Think you’re in tip-top shape?
Sure, you look great, eat well (most of the time), work out and have no obvious medical problems. But are you really as healthy as you should be?
When you really think about it, maybe you do notice some minor annoying symptoms…but you haven’t had a migraine in months and all your limbs are in perfect working order.
Sometimes the signs of ill-health can be much more subtle, and hide some serious underlying conditions.
If any of these seem familiar, perhaps your body is telling you it’s time for a check-up.
1. You’re Low On Energy
You go to bed at a reasonable hour and get a full eight hours sleep, yet you still find it tough to drag yourself out of bed, and need regular caffeine hits to simply survive the day. If this sounds familiar, then something isn’t right.
Take a step back and look at your diet, if it’s laden with alcohol, cigarettes or processed foods then that may account for your lack of energy. When your liver is burdened with the work of detoxifying your body of all the junk you consume, it won’t work as efficiently, slowing down your whole system and making you tired.
Prolonged fatigue is a common symptom of a poorly functioning thyroid or adrenal gland issues. Around 25 million people suffer with hypothyroidism, and about half of those are undiagnosed, so it may just be the cause of your inexplicable exhaustion.
But even more common is exhaustion due to stress. Cut back on your workload, eat a balanced diet, get some exercise, and practice relaxation techniques.
If cleaning up your diet and working to reduce stress levels don’t do it, then some blood tests could be in order to figure out exactly what’s draining your energy. Fatigue that goes on long term can lead to complications like social isolation and depression, so be sure to nip it in the bud.
2. You Have Bad Skin
As your biggest detoxifying organ, your skin can tell a lot about the state of your health. Acne, a rash, or dry skin can signal there’s something more going on than simply not using enough Clean & Clear.
Over 70% of adults, between the ages of 20 and 50, experience outbreaks of adult acne. And quite often there is a simple explanation, like you’ve been burning the candle at both ends and stuffing your face with junk food. Or, your less than smooth skin could also be caused by stress, allergies or food intolerances.
Hormonal imbalances in women, like high testosterone levels or polycystic ovarian syndrome, can also trigger skin outbreaks. If this is the case, all the skin creams in the world won’t cure your acne, the root cause of the problem needs to be resolved.
According to Dr. Mark Hyman, your facial acne could also be connected to your gut health. An imbalance of ‘bad’ bacteria in your gut could cause acne, headaches, and so much more. You might not even suffer from any of the ‘typical’ digestive problems like bloating, constipation, or diarrhea! A balanced diet with probiotic foods or supplements is the first step to restoring your natural gut flora and glowing skin.
3. You’re Shrinking
Could you reach that high shelf only a couple of years ago, and now you find yourself needing a footstool?
The main reason people get smaller in stature is because the gel-like discs in between their spinal vertebrae dry up. It happens naturally with age, but it can be prevented through regular activity.
Getting shorter can also be a sign of bone loss and that’s not something to be taken lightly. Osteoporosis causes weak and brittle bones and is also a symptom of old age.
You can prevent this loss of stature by eating plenty of calcium rich foods, getting enough vitamin D, and doing regular strength training. Dark leafy greens, natural yogurts, sardines, white beans, and tofu are all great sources of calcium. Salmon, mackerel, and fortified dairy can provide you with vitamin D – the ‘sunshine’ vitamin.
If you don’t work to protect your bone health, you’ll suffer fractures, back pain, and may even end up stooped over like the Hunchback of Notre Dame.
4. You Have No Libido
Up to 43% of women and 31% of men have experienced sexual dysfunction, which includes a low sex drive. This is often put down to stress or exhaustion, having a new baby, starting a new job…or a hundred other excuses.
But humans exist to reproduce and the ability and motivation to do just that are central to our health and wellbeing. If you just can’t get in the mood – and haven’t for quite some time – then it might be a sign that there is something more serious going on.
Aside from aging, menopause, and birth control pills, your lack of desire may stem from depression or anxiety. Unfortunately, a loss of sex drive is also a side effect of anti-depressant medication. Hypothyroidism and low levels of sex hormones in both men and women are also potential causes of a low libido.
A poor diet can also leave you with a reduced sex drive, with processed, sugary foods and unhealthy fats taking a lot of the blame. Replace them with libido enhancing watermelon, figs, avocado, eggs, and more. Get the full lowdown on healthy foods for a healthy sexual appetite here.
5. You Have Chapped Lips
Not just annoying and, let’s be honest, kind of unpleasant to look at, cracked lips can be a sign of an underlying health issue.
If you haven’t just spent a week in the Caribbean, or it’s not particularly windy or cold outside, then it could be dehydration or malnutrition that’s causing your dry, flaky lips. Severe dehydration is a medical emergency, but if you’re not experiencing any other symptoms, chances are you just need to up your intake of fluids.
Vitamin deficiencies, from poor diet, can be sorted out by eating right. In particular, watch out for your intake of B vitamins – a lack of B’s is often associated with cracked lips. You’ll find these in leafy greens, legumes, whole grains, and dairy. B12 can be a challenge for vegans to get, so a supplement or plenty of fortified foods are needed if you’re totally plant-based.
If the root cause of your chapped lips isn’t dealt with, it could lead to more serious issues like anemia from a lack of B12.
6. You Sleep Poorly
I bet you don’t associate your bad sleeping habits with how healthy you are! We tend to put a poor nights’ sleep down to a tough day at the office, being amped up after that episode of Game of Thrones, or an after dinner espresso.
While it could be down to these factors, sometimes it can be a little more serious.
When the evening rolls around our bodies are supposed to reduce our levels of the stress hormone cortisol, so we’ll be all set for a good night’s kip. But if we’re stressed, our cortisol levels stay high, keeping us tossing and turning for half the night.
Studies have proven that sleep loss actually raises cortisol levels the next evening, meaning we get stuck in a cyclical pattern of stress and poor sleep. Elevated cortisol levels have been linked to mental and metabolic problems like memory loss and insulin resistance, which can eventually lead to diabetes.
And, because our bodies are supposed to recharge and self-repair as we sleep, a prolonged period of sleep deprivation leaves us with a weakened immune system and greater susceptibility when cold and flu season comes along.
The good news is that diet can play a significant role in reducing stress, leading to a solid night’s sleep. Leafy green vegetables, wild salmon, blueberries, fermented foods, avocados, and dark chocolate all help fight the blues. Check out my post about how food affects our emotions for more mood boosting nutritional tips.
7. You Snore
Does your girlfriend kick you in the middle of the night because you continuously wake her with your loud snores? Not just annoying for her, it might also be potentially dangerous for you (the snoring that is, not the kicking).
Snorers often have a restless sleep and are at risk for serious disorders of the heart and lungs. Extreme cases of snoring can lead to elevated blood pressure, irregular heartbeat, heart attacks, and sudden death.
If you’re not overweight and you skipped the nightcap, then your snoring could be down to anatomical abnormalities like inflamed tonsils or nasal polyps; or a functional abnormality like allergies.
It could also be the common but potentially serious disorder, sleep apnea – where the breathing actually stops briefly. This can be caused when throat muscles relax or, in rarer cases, when the muscles that control breathing don’t get the proper signals from your brain.
A study has found that consumption of beer was significantly associated with mild and moderate sleep apnea so try to avoid drinking it just before bed. Dairy products are also thought to lead to snoring as they are mucus forming so see if removing the milk, cheese, yoghurt, and chocolate stops those annoying nocturnal noises.
Because teas can actually help reduce congestion and phlegm (and therefore snoring) trade in your evening beer for a cup of calming green tea.
8. You Bruise Easily
Although most bruises are harmless, if you frequently find strange marks on your body it might be a sign of an underlying medical condition such as a blood-clotting problem or a blood disease.
Easy bruising is also known to be a symptom of brittle bone disease, celiac disease, kidney problems, leukemia or Von Willebrand disease…to name just a few.
Of course, it might be that you’re anemic due to low levels of dietary iron, a well-known cause of mystery bruising. Add more iron rich beef, turkey, shellfish, lentils, beans, and spinach to your diet to prevent the development of anemia.
Deficiencies in vitamin K, vitamin C and zinc have also been cited as causes for easy bruising. A balanced diet will sort this out for you too.
If you notice this bruising after starting a new medication, have frequent large or unexplained bruises, notice bleeding, or have a family history of bruising, then it’s recommended you visit your doctor.
9. You’re Anxious
Anxiety is an emotional state of worry, nervousness, and unease. It has nothing to do with how healthy your body is, right? Well, sometimes it does.
Anxiety can stem from physical issues like hormonal imbalances. Research by Harvard and Emory University neuroscientists found that some women’s vulnerability to anxiety can be explained by their estrogen levels. Insufficient amounts of the thyroid hormone (hypothyroidism) are also known to cause anxiety and even frequent panic attacks.
Web MD lists anxiety as a symptom of a medical illness like heart attack, heat stroke or hypoglycemia – although these would usually be accompanied by other symptoms. Certain medications can also cause anxiety, as can alcoholism or illicit drug use.
If you’re feeling panicked or overwhelmed, and can’t pin it down to anything going on in your life, then try switching up your diet to see if that helps.
An amino acid called tryptophan is believed to have a positive effect on stress and anxiety because it helps your brain produce the feel-good chemical, serotonin. Tryptophan is found in eggs, turkey, oats, lentils, nuts, seeds, and milk.
Carbohydrates also increase production of serotonin in the brain so make sure to choose whole grains like brown rice and millet. Plus the amazing omega-3 fatty acids in oily fish have been shown to be as effective, or more effective, than anti-depressants!
10. You Have Sore Or Bleeding Gums
Gums that are sore, swollen, or bleed are not a sign of a healthy mouth.
They are, however, a sign of periodontal (or gum) disease, a condition that can lead to major damage to the tissue and bones that support your teeth. Already quite a common complaint, a 2010 study by the American Academy of Periodontology suggests that the prevalence of periodontal disease may have been underestimated by as much as 50%.
The National Institute of Dental & Craniofacial Research states that people with gum disease were more likely to have difficulty controlling blood sugar; and pregnant women with the disease were more likely to have smaller and more premature babies. Even though a link has been found, it hasn’t yet been determined if periodontal disease actually causes these conditions.
There’s a whole body of research to indicate that gum disease increases the risk of heart disease…so it’s time to start looking after your oral hygiene.
If you brush and floss regularly, then your poor dental state is likely down to a bad diet. Too many carbohydrates, sugars, sodas, and fruit juices, inevitably lead to tooth decay and poor gum health. Trade in your sweet treats for healthy fruits and vegetables with a high water content like pears, melons, celery, and cucumbers, while limiting sweeter produce like bananas and dried fruits.
Who knows, minding your teeth might just save your life!
If you’re experiencing any of the symptoms I listed above, don’t panic…there are lots of reasons why your lips are chapped or you woke up with a huge pimple right between your eyes! If you experience other symptoms or generally feel a bit ‘off’ then head to your doctor for a check-up.
And remember, food is medicine so cut out the junk and eat a healthy, well-balanced diet to feel great and look even better.
I’d love to hear from you guys. Did any of these signs of poor health surprise you?