The body is a magnificent machine. When things go wrong, it usually does not go off without warning, like an incandescent bulb that blows up its filament. Instead, it sends us small signals (think of them as soft biological taps on the shoulder) letting us know that something is wrong.
"Physical signs and symptoms are ways in which your body tries to alert you to deeper imbalances," says Elson M. Haas, MD, a physician from San Rafael, California, with a natural medicine approach and author of Staying healthy with nutrition. (Celestial Arts, 2006). "Taking the time to decipher the codes of the body is always better than simply taking a pill and waiting for the symptoms to disappear." Ideally, we want to get to the causes of the problems, not just suppress the final result of bad health. " But interpreting the Morse's peculiar body code requires a deep level of body awareness that, like any skill, requires time and practice to perfect. To that end, we recruited a handful of the country's leading integrative health professionals to help identify nine of the most common conditions that underlie frequent and sometimes mysterious symptoms. Keep reading to discover the messages of your body.
You are drinking too many diet sodas …
A probable signal: Headaches
Background: Artificial sweeteners, particularly aspartame (found in Nutrasweet and Equal), can trigger headaches, including migraines. At higher risk, people with a genetic disorder called phenylketonuria (or PKU for short); they lack the enzyme needed to metabolize a substance (phenylalanine) that is created when the body breaks down aspartame. But even those who do not have the genetic disorder may find that taking diet sodas results in brain fog or headache. Why? Studies in animals have shown that aspartame is a potent neurotoxin, at least in young rats. I'm concerned if aspartame could also cause nerve damage in humans, or at least interrupt the nerve signal that allows the brain to register satiety, "says Sharon Fowler, MPH, associate professor at the Center for Health Sciences at the University from Texas in San Antonio who studies the health effects of artificial sweetener use One of the main suspects is methanol in aspartame, which breaks down into formaldehyde, a known carcinogen People who are sensitive to formaldehyde can experience headaches after taking aspartame.
Other signs: Intense cravings for sweet or salty foods, inability to focus, irritability
How to respond: Kathie Swift, MS, RD, LDN, lead nutrition counselor at the online MyFoodMyHealth and My Foundation Diet sites, suggests the need to drink sparkling water with a touch of 100% fruit juice and a splash of lemon. .
You have Candida overgrowth …
A probable signal: Itching in the ears, throat or mucous membranes.
Background: The average American eats almost 150 pounds of sugar and corn syrup with high fructose content per year, according to the United States Department of Agriculture. And if you're eating about that amount of sugar, you may have more than just a sweet tooth: your body can harbor an unhealthy overgrowth of Candida albicans. A small amount of this common fungus, like the fungi that live in the intestine, is fine when its number is controlled by the healthy flora. But when an intestinal imbalance allows it to function irregularly, it acts like kudzu, colonizing everything in its path. Among their favorite environments are the dark and warm corners and crevices of the body, such as between the toes, under the breasts and, yes, in the ears. As it infiltrates, it irritates and inflames the skin, leading to the telltale signs of itching and redness.
Other signs: Mood changes, fatigue, weak immune system, weight gain, frequent yeast infections
How to respond: If you think you have an overgrowth of candida, the quickest solution is to starve the little buggers. Candida flourishes in the presence of refined and unrefined sugar, such as fresh fruit, dried fruit and fruit juice. Cutting your food supply can get your numbers back to a healthy level. They also love refined flour products and anything fermented, such as alcohol and soy, so if you have severe overgrowth, you may have to eliminate all of the above for several consecutive weeks.
You are dehydrated …
A probable signal: Cracked lips
Background: The lips are a reflection of the health and hydration of the whole body. "If you are well hydrated, then your lips will be well hydrated," says Elizabeth Lipski, PhD, clinical nutritionist and author of Digestive Wellness (McGraw-Hill, 2004). Less water in the body means less moisture to the skin, the largest organ in the body. The delicate tissue of the lips is very sensitive to drought. "If you're using lip balm or lip gloss constantly to soothe chapped lips, it's a sign that you need to drink," says Lipski.
Other signs: Headaches, infrequent urination, dark yellow or malodorous urine, dry skin, slow turgor (meaning that if the skin is pinched on the back of the hand, it is not put back in place). Although the aging process slows a little turgor, even in older adults should still return to normal in one or two seconds.
How to respond: Drinking eight glasses of 8 oz. Water a day can be intimidating, says Swift, so if you can not consume that amount, you can hydrate yourself by drinking herbal teas and working additional servings of fruits and vegetables in your daily diet. "The transition to a more holistic diet puts us on autopilot to get more water because they are naturally high in humidity," says Swift. And, be sure to include whole foods that are rich in essential fatty acids, such as nuts and seeds, avocados, and anchovies and sardines, which help keep cell membranes healthy and retain moisture.
You're not getting enough fiber …
A probable signal: Constipation
Background: Constipation is the clearest indicator of the body's need for more fiber. "Our hunter-gatherer ancestors ate up to 100 grams of fiber a day and had an average weight of 2 pounds," says Mark Hyman, MD, editor of alternative therapies in health and medicine and author of The UltraSimple Diet (Pocket Books). , 2007).
"Today, the average American consumes less than 8 grams of fiber a day, and the average bowel movement is 4 ounces." That's a problem, he says, because the intestines are key to the process of eliminating the body. When traffic is supported, toxins from the intestine are returned to the body and can cause a multitude of health problems related to inflammation in everything from digestion and skin to the heart and brain. They can also upset the hormonal balance and immunity. In the end, Hyman says: "If the stools are hard to pass, you have a problem."
Other signs: Frequent hunger, energy crisis, digestive problems, skin problems, inflammatory conditions
How to respond: Eat more legumes, vegetables, fruits and whole grains. All are full of fiber and other nutrients, which makes them a natural food. Getting the recommended 35 to 40 grams of fiber per day not only improves intestinal health, it also reduces the risk of diabetes and heart disease, says Andrew Weil, MD, director of the Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine at the School of Medicine. University of Arizona in Tucson.
If you want other ways to infiltrate your day, Swift suggests sprinkling rice bran fiber on salads or oatmeal. She likes rice bran fiber because it does not contain gluten and has been shown to help eliminate toxins, such as PCBs. Another of his favorite fiber reinforcements is a condiment he makes with crushed pumpkin seeds, ground flax flour, sesame seeds, seaweed and sea salt, basically a riff on gomasio, which is used as a saline alternative in the kitchen Japanese Put it in a wrap, sprinkle over brown rice or use it to decorate soups, she says. "The nuts, seeds and vegetables of the ocean are an energy source of nutrients and fiber." (Keep it in the refrigerator to extend its shelf life).
You have a deficiency of vitamin B …
A probable signal: Cracks in the corners of the mouth.
Background: "Nutritional deficiencies are first seen in those tissues that become faster, such as the tongue and the lips," says Lipski. Studies show that cracks or sores that appear at the corners of the mouth (ie, cheilitis) can be a sign that your body is not getting enough B vitamins. "Deficiencies of one or more of the B vitamins can occur quite easily, "says Haas," especially with diets that include substantial amounts of refined and processed foods, sugar or alcohol. "
Other signs: Anemia, low energy, fatigue, skin problems, dark circles under the eyes.
How to respond: Your best bet is to eat a diet of whole foods and prioritize foods with high B vitamins. The richest dietary source of B vitamins is found in brewer's yeast or nutritional yeast (although, if you have candida problems, you'll want omit them). Other solid selections include wheat germ, whole grains, legumes, egg yolks, sweet potatoes, salmon, red meat, liver and poultry.
Taking a good vitamin B complex supplement can also be useful (especially if you're a vegetarian). Under the care of a health professional with nutritional inclinations, you may also be prescribed a supplement for a specific vitamin B (or even an injection of vitamin B-12) to help correct a significant deficiency. But be careful mixing your own B vitamin cocktails. When you drink excessively and out of balance with other B's, certain B vitamins may end up eliminating nutrients from your system. That's why emphasizing B-rich foods should be your first priority.
You are eating something that does not agree with you …
A probable signal: Eczema
Background: First a little history about food intolerances. When the body does not tolerate a food well, ingesting it creates irritation or chronic inflammation of low level in the intestine. Over time, with regular exposure, the irritation worsens and creates fissures in the spaces between the cells. (Imagine the walls of the intestine, once joined together, looking more like an old Afghan). These holes allow bacteria and their toxins, as well as incompletely digested proteins and fats, to "escape" from the intestine into the bloodstream. Called permeable bowel syndrome (or increased intestinal permeability), this condition sets the stage for myriad health problems, such as rashes and skin problems, such as eczema.
The skin is the largest organ of elimination in the body, says Lipski, so it is not surprising that it is attacked when toxins are filtered through the bloodstream. "A rash or eczema is a sign that the body is trying to eliminate these toxins," he says. "He's trying to eliminate the problem in the best way he knows.
Other signs: Gas, swelling, fatigue, sinus congestion, foggy thinking.
How to respond: An elimination diet is the best way to point out offensive food. "Start with one or two foods that you suspect," says Swift, who prefers to call this the "lighting diet" because it focuses on "enlightening your health."
Do not know where to start? The foods that are most likely to wreak havoc on the gut include wheat and products that contain gluten, dairy products, sugar, soy, eggs, corn and yeast. If you are very motivated, follow Haas's advice and turn off what he calls "the big five" for a week: wheat, dairy, sugar, caffeine and alcohol. "It's not easy to do," he admits, "but it's guaranteed that he will learn a lot about the signals from his body." You may also consider keeping a food diary. Spend a week or two writing what you eat and how your body feels in the minutes, hours and days afterwards (for example, one hour after eating dairy products, you feel bloated). "It's about recognizing patterns and symptoms and connecting points," says Swift, which in turn helps him decide which foods to eliminate first.
You are drinking too much caffeine …
A probable signal: Fatigue
Background: "Caffeine goes into a low energy bank account and tries to lend some additional energy in the short term," says Haas. "But he's getting that energy from his own stores, which means he has fewer and fewer reserves, which leaves him less able to generate his own energy continuously."
Caffeine acts by stimulating the central nervous system. Specifically, the chemical stimulates the adrenal glands to release hormones, such as cortisol and adrenaline, that tell the body to go faster. The short-term result may be greater focus and better hand-eye coordination. But exaggerate caffeine on a regular basis and, eventually, the central nervous system runs out of gas. "If you do not recover from sleep, nutrients and relaxation, you quickly get into a cycle of lashing a weakened horse," says Haas.
Other signs: Concerns, agitation, insomnia, irregularities in the heartbeat, frequent urination
How to respond: Weil recommends limiting your daily dose of caffeine to less than 300 milligrams (mg). For reference, a cup of 12-ounce Starbucks coffee contains 260 mg of caffeine, while a 12-ounce American (two injections of espresso coffee from the coffee chain added to hot water) contains 150 mg. One cup of black 12-ounce tea, on the other hand, contains approximately 100 mg and green tea only 50 mg. "If you're going to indulge yourself," advises Swift, "think about the quality of the source – are you drinking green tea or a chemical-laden energy drink?" "What is a healthy amount for you?" Most people know what quantity can manage your system, "she says. Meanwhile, support your adrenal glands with B vitamins (especially B5 / pantothenic acid), vitamin C and licorice. Also, feed healthy and whole foods that stimulate and maintain your energy.
You're low on stomach acid …
A probable signal: Belching and indigestion
Background: If you have little stomach acid, your body will not digest food efficiently, especially dense foods such as fats and proteins. When the food sits in your stomach, so does the air you naturally swallow when you eat. The air has only two options: to be pushed through the digestive tract with food or take the next flight to the esophagus and out through the mouth. The longer the food stays in the stomach, the more likely it is to burp.
Other signs: Gastric reflux, weak immune system, cracked nails, chronic infections, gas
How to respond: Boost the first phase of digestion by becoming a "dining room based on the sensory," says Swift. "That means enjoying the sight and smell of food before digging so your bowel has time to release digestive factors, like hydrochloric acid, before a meal." Then, eat more carefully. Chew your food to make it easier for the intestine to digest, especially proteins and fats.
If you still feel your food sit on your stomach like a rock, Haas recommends trying digestive enzymes, which can help you digest your food better. For example, he says, he could try a product called betaine hydrochloride with pepsin (a long-acting digestive protein), found in health food stores.
Hydrochloric acid is the main ingredient in stomach acid. By taking it as a supplement, you are basically giving an initial advantage to your stomach, especially with proteins and fats, which are the most difficult foods to digest, which means that they require more stomach acid than carbohydrates. After starting to eat a meal with protein and fat, for example, take a capsule. See how you feel after a couple of meals. If you feel well, you can try two capsules and gradually increase to three or four. If you have any burning sensation or acid indigestion, reduce it to a level where you have not experienced any negative side effects.
You are short of good flora …
A probable signal: Frequent colds
Background: The command center of the immune system is inside the intestine. "An ecological imbalance of the organisms in the gut means that the body can not defend itself against hostile microbes," says Swift. "The result is that we get very sick." Ironically, says Hyman, medications, such as antibiotics, often eliminate the supply of good bacteria in the intestine. "When we eliminate them again and again with antibiotics and then eat a poor diet, it is a disaster for the intestine." That, in turn, can mean problems for the rest of the body.
Other signs: Intestinal gas, bloating, loose stools or constipation, vaginal yeast infections, urinary tract infections, skin rash, athlete's foot, nail fungus.
How to respond: Experts agree that one of the easiest (and most delicious) ways to restore healthy gut flora is to eat more foods rich in good bacteria, such as miso, sauerkraut, kombucha (a fermented Japanese tea), yogurt that contains live bacteria. and kefir (a fermented milk drink). "The intestine holds 5 pounds of beneficial bacteria," says Haas. "We have to feed this."
If you think your bowel needs more than food can provide, Weil recommends taking a daily probiotic that contains Lactobacillus GG or Bacillus coagulans (BC-30).
Although many body messages can be deciphered with some assumptions and lots of active listening, it is important to remember that some of these symptoms may be signs of more serious illness. If, after a couple of weeks of personal care, things do not improve or are not resolved, it is best to consult a health professional.
"A pain or chronic pain is an invitation to stop and take a look at your life," says Lipski. "Your body is telling you it's time to make a change, respect your request and most likely you're going to come out of a bigger health problem in the future."
More than one way to cure
A multiple approach to health care (which seeks advice from both alternative medicine professionals and Western doctors) can help you decipher your body's warning signs before they become more serious.
Western medicine has many strong points: eliminate infections; the treatment of emergencies, such as heart attacks; and fall with trauma care after an accident or disaster. But when a condition is difficult to diagnose, or is chronic or bothersome, such as poor digestion, insomnia or general fatigue, leaving the doctor's office may be your best option.
"Most medical school curriculum focuses on acute care and is not adequately trained for chronic health problems, which are the most common problems for the majority of patients they see," says Elizabeth Lipski, PhD, CCN and author of Digestive Wellness (McGraw-Hill, 2004).
As a doctor and naturopath, Elson M. Haas has one foot in each world. He tends to agree with Lipski's opinion, and also sees limitations in the way that Western doctors generally try to stifle attempts at healing the body.
"Many symptoms, such as sinus congestion, allergies and excess mucus, are ways in which you try to eliminate excess toxins," he says. "Western medicine tries to control these symptoms, suppressing fever or drying congestion, instead of supporting the natural means of elimination and detoxification of the body."
Alternative practitioners come in many forms. In addition to your GP, consider seeing a chiropractor or osteopath if your condition is skeletal; a practitioner of traditional Chinese medicine for hormonal imbalances; or a naturopath for general well-being, digestive, immunity and dietary advice. All of these modalities have regulatory organizations that provide lists of qualified professionals.
Have you conquered any other symptom?
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