Guest Author - Joan Liebmann-Smith, Ph.D. and Jacqueline Nardi Egan
Have you ever noticed things about your body that are annoying, weird, smelly, or downright embarrassing? If so, you’re not alone. We all experience the often unsightly and sometimes unseemly signs and signals our bodies send us about our state of health. Ugly growths may pop up on our eyelids, or skin tags under our breasts. Our nails may be yellow or our partners may complain that we smell like ammonia.
Fortunately, many of these "body signs" are harmless and can be ignored or treated cosmetically. But sometimes what may seem like a cosmetic concern is more than meets the eye.
Going from head to toe, here are some warning signs you may detect using your five senses. And keep in mind that any change in any of your senses can itself be a warning sign that something is out of kilter.
* When your hair feels more dry and brittle than usual, you may be over-processing it. Or, dry hair may signal an under-active thyroid or nutritional deficiency.
* Hearing the sound of your heart beating inside your ears is actually normal, especially when lying down. But if you hear your heart beat or a throbbing sound in only one ear, it may be a warning sign of a heart murmur, high blood pressure, or other vascular disorders.
* Seeing floaters, those spots or flecks that appear floating across your field of vision, is pretty common. But if you notice a sudden increase of floaters, you may have a retinal tear or even detachment (especially if you see flashing lights with the floaters), which requires immediate medical attention.
* If your sense of smell is not as keen as it used to be, it may be due to an injury to your nose, a normal sign of aging, or a sign of any number of disorders including zinc deficiency, nasal polyps, diabetes, hypothyroidism, and multiple sclerosis. It can also be very early warning sign of Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s disease.
* A healthy tongue is covered with tiny bumps called papillae. If you tongue looks or feels very smooth and glassy, it may be telling you that you’re deficient in certain nutrients such as folic acid, vitamin B12, or iron. A smooth, red tongue may signal pernicious anemia or malabsorption syndrome, a condition in which the body cannot adequately absorb nutrients.
* Hearing your stomach rumbling a lot may merely be the result of excess gas from a high-fiber diet or a diet containing too many carbohydrates, carbonated drinks, or artificial sweeteners. But excess gas may also signal lactose intolerance, food or drug allergies, or any number of gastrointestinal disorders.
YOUR BODY WASTES
* What you eat can also affect the color (and sometimes the odor) of your stools. If your stools look very pale, it may be from eating a lot of rice, potatoes, and other white-colored foods. Medicine containing calcium can also cause pale stools. But persistently pale stools can signal a blockage of the bile ducts, which can be caused by tumors or liver diseases including hepatitis, cirrhosis, or liver cancer.
YOUR SKIN & NAILS
*If you see dark horizontal streaks that look like (but aren’t) splinters under your finger or toenails, they may be splinter hemorrhages, a sign of trichinosis, a parasitic disease caused by eating undercooked pork or wild game. They can also be warning signs of psoriasis, peptic ulcers, kidney disease, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, blood-clotting diseases, and endocarditis, an infection of the heart.
If you do notice a disturbing body sign on either you or your loved ones – no matter how trivial or embarrassing – mention it to a doctor. Discussing annoying, bizarre, or embarrassing signs with a doctor will make it much easier to get a quick, accurate diagnosis when something is wrong, enabling you to get prompt treatment. It can also help you rule out serious conditions when all is well. Indeed, many of the body signs that may concern you will turn out to be perfectly normal and benign, or of no particular consequences, thus saving you further medical expense, time, and anxiety.