Your body has some very simple ways to tell you about its basic needs. If it needs energy, you feel hungry. If it needs rest, you feel sleepy. And if you stick your hand in a fire, the searing agony shooting up your arm will tell you to take it out right away, you idiot. Some of its other messages, however, can be more subtle. But that doesn’t make them any less important, and listening to them could even save your life. So here are 20 warnings from your body that you need to take better care of it.
We all feel a bit tired once in a while. However, if that exhaustion extends for days, you might be one of the 20 percent of Americans affected by fatigue. While it can be brought on by stress or sleep deprivation, it can also be a sign of an iron deficiency, heart problems or even diabetes, all of which mean that it could be high time to change your diet. First see your doctor to make sure, though.
19. Pale skin
A pallid complexion has long been seen as a sign of ill health, and there is indeed science to back up this conventional wisdom. Pale skin can, in fact, be a sign of an iron deficiency. “When red blood cells become low with iron, they become smaller and paler in the center so skin also becomes paler,” Marilyn Murr of the University of Texas Health Science Center told Everyday Health in 2015. Regardless of your skin tone, if the inside of your bottom eyelid is unusually pale, then some red meat and spinach may be in order.
Snoring might seem like a harmless annoyance, but it can be a deadly serious issue. It can actually be caused by an excess of fat in the neck, a sure sign that you’re carrying a bit of excess weight, meaning that it may be time to go on a diet. And if that isn’t enough of a wake-up call for you, snoring can even be connected to issues such as heart disease and stroke.
17. A sweaty head
If you notice that your head is often sweaty, don’t just mop your brow. New moms are often asked to look out for head sweating in their babies as it’s a telltale sign of a vitamin D deficiency. This can inhibit the body from using calcium which, in turn, can lead to a softening of the bones and other problems. Maybe you need some more sunshine in your life or, failing that, more fish and eggs in your diet.
16. Worn teeth
If your back teeth are going bad, you might assume that it’s a purely dental problem. However, the damage could be caused by your own stomach. In fact, you might be suffering from acid reflux without even knowing it. “Stomach acid can eat away at the enamel on your teeth,” explained Dr. Ken Sutherland on Delta Dental’s website. Unchecked, this condition can not only rot your teeth, but it can also damage the esophagus and even lead to cancer.
15. Chapped lips
While you might think nothing of it and simply apply some balm to deal with the problem, it may be worth listening to what your chapped lips are telling you. They could in fact be pointing to low vitamin B levels. This deficiency can bring on anemia, vision loss and even mental health problems, so get those chapped lips around plenty of eggs, greens, fish and meat.
14. Dry, brittle hair
While dry or fragile hair may simply be a sign of you having a bad hair day, it could also mean that it’s time to brush up on your health. Aside from being a possible indicator of a vitamin B deficiency, your hair losing its flexibility and gloss could be a sign of a thyroid problem or some sort of hormonal issue. If you’re worried, make an appointment with a doctor before your hair stylist.
Some people are more forgetful than others. But if you, or a loved one, notice that your memory has suddenly changed, it’s time to see a doctor. It could be an early sign of dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. Equally, it could also point to a fever, bad nutrition, a head injury or thyroid-gland trouble. So get it checked out.
12. Sugar cravings
Who doesn’t like a sweet treat now and then? But if your sugar cravings seem unquenchable, there could be other factors at play. Your thyroid gland might be underactive, for example, which in extreme cases can have dire consequences. Try drinking more water and increasing your fiber intake. Alternatively, your sweet tooth could be caused by a bacterial imbalance in your tummy, a condition worsened by consuming sugar. So lay off the sweet stuff!
Hemorrhoids, or piles, are more than just a pain in the butt. They can be an indicator that you’re not eating enough fiber in your diet. To prevent them, try to eat more wholegrains, vegetables and fruit. A low-fiber diet has the potential to lead to issues such as diabetes, obesity and coronary artery disease, which is perhaps why your body gives you such an uncomfortable warning.
10. Bleeding gums
“Bleeding gums are never normal, not even when you have your teeth professionally cleaned,” Lisa Marie Samaha of Virginia’s Perio Arts Institute told health website Prevention in 2012. “Imagine your scalp bleeding when you brush your hair.” We’d rather not, thanks, but the point is still valid. Bleeding could be caused by gum disease, meaning that it’s time to brush up on your dental hygiene. But the condition can also be caused by a bad diet, stress or even pregnancy, so chew over those possibilities too.
9. Salt cravings
Electrolytes such as sodium are vital for the body’s cells and organs to work properly, and when our blood’s sodium levels are low it can be a symptom of dehydration. If your body is crying out for sodium chloride, a.k.a. salt, it could mean that you’re not drinking enough water. A craving for sodium could also be the result of kidney trouble, so don’t just take this warning with a pinch of salt: get it checked out.
8. Erectile dysfunction
Erection problems can wreak all sorts of damage on a man’s mental well-being, not to mention on relationships. But the underlying causes of erectile dysfunction can be no less serious. The issue can be a side effect of the likes of heart disease, high cholesterol, high blood pressure and diabetes. Hence, simply swallowing a blue pill isn’t the answer: swallow your pride and visit a doctor.
7. Dark, velvety skin patches
A strange patch of darker skin appearing on your neck, knees or armpits might, at first glance, look like nothing that a bit of soap and water couldn’t fix. But if its texture is somewhat velvety, it could actually be acanthosis nigricans, a condition caused by the body having too much insulin pumping around it. This might mean that you have diabetes or are in danger of developing it. A doctor will be able to tell you for sure.
6. A swollen, painful big toe
A suddenly painful, bright red big toe might be a sign that you stubbed it in the night, but it could also be gout. The condition occurs when uric acid, usually filtered out by the kidneys, builds up and forms crystals. Because it can be brought on by overindulging in the likes of alcohol, red meat and shellfish, it has been known as “the rich man’s disease.” But “poor man’s gout” can also be brought on by too much sugar, soda and beer. Rich or poor, if you’ve got gout, it’s time to sort out your diet.
5. Blue fingertips
If your fingertips are a little blue and it’s not chilly, it could be a sign of cyanosis, which means you don’t have as much oxygen as you should do in your blood. This might be caused by problems with your lungs or heart. If you also have problems breathing or experience pain in the chest, seek medical help immediately.
Constipation is bound to affect you at some point in your life. Most of the time it doesn’t mean anything more than a bit of discomfort. However, it can also be brought on by a sedentary lifestyle or a lack of water or fiber in your diet, which can in turn lead to other problems. Hence, while you’re sitting there waiting for nature to finally take its course, use the time wisely and have a good think about your lifestyle choices!
3. Aching bones
Just because you’re old, don’t accept aches and pains in your bones as just part of life. A shortage of minerals and vitamins such as calcium and vitamin D can lead to bone pain and osteoporosis. For a calcium boost, consume more dairy products, such as milk and cheese. Leafy greens such as spinach and kale, meanwhile, also have plenty of calcium. Salmon is also an excellent source of vitamin D.
2. Muscle cramps
Getting woken up in the middle of the night by agonizing leg cramps is a bit of a nightmare, but it could be just the wake-up call you need. In fact, it might be an indicator that you aren’t doing enough exercise. Or it could be your body telling you that it needs more minerals such as potassium or magnesium. Magnesium plays an important role in regulating the rhythm of your heart, so fill up on the likes of quinoa, lentils and nuts.
1. Bruising easily
If you bruise like a peach then you could do worse than eating a few more of the fuzzy fruits. Being prone to bruising could be a sign that your vitamin C levels are low. Vitamin C plays a crucial role in maintaining and repairing your bones, cartilage and skin. Prolonged shortages of it can actually lead to scurvy, which can cause bleeding and eventually death. Citrus fruits, leafy greens and broccoli are all your friends.