to alcohol abuse, the liver can’t function normally, and this can lead to elevated protein blood levels. [2]

Furthermore, liver diseases, such as cirrhosis, hepatitis B, and fatty liver disease, can impair the liver's ability to produce proteins correctly, leading to a decrease in albumin levels and an increase in certain globulins.

4. Monoclonal Gammopathy

This is a group of disorders that affect plasma cells in the bone marrow. Health conditions like multiple myeloma and monoclonal gammopathy of undetermined significance (MGUS) can lead to the production of abnormal proteins in the blood, contributing to higher levels of protein. [3]

5. Kidney Disease

Your kidneys play a significant role in regulating the balance of proteins in your blood. When they don't function correctly, as in the case of certain kidney diseases, the body may lose more protein in the urine, leading to higher blood protein levels. [2]

6. Digestive Issues & Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)

Do you have a problem with digesting certain foods, or do you often feel bloated?

Conditions like Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis, which are part of the IBD group, can trigger chronic inflammation and impact the absorption of proteins in the gut, contributing to elevated blood protein levels. If digestion is an issue for you, your elevated blood protein levels might be caused by inflammation in your digestive system. [2]

And what are the typical symptoms of high blood protein levels?

What Are the Symptoms of High Blood Protein Levels?

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High-protein levels in the blood, also called hyperproteinemia, are typically not manifested with noticeable symptoms, especially in cases of mild or temporary increases due to factors like dehydration or alcohol consumption. Still, there are some symptoms that you might experience if you suffer from high blood protein over a prolonged period of time.

CARE has summarized some of these symptoms of elevated blood protein levels:

1. Fatigue: Conditions like multiple myeloma, monoclonal gammopathy, and other blood disorders that cause high-protein blood levels can lead to fatigue and weakness. These conditions often disrupt the normal production of blood cells, which can lead to anemia. [4]

2. Recurrent Infections: Elevated levels of gamma globulins can suggest immune system overactivity or an autoimmune condition, making individuals more prone to recurrent infections. You might experience more colds or catch a fever from infectious diseases, especially during winter. [4]

Protein Levels – Blood Test

Blood tests are the primary diagnostic tools used to measure protein levels in your blood. The two main tests used for this purpose are serum total protein and serum albumin.

These tests can provide valuable information about the concentration of proteins in the blood and help identify potential underlying issues. Often, a CDC (complete blood count) is done to identify several biomarkers and different compounds in your blood, including your blood protein.

1. Serum Total Protein

This test measures the total protein concentration in the blood, including albumin and globulins.

Normal total protein levels in adults typically range between 6.0 to 8.3 grams per deciliter (g/dL) of blood. As already mentioned, high total protein levels may indicate dehydration or other underlying medical conditions that lead to increased production of globulins. [5]

2. Serum Albumin

Albumin levels are measured separately in the serum albumin test. A normal range for albumin levels usually falls within the range of 3.4 to 5.4 g/dL. [6]

Lower albumin levels may suggest liver or kidney disease, malnutrition, or inflammatory conditions. High albumin levels are less common but can be associated with dehydration. [6]

In addition to these standard tests, if your healthcare provider suspects specific medical conditions, they may order additional tests to measure the levels of different globulins, such as gamma globulins. These more specialized tests can provide a clearer picture of what may be causing the elevation in blood protein levels.

If these blood tests come to the result that you have high protein in your blood, this can serve as a diagnostic clue.

However, it's crucial to remember that elevated protein levels do not represent a specific diagnosis but rather a sign that further investigation is needed. Interpretation of blood protein levels should always be done in the context of a comprehensive clinical evaluation.

CARE is your designated healthcare provider that helps you to stay healthy and to accompany you on your individual health journey. With our intricate health check-ups and in-depth blood tests, we can give you a comprehensive insight into your wellness, your protein blood levels and your overall health.

Your Blood Tells A Story – Listen To It

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In the complex world of your blood, proteins like albumin and globulins act as the body's sentinels and couriers, orchestrating essential functions like maintaining osmotic balance, transporting vital molecules, and defending against infections.

When the balance of these proteins is disturbed, it can be a sign of a smaller or larger issue. Therefore, regular blood tests, including high-protein blood tests, and a thorough health check by healthcare professionals like CARE are the key to staying healthy and making wise decisions regarding your lifestyle habits or dietary intake. Remember, your blood tells a story, and it's essential to listen to it.

A blood test with CARE can give you a profound insight into your protein blood levels, dietary intake, and overall well-being, also concerning protein levels in your blood.

List of References

Blog Author Elena Health Coach at CARE

Elena Iagovitina

Health Coach at CARE Zurich

About the author

Elena is an enthusiastic Health Coach and blog writer at CARE, with a passion for holistic medicine and health. Previously, Elena worked for almost five years as a coach leading retreats, workshops, and seminars. These included mind-body therapy: breath work, meditation, and massage; as well as energy force therapy: reiki, and qi gong; and third expressive therapy: movement, writing and support groups. Elena shares exciting articles on the blog, on the topic of where the alternative and traditional medicine intersect with Western Medicine. Elena is also the driving force behind the CARE community. In her spare time, she enjoys hiking, traveling to remote locations and dancing. You might also see her on the lake of Zurich as a coast guard. Join her on her journey to learn more about health and discover the world of preventive medicine! Visit all articles written by Elena!