Our bodies are quick to warn us if we are suffering from an illness or are lacking in a certain vitamin or mineral. – By Ross Chainey
These warning signs are often very subtle, and we should all be on the look out for any changes in our body. Here are just some of the little things to watch out for
Take a close look at your fingernails and toenails – they tell you a lot about your general health. Any change in appearance or texture can indicate vitamin or mineral deficiencies. More specifically, ridged nails have been linked with a lack of zinc, which plays an important role in many bodily functions including healing wounds and keeping skin healthy. White spots on the nails, meanwhile, are believed to indicate insufficient levels of calcium – essential for healthy bones and teeth.
TAKE ACTION: Zinc and calcium are lost through faeces, urine, hair and shed skin. Some good sources of zinc include turkey, chicken, crab, kidney beans, chickpeas, yoghurt, brown rice and wholemeal bread. Calcium-rich foods include milk, yoghurt, cheese, broccoli, tofu and peanuts.
If you’ve noticed yourself going a bit thin on top or clumps of hair coming away in your hand, you could be suffering from stress. Severe mental stress due to an upsetting event in your life or excessive pressure at work can often manifest itself as hair loss or worsen an existing hereditary hair loss condition.
TAKE ACTION: You need to tackle the root cause of your hair loss: stress. The first thing you should do is talk to someone, preferably an experienced counsellor. Taking regular exercise, improving your diet and sleeping more have also been shown to alleviate stress. You also need to start thinking positively and not focus too much on work.
White spots round the eyes
You often see people with small, pearly white spots that – usually – appear around the eyes. These are known as milia, cysts that are most commonly seen on people with dry skin conditions. Milia are not harmful but do make people paranoid about their skin. The exact cause of milia is unknown, but it is thought it could be due to bad diet or even the use of particularly harsh skin products on the face.
TAKE ACTION: Don’t pick or burst them! This could leave you with a scar or cause an infection. You can use a medicated face scrub to remove the top layer of skin, allowing the cysts to simply fall out. Ask your pharmacist for details and to make sure you get the right treatment for you. You can also consult specialist beauticians, who may offer a treatment that can help.
Ever had those unpleasant patches of red bumps on the back of your upper arms? You are not alone: it is estimated that 50% of people have suffered from these pimples at some point in their lives. The condition is known as keratosis pilaris (KP), or ‘chicken skin’, and it can also appear on your thighs, legs and buttocks. KP is a harmless but unsightly hereditary condition, which usually get worse in winter when the skin dries out.
TAKE ACTION: There is no definitive cure for KP, though exfoliating and moisturising the affected area frequently and taking tepid showers rather than hot baths can help. Ask your pharmacist for more details.
Your tongue should be moist and clear, but if it is dry and discoloured you are probably suffering from dehydration. You should also check the colour of your urine (the clearer it is the more hydrated you are) and pinch the skin on the back of your hand. If it is slow to spring back, you could be dehydrated.
TAKE ACTION: Drink plenty! Our bodies need water to carry out essential bodily functions, but we lose it easily: half a litre is lost every day to breathing alone. You should be drinking around 1.8 litres of water a day (6-8 glasses).
Cold hands and feet
If your hands and feet feel cold or have lost sensation, you could be suffering from poor circulation. Other symptoms include varicose veins, chest and leg pains and deteriorating vision. Poor circulation mainly affects people over 50, heavy smokers or drinkers and the overweight.
TAKE ACTION: It’s all rather obvious: smokers should cut down their nicotine intake immediately as this reduces the circulation of blood in the skin. Heavy drinkers should stop consuming alcohol and the overweight should lose some weight.
Keep going to the loo?
If you find yourself needing to urinate more often than usual, you should get yourself checked out by your doctor. Going to the loo all the time (especially at night) could mean you are one of the one million people in the UK with undiagnosed diabetes.
TAKE ACTION: Diabetes is easily managed, but it’s essential you are diagnosed before you suffer any permanent damage. Ask your doctor or pharmacist about tests to see if you suffer from the condition.