Your body has a way of communicating when something’s up with your health – here are 8 signs not to ignore from Healthista GP Dr Deyo Famuboni
‘Listen to your body.’ This is ever so true especially when it is trying to warn you that something isn’t right. There are so many subtle signs it gives us, that picking up on them, by being attuned to what is normal for you is vital to feeling well and preventing future problems. Here are some signs your body may be using to tell you something’s up with your health and what to do about it.
Your waist size is bigger than 80cm as a woman or 94cm as a man.
You go shopping for a new pair of jeans and realise that your waist size has gone up. This can put you at risk of developing diabetes and a condition called the metabolic syndrome if it is higher than 80cm as a woman or 94cm as a man. The risk is substantially higher if more than 88cm or 102cm as a woman or man respectively. With high rates of obesity and associated waist circumference, diabetes, which gives us problems with tiredness, concentration, frequent urinating and drinking water short term, and long term can affect our vision, circulation and life expectancy is common. Prevention is key and keeping our waist circumference low helps this. Regular exercise and a good diet can keep this in check but talk to your doctor about a test for Type-2 diabetes.
2. Yellow spots around your eyes and or your elbows
This is a condition known as xanthelasma and is due to fatty deposits just under your skin. It can be sign that your cholesterol level is raised. A blood test, usually done on a empty stomach, can tell if that is the case. Depending on the cause of this, dietary interventions and exercise can help to reduce this. We get concerned about cholesterol because it can be a risk factor for developing problems with the heart or brain such a a heart attack or a stroke respectively.
3. You have darker circles around your eyes
Though not getting enough sleep can contribute to this, dark circles could also be due to allergies and frequently itching the eyes or rubbing the nose. Working out what they could be, for example, house dust mites, and limiting your exposure may help. If the itching is frequent, anti-allergy medications may help. Research suggests probiotics may help to alleviate some allergies.
4. Itchy feet
Spending time in sweaty trainers at the gym or swimming often? The damp environment can increase fungal infections, causing the feet to itch. You may notice a white scaly or damp rash in between your toes or under the feet. An anti-fungal cream, usually available over the counter can help to treat this. Good hygiene and airing the feet out as often as possible helps with healing and preventing a recurrence.
5. Cracks at corners of your mouth
Increase your intake of foods rich in B vitamins and iron.
This is usually your body telling you to increase your intake of foods rich in B vitamins and iron such as leafy green vegetables, lean meat and eggs. Once dry and cracked, this can become infected. Topical treatment and moisturising usually clears it up.
6. Very itchy rash
Especially if not improving despite using creams available over the counter, this can be a sign of coeliac disease. This is a gluten-sensitivity condition whereby the body reacts to the gluten protein in food. This affects the lining of the gut, making it difficult to absorb nutrients. The skin can therefore be affected. In the long run and depending on the severity, it can cause chronic damage to the bowels. It is important to know if you have this condition as strictly avoiding gluten is the main treatment and leads to it resolving. Your doctor can do a simple blood test for coeliac disease and if positive, you can purchase gluten-free food on prescription.
7. Thinning hair
Your iron levels may be low or on the lower side of normal. This can be problematic for women especially as we may be health conscious and refrain from animal products rich in iron. Furthermore we lose iron monthly and therefore can become anaemic. Having a thyroid problem can also affect the hair. A blood test can tell if its due to these problems. Increasing iron rich foods or taking a supplement if its low can help.
8. Brittle nails
This usually happens if we over expose the nails to wet, damp conditions or frequently use nail polish. Moisturising the nails regularly can help and using a supplement with biotin (vitamin b7) may be effective. It can sometimes be a sign of a fungal infection, psoriasis, thyroid problems, or arthritis. If due to these conditions, one would usually have other symptoms such as a rash, fatigue, painful joints respectively. Do seek advice from your doctor.
This is your body telling you to increase the fibre and water in your diet. Most people don’t get close to the recommended intake of fibre in their daily diet. The type of fibre is also important to prevent constipation and excess wind or bloating. We need both insoluble (examples include wheatbran, whole-grains) and soluble fibres (examples are oatbran, pulses) to prevent constipation and help decrease cholesterol levels respectively. Soluble fibres are more likely to cause wind and bloating,vhowever gradually building up your intake of both types can prevent this from being problematic. If it does happen, the body gradually adapts and it should settle with time.
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Deyo Famuboni is a London GP, follow her on Instagram @deyof