Often times, our bodies give us clues about our overall health without us even realizing it. The visible areas of our bodies can actually provide us with a lot of useful information about illness and ailments; we just need to know how to interpret it!
Most Canadians do not get all the nutrition they need from diet alone. Often we are lacking in one or many different vitamins and minerals. Our bodies express this lack of nutrition in a number of ways. Magnesium deficiencies often take the form of restless or cramping legs. Central to almost every system in our body, magnesium is an incredibly important mineral. After intense exercise, athletes drink sports beverages filled with magnesium and potassium. That’s because magnesium is excellent for relaxing muscles and preventing cramps. Most holistic doctors will swear by supplementing with magnesium for people experiencing restless legs syndrome or night cramps. Perpetual feelings of anxiety have also been related to mineral deficiency. Studies have shown that selenium, a mineral that protects neurotransmitters, and gamma aminobutryic acid (GABA), an amino acid, both help to reduce anxiety. GABA is able to inhibit nerve transmission in the brain, which helps to stop nervousness. A zinc deficiency will often reveal itself in cuts that take longer than normal to heal or in white spots on fingernails. Minerals are essential for the chemical reactions that take place in our bodies. Our bodily functions cannot happen properly without adequate levels of minerals. Supplementing with a multivitamin which contains adequate amounts of all the necessary minerals is critical.
Our fingernails are like a window into our internal wellbeing. Symptoms of a greater problem may occur first in our nails and nail beds. Brittle nails, coupled with weight loss and dry hair may be an indicator of thyroid disease. The thyroid gland plays a role in virtually every system in our bodies, and our hair and nails are often the first to show signs of distress if the thyroid isn’t able to keep up to demand. Horizontal ridges called Beau’s Lines appear in our nails during times of high stress or serious illness. The lines reach to either side of the fingernail and can represent uncontrolled diabetes, high fever, pneumonia, or other serious illnesses. Dark bands at the tip of each fingernail may symbolize aging, or may have a more serious cause, like kidney disease, congestive heart failure, or diabetes. Spoon nails are soft nails that look like they have been scooped out. They are most likely the sign of iron deficiency or a liver condition. Clubbed fingernails occur when the tips of the fingernails enlarge and the nails curve around the tips of the fingers. Clubbed fingernails often signal lung disease, cardiovascular disease, liver disease, or AIDS.
Our largest organ, our skin, is also a good indicator of our overall health. It is easy enough to notice someone who has spent too much time in the sun or who is a heavy smoker because their skin will be wrinkled, leathery, and coarse. In contrast, healthy skin is smooth, and free from a multitude of blemishes or deep wrinkles. Our skin can provide early warning signs of cancer, endocrine related issues and gastrointestinal disorders. Deep ulcers that appear on the legs are likely a symptom of a gastrointestinal problem, whereas dark patches of skin with a thick texture are probably a sign of diabetes. Cancer shows itself on our skin in blemishes and lesions. Using the ABCDE test can help to determine if a blemish is cancerous. A stands for asymmetric, B for irregular border, C for changing colour, D for a diameter greater than a pencil’s eraser, and E for elevated. This is just a preliminary test, however, and should never replace a visit to a doctor.
Keeping a watchful eye on the external signs that our bodies exhibit is a good way to stay in tune with what is happening internally. Knowing what to look for is important and a first step in recognizing serious illness or disease. The most important thing to remember when dealing with any sort of irregular condition in your body is to not leave anything to chance. If it looks like it is out of the ordinary be sure to check in with your physician for more information.