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19 March 2008

Health warning signs -By Gabrielle Fagan

Two top diet doctors share their head-to-toe guide to warning signs. Our body is constantly talking to us - yet many of us ignore its messages and suffer unnecessary illness as a result. Small symptoms like bloodshot eyes, dry skin, thinning hair or even weak, brittle nails can be early warnings that our system is under stress or we're experiencing a deficiency that could eventually damage our general health and wellbeing.
Dr Wendy Denning and nutritionist Vicki Edgson, authors of The Diet Doctors Inside And Out, both believe that learning to read the body's signs paves the way not just to better health but to a better life."In general, people are ignoring the early warning signs that their body sends out often because they don't understand what they mean," Denning says.
"Basically our body sends out subtle early signs when things are not quite right. If nothing is done these increase to stronger signals and if you neglect those you may be hit by a big warning such as a major symptom or illness that literally cannot be ignored."Heeding those minor symptoms, making simple lifestyle changes or seeking medical advice early could mean avoiding more serious health troubles such as thyroid or even heart problems, she adds. "Many minor problems can be cleared up in a couple of months by making even small improvements in diet, drinking more water or finding ways to ease stress. "Of course if you're concerned about any of your symptoms, check them out with a doctor. Getting early treatment can prevent them developing further."
Use this head-to-toe guide to help read your body's signals:
"The skin is directly or indirectly linked to almost every organ and a major organ of elimination in the body - the others are the colon, the kidney and the lungs," Denning says. So if those organs are struggling to get rid of waste and toxins, more toxins will show up on the skin in the form of oiliness, excess sweating and rashes.
  • PALE: you could be anaemic, have low iron or an under active thyroid.
  • DRY SKIN: can be caused by a deficient intake of water and essential fatty acids, omega-3, 6 and 9. It's also associated with deficiencies in vitamin A and B vitamins and aggravated by drinking too much coffee, tea and alcohol. In addition, dry skin is closely related to hormones, menopause and an under active thyroid.
  • GREY: seen in smokers and those pushing the body too hard, or suffering a sluggish liver. Alternatively, it can indicate an underlying cardiovascular disease or other serious illness.Solutions: In general, increase water intake to eight glasses a day, stop smoking, and keep up your intake of essential fatty acids by eating more oily fish such as salmon and mackerel and taking pumpkin and sunflower seeds. Keep up your zinc intake with turkey, eggs, almonds and peas. Check with your doctor who may recommend further tests or appropriate treatment.
" Not only are the eyes the window to the soul, but they're also the window to much of what is going on in different parts of the body, particularly the liver," Denning says.

  • BLOODSHOT: small blood vessels on the surface of the eye become inflamed and congested with blood, and this can be caused by eyestrain, fatigue and excess alcohol. It can also be due to a deficiency of vitamins B2 and B6 or amino acids that come from protein in the diet.Solution: Get more sleep, reduce alcohol intake and spend less time at the computer. Taking a B-complex vitamin, milk thistle and more protein in the diet may help.
  • DARK CIRCLES: often due to lack of sleep, but they can run in families, or may indicate a problem with your digestive system - particularly the colon or an overloaded liver.Solution: Check first that you are getting enough sleep. Then check for food intolerances, constipation, or a sluggish liver.
  • BAGS UNDER EYES: Associated with excess salt intake, lack of sleep, smoking and food sensitivities. In older people it can be due to a sluggish thyroid or a kidney problem.Solution: Reduce salt intake, get more sleep, stop smoking and don't drink fluids before going to bed. Check for food sensitivities or check with a doctor to rule out more serious issues.
" Hair can be a surprisingly good indicator of overall good health. Hair is made of protein, keratin and minerals and depends for its condition on the amount of nutrients it receives. So a good diet and digestive system are essential," Denning says.

  • THINNING HAIR: hair loss is determined by genes and hormones. Women rarely go bald in the same way as men, but hair thins with age. Thinning may be brought on sooner by childbirth or a shock such as divorce or bereavement. Stress, poor diet, lack of iron and sudden weight loss are other factors.
  • DRY HAIR: it may be associated with inadequate protein intake, essential fatty acid deficiency, thyroid disease and menopause or chemicals used on your hair.
  • GREY HAIR: commonly associated with ageing, but can sometimes be brought on by a major shock or by anaemia and thyroid problems. A doctor can help with the last two problems.Solutions: in general, eat enough protein and chew food well so you absorb all its nutrients. Ensure you are not mineral deficient and correct deficiencies of iron, zinc and selenium as they boost the thyroid. Take a multivitamin and mineral designed for the hair, and flaxseed oil to maintain levels of omega-3 and 6.
" Checking your nails can be a good way to determine if you have nutritional deficiencies or other health issues. A fingernail takes about four months to grow out, and a toenail at least six months. If your nails are growing slowly and are discoloured, suspect a fungal infection, and if they're not, suspect a nutritional deficiency," Denning says.

  • WHITE SPOTS: associated with zinc and/or calcium deficiency.
  • RED SKIN AROUND CUTICLES: could be due to insufficient essential fatty acids (omega-3 and 6).
  • CRACKING PEELING NAILS: may be due to lack of Vitamin A, calcium, silica and other minerals, insufficient stomach acid and protein. Around 50% of the population is deficient in zinc. Solutions: In general, eat six to eight portions of fruit and vegetables daily to strengthen nails. Eat more seeds and nuts for essential fatty acids, zinc and protein. Take silica and hemp seed oil - highly effective supplements to strengthen nails.

[Acquired from]