Let Me Hear Your Body Talk
Whether or not you listen, your body is always talking to you. The color and overall shape of your toenails, for instance, give vital clues to underlying health issues. In this vein, a patient who begins losing weight and shows cracked and peeling skin on their feet, as well as infected toenails, may actually be showing signs of undiagnosed diabetes.
Similarly, strange colors or spots on your nails can indicate serious problems; nail beds that are turning blue could be indicative of congestive heart disease, oxygen deficiency, or Lou Gehrig’s disease (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis - ALS). Dark spots under the nail could be symptomatic of skin cancer, while yellowing nails may reveal an infection that is easily treatable with laser therapy.
Bowel movements can reveal signs of infections, digestive problems, and even early signs of cancer. For these reasons, it’s important to pay attention to what’s going on in the toilet. Although certainly not dinner party fodder, stool color can vary considerably, depending on the food you eat, but you need to look out for jet-black. Although this could be caused by something as harmless as iron supplements or black licorice, black could also be a sign of bleeding in the upper gastrointestinal tract.
Limbs Length and Liver Health
If your legs are on the short side, you may need to concentrate on caring for your liver. British researchers in 2008 found that women with legs between 20 and 29 inches tended to have higher levels of four enzymes that indicate liver disease. Researchers suggest this is because of childhood nutrition, which may affect liver development well into adulthood. To prevent this, you should avoid exposure to toxins your liver has to process to keep it healthier, longer. Also wear a mask and gloves when working with harsh cleaning agents, and limit alcohol to one 5-ounce glass of wine or 12-ounce bottle of beer daily.
Your sense of smell, or lack thereof, may indicate later brain problems. According to a 2008 study in the Annals of Neurology, older adults who couldn’t identify the scent of bananas, lemons, cinnamon, or other items were five times more likely to develop Parkinson’s disease within four years. Researchers theorize the area of the brain responsible for olfactory function may be one of the first impacted by Parkinson’s. As a deterrent, take fish oil supplements; omega-3 fatty acids can boost your brain’s resistance to MPTP, a toxic compound responsible for Parkinson’s.
Some disorders are more annoying than indicative of health problems. An eyelid spasm that comes and goes is a tip-off to eye strain, likely from staring at your computer for hours. To stop this, hold a cold paper towel to the eye; cold calms the nerve that triggers twitching. Also, if you're in front of a computer all day, start taking a two-minute break from your monitor every half hour. Tell your doctor if the spasm keeps reappearing. While unlikely, this may signal a nervous-system disorder like multiple sclerosis.
Caffeine and Fluid Retention
And for women who detect several pebble-like, movable lumps in both breasts, you may blame fibrocystic changes - a common and benign condition that means your breast tissue contains fluid-filled cysts. These lumps are usually more noticeable the week before your period, when hormonal changes cause swelling throughout the body. To reduce such symptoms, cut back on coffee, tea, chocolate, and cola, all of which contain caffeine. This chemical causes you to retain fluid and makes the lumps more pronounced. It’s also a good idea to avoid salty foods, since they promote fluid retention as well.