Bags under your eyes? – Always Feeling dizzy? – Recurrent mouth ulcers or odd muscle cramps? They may be your body’s way of warning you that something is wrong.
WARNING SIGNS: You should listen to your body
It’s one of the oldest medical adages: listen to your body. Our bodies have many ways of communicating when something is wrong but, too often, we dismiss early warning signs, particularly when they appear trivial or don’t interfere with our lives.
Pain is the most obvious indicator that all is not well. Its purpose is to try to protect the body from further damage. Sometimes we’ll try to silence the warning by treating it with a painkiller or some other remedy, without dealing with the real root of the problem.
But that’s not the only way that the body signals a problem. Measuring your weight, waist size, temperature, blood pressure and pulse rate occasionally are all good ways of listening.
Sudden changes could be an indicator that something is wrong. If you become aware of an unusual symptom, which persists for more than a few days, it’s worth having it checked out by a professional.
There will probably be nothing seriously wrong, or you’ll just have to make a few improvements to your diet or lifestyle. But medical history is littered with cases of patients who ignored their body’s own early warnings only to discover later that it was the first sign of a health problem.
Dr Debashis Singh, a London GP, says: “There are many symptoms and signs that people may find trivial but can often provide the doctor with clues to a possible underlying illness.
“At medical school people were taught to start examining a patient by looking at their hands to find clues about what may be causing them problems.
“Even the shape and condition of the fingernails can reveal if a person is suffering from a number of ailments, ranging from psoriasis to a vitamin B12 deficiency.
“Some symptoms and signs are of more clinical value than others. Itching, weight changes, skin rashes, thirst, sweating, tiredness and pins and needles to name but a few, are all symptoms a doctor will see nearly every day.
“There are also many medical myths and anecdotes circulating about what symptoms are related to – some should definitely be taken more seriously than others.
He adds: “You know your body better than anyone and if you feel you have a persistent but seemingly trivial problem then it is worth having a check-up.
Recent public-health campaigns have highlighted the importance of early diagnosis in treating heart attacks and strokes. Chest pain and prolonged, or recurring, headaches should always be taken seriously.
A flabby waistline can put you at great health risks
From seeing stars to developing a stitch, it is claimed there are many other, sometimes unusual, ways in which the body communicates. The following symptoms have been linked to specific conditions:
Most causes of dizziness – feeling faint and light-headed – are relatively minor and often accompany illnesses such as the flu, the common cold or an ear infection.
However, persistent light-headedness can indicate problems with the inner ear; insufficient blood and oxygen supply to the brain; blood pressure abnormalities; or heart problems, such as a valve disorder, heart attack or stroke.
Flakes of skin shed by the scalp are often dismissed as no more than an embarrassing irritant. Persistent dandruff, however, could be a sign of a diet deficient in vitamin B and essential fatty acids. A diet that is high in sugar can make the condition worse. Flaxseed oil is thought to help prevent dandruff and can be taken in liquid or capsule form.
BITING YOUR NAILS
Normally dismissed as a bad habit or a sign of stress, it is claimed that nail-biting could also point to a deficiency in minerals. The nails, like hair, are made up of minerals and obsessive chewing could be your body craving more fruit and vegetables. High levels of calcium, a major mineral, can be found in leafy green vegetables, nuts and seeds, dairy products and dried fruit. White spots on nails could be a sign of zinc deficiency.
BAGS UNDER THE EYES
At some stage most of us will be afflicted by unsightly dark bags under the eyes. Normally it’s just a sign of too many late nights or too much alcohol, but it is believed that persistent bags are a possible sign of an allergy.
Pollen, dust mites and pets are common causes of allergies. Another cause may be deficiency in vitamin B6, found in poultry, fish, pork, cereals, vegetables and fruit. Dehydration has also been linked to the problem, so it may be your body telling you to drink more fluids.
METALLIC TASTE IN THE MOUTH
For reasons that are unclear, a metallic taste in the mouth is a common indicator of early pregnancy.
Researchers at the Harvard Medical School in America found that people who store weight around their middle are twice as likely to have a heart attack as those whose fat is evenly distributed. Having a high waist-to-hip ratio is one of the strongest indicators of risk, along with being overweight.
Standing up too quickly, rubbing the eyes, or a bump on the head can produce the harmless sensation of seeing stars but the symptom could also be an indicator of a torn or detached retina.
If the vitreous fluid that gives the eyeball its shape rubs or pulls on the retina – the thin, light-sensitive membrane in the back of your eyeball that allows you to see – it can distort the image you’re focusing on, creating the illusion that you’re seeing stars. People who suffer from migraine headaches commonly see flashes of light shortly before an attack.
CRUNCHING ICE CUBES
Although the exact reason is unclear, it’s claimed that crunching ice cubes may be a sign of iron deficiency. Eating or wanting to eat substances that have no nutritional value is called pica.
A little white furriness on the tongue is fine – it’s the normal layer of bacteria that every tongue should have. But if you scrape your finger over the surface and it leaves a deep groove, it could be a sign of oral thrush. The infection could also be present in the digestive tract, hidden from view.
COLD HANDS AND FEET
Constantly cold hands and feet, even when you’re well wrapped up, could indicate circulation difficulties. Raynaud’s syndrome is a condition where people develop spasms in the blood vessels going to the hands or feet. The hands changing colour from white to blue to red are another indicator of this condition. Cold hands and feet can also be a sign of iron deficiency.
A stitch in your side, when running or taking exercise, is your body’s way of telling you to make more room for breathing. It happens because the impact of each step causes the body’s main internal organs to move slightly downwards causing cramp in the diaphragm. To alleviate a stitch, slow down and steady your breathing. If you get a stitch on the right side, exhale forcefully as your left foot hits the ground. Do the opposite if you get a stitch on the left side.
Too much salt is bad for you but too little can be one of the causes of cramp. Potassium deficiency is another possible reason – try munching on a banana for a quick fix. Cramp is also the body’s way of telling you to slow down if you’re exercising too hard.
POOR SENSE OF TASTE
This could be an indicator of zinc deficiency, which suppresses taste and smell and causes loss of appetite. Zinc is essential for wound healing and many other important body functions. It’s found in foods including oysters, beef, liver, crab, seafood, poultry, nuts and seeds and wholegrains.
A WHITE RING AROUND THE IRIS OF THE EYE
It’s claimed that our eyes can tell us a lot about our state of health. Particularly in younger patients, a white ring around the iris (the coloured part) is an indicator of high cholesterol levels. A reduction in fatty food is advisable.
-Eye colour can be significant as well.
Blue-eyed people are said to be more prone to “acid” conditions such as arthritic, rheumatic, asthmatic and ulcerative ailments. They also have a tendency to succumb to cold extremities, lymphatic congestion and weak kidneys. Those with brown eyes suffer more from digestive problems. Iridologists, who read the eye, believe that a twinkle in your eye indicates good health.
The secrets of fertility may lie in the shape of the hands and fingers. Researchers at Liverpool University’s School for Biological Sciences, who examined 100 men and women attending an infertility clinic, discovered that men with symmetrical hands and long ring fingers are more likely to father children.
Men with ring fingers much longer than their index fingers tend to have higher levels of testosterone. In women, a longer index finger is associated with higher levels of oestrogen – known to play a critical role in egg production.
RINGING, ROARING OR BUZZING IN THE EARS
This could be a sign of tinnitus, a condition that is normally caused by exposure to noise. Ringing and other sensations are signs of underlying nerve damage or irritation and should be checked by a doctor.
Recurrent mouth ulcers can be an early sign of diabetes or anaemia. If you get an unusual number, it’s well worth having a blood test to check for these problems. Mouth ulcers can also signify a deficiency in iron, vitamin B12 or folate. Usually mouth ulcers are harmless, although irritating, and should heal within seven to 10 days.
Research By T-jakes