Feeling not quite right but not sure what the problem is? Take our top-to-toe health check to find out what your body is trying to tell you
Sign: DRY, BRITTLE HAIR
Possible cause Hypothyroidism. If you’ve suddenly developed brittle hair without suddenly o’ding on GHDs, you may have an underactive thyroid. When the thyroid gland fails to produce enough thyroid hormone, hair growth – as well as other ody functions, slow down.
Also look for tiredness, too much sleep, weight gain, intolerance to cold.
What to do Ask your GP for a blood test for thyroid function. If the results are negative but you still have symptoms of mild underactive thyroid you may want to take kelp, a natural form of iodine, which nourishes the thyroid. Solgar kelp £6.16 from Solgar Online or from health food stores.
Sign: DIAGONAL CREASE ACROSS THE EARLOBE
Message Increased risk of heart disease. Strange we know, but at least 30 different studies have shown that a diagonal crease across the earlobe is a highly accurate sign of increased risk of heart attack, says Jim Campbell, author of The Body Language of Health (Amazon £10.95). ‘A crease across one earlobe is associated with a 33 per cent increase in heart disease risk while this rose to 77 per cent if both ears were creased.’
What to do Don’t freak out! Some doctors dispute the accuracy of this sign, saying ear creases become more common as we get older. Still, it won’t hurt to ask your GP for a cholesterol and blood pressure test.
Sign: YELLOW SKIN PATCHES AROUND THE NOSE, EYES, MOUTH OR HANDS
Message High cholesterol Another reason to say no to the bacon sarnie – clogged arteries can equal clogged skin. Excess cholesterol deposits itself under the skin and the result can be raised, yellow waxy plaques around the nose, mouth, eyes, or on the backs of hands.
What to do First see you’re your doctor for a cholesterol test. Unfortunately, these skin patches won’t go away once the cholesterol is treated. You will need a referral to a dermatologist to have them removed using surgical techniques, the latest of which is radio frequency, which is usually a one-off treatment done under local anaesthetic.
Sign: BLISTERS ON THE ELBOWS OR KNEES
Message Coeliac disease. Caused by intolerance to the gluten found in everyday foods such as bread, cereals and pasta, coeliac disease left untreated can lead to infertility, miscarriage, osteoporosis and bowel cancer. Most undetected coeliacs will have tummy signs such as bloating after eating or constipation. But others will have strange symptoms without any gut problems, such as patchy hair loss and clusters of small blisters on the elbows and knees. Typically the latter contain a clear liquid and once burst, don’t leave a scar. These are usually an external sign of the deficiencies that undetected ceoliac disease can cause as the body fails to absorb key nutrients.
What to do Your GP can give you a blood test which detects antibodies that only coeliacs produce. If you test positive, you can get substitute gluten-free foods such as breads and cereals on prescription from your pharmacy, or without prescription from supermarkets. Find out more at coeliac.org.uk
QUICK TIP: Do you obsessively crunch ice cubes from your drink? You may have an iron deficiency, says nutritionist Naomi Beinart. ‘No one is certain why iron-deficient people start chewing ice, but some believe it is because a deficiency can lead to a sore tongue which causes sufferers to chew ice for relief!’ Other symptoms include tiredness, pale skin, rapid heart rate, brittle nails and a smooth tongue. Your doctor can check your iron levels with a blood test.
Sign: RED RIM AROUND THE PALM
Message Liver disease. If (like most of us) you’re a regular at the club of ‘woops did I really drink that much?’, this might be your body’s way of shouting ‘Stop!’ Called a ‘palmar flush’ this can be common in people with undetected liver disease. Other symptoms include jaundiced or yellow tinge in the skin or eyes, darkened urine, general itching or light-coloured stools.
What to do Your GP can do a liver function test. Try and eat more liver-enriching foods such as beetroot, avocado, artichoke, lemon, the spice turmeric and raspberries.
Sign: TENDER CALF MUSCLES
Message Magnesium deficiency. Magnesium is the fourth most abundant mineral in the body and essential to bone structure, blood sugar balance and muscle health and deficiencies can show up as cramping or tender muscles. Alcohol and the Pill can reduce your magnesium levels too. Other symptoms of deficiency include leg cramps especially at night, muscle twitching or tremors, severe PMT, weight loss or tiredness.
What to do Magnesium rich foods are green leafy vegetables, nuts, seeds and fish. Alternatively, you can take a good supplement as Lambert’s Magasorb (from nutricentre.com).
Sign: BURNING FEET
Message Vitamin B5 deficiency If your feet suddenly feel hot, swollen and red, most commonly at night you may have a deficiency in vitamin B5, also called pantothenic acid or the ‘anti-stress vitamin’. Other symptoms of deficiency include depression, fatigue, loss of appetite and tingling in the hands.
What to do If you have chronic stress or are taking ‘corticosteroid’ drugs you may benefit from a 100-500 milligram supplement a day, and it takes around 14 days for symptoms to subside. Vitamin B5-rich foods include liver, egg yolk, broccoli, fish, chicken, milk, yoghurt, lentils, mushrooms, avocado and sweet potato.
QUICK TIP Do you always forget your dreams? You might be lacking in vitamin B6, which is essential to calming nerves, mood and memory. ‘Taking 50-100mg of vitamin B6 half an hour before sleep can help you have more lucid and memorable dreams,’ suggest Beinart. ‘It can also help you relax before bed.’
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