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Seven signs you need to better your health

August 10, 2020 • read

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Seven signs you need to better your health

You know that when you’ve broken a bone, or feel like an elephant is sitting on your chest that it’s time to see a doctor. But so much of our health is simmering below the surface, formed by our daily lifestyle habits. 

Chronic diseases, many of which are preventable, are the leading cause of death and disability. 75% of healthcare dollars are spent treating conditions like heart disease, stroke, and diabetes. 

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Often when our health is worsening, there are telltale signs your body gives. If you notice any of the following symptoms it might be time to reexamine your diet, check your stress levels, or see a doctor. 

1. Your nails are an odd colour or texture

As it turns out, your nails are the window to your health. They’ll take on all sorts of colours depending on the state of your internal wellbeing. Here’s what to watch out for, depending on the colour of your nails. 

  • Pale or white: anemia, nutritional deficiencies, liver disease, diabetes, and overactive thyroid.
  • Yellow: lung disease, Raynaud’s syndrome, thyroid problems, rheumatoid arthritis. 
  • Red nail beds: heart disease.
  • Blue or purple: cyanosis, circulatory system disease. 
  • Thin brown or red lines: fungal infection, melanoma, psoriasis, heart infection. 
  • Horizontal lines: mental stress, Raynaud’s disease, zinc deficiency. 
  • Pitted or split: psoriasis, inflammatory arthritis, thyroid disease.
  • Dark lines or patches under the nail: melanoma. 

These signs are worrying if they don’t coincide with a recent injury. If you’ve accidentally hammered your thumb, or stubbed your toe, some discoloration is just a sign of minor trauma and is not a deeper medical concern. 

2. You’re always tired

“How are you doing today?” 

“Tired.”

If you feel like you’re always dragging yourself through the day, there could be an underlying condition. It’s normal to feel tired sometimes, especially given stress, hormonal shifts, and even the weather. But persistent fatigue that gets in the way of daily life might be a sign you need medical attention. Here are some possible causes of chronic tiredness.

  • Depression: fatigue is a common symptom of clinical depression. Depression also can cause side-effects like insomnia, which worsens fatigue.
  • Sleep apnea: people with sleep apnea may think they’re sleeping eight hours a night, so why don’t they feel refreshed in the morning? That’s because sleep apnea causes you to wake up repeatedly throughout the night, interrupting restorative sleep. 
  • Too little physical activity: who knew that exercising could actually give you more energy? The fitter you are, the more strength and energy you have to complete tasks. The reverse is true for poor fitness levels. 
  • Asthma: side-effects of asthma can lead to low blood oxygen levels, which leaves you feeling tired. 
  • Hypothyroidism: this condition causes underactivity with your thyroid gland, often resulting in fatigue and brain fog

3. Unintentional weight gain or loss

It’s completely normal to fluctuate in your weight. As we get older, we generally tend to gain weight because of a slowed metabolism, decreased physical activity, and lack of insight into nutrition. But when you’ve found you’ve gained or lost weight without an apparent cause, it’s time to investigate further. Your doctor might look for one of these underlying conditions.

  • Fluid retention: sometimes a sign of heart failure, liver disease, or kidney disease. 
  • Insomnia: when we get poor sleep, we tend to overeat as our body craves an energy source.
  • Thyroid disorder: slowed metabolism and fluid retention is a side-effect. 
  • Cancer: one of the first symptoms is unexplained weight loss of ten pounds or more.
  • Inflammatory bowel disease: chronic bowel inflammation is energy-intensive for your body. Plus, IBD can disrupt ghrelin, the hunger and satiety hormone. 
  • Muscle loss: if you lose muscle, you’ll lose weight. Generally this can be reversed with a good diet and a challenging exercise program. 

4. You get winded easily

If you find yourself out of breath after climbing a short flight of stairs, there might be something awry. 

  • Anemia: you need iron to help your blood carry oxygen throughout your body. If you have anemia, you may feel short of breath, have chest pain, or hear a pounding in your ears after exercise.
  • Pulmonary hypertension: this condition compromises blood flow to the lungs. This can stress the heart, and lead to heart failure over time.

5. Extreme hunger or thirst

Some people joke about having a bottomless pit for a stomach. It’s normal to feel starving after a long day of work, or feel thirst on a hot summer day. When hunger and thirst take over your life, there might be a more concerning medical issue at play. 

  • Diabetes: relentless hunger and thirst are common symptoms of type two diabetes. For diabetics, their bodies pull fluid from their tissues to dilute their blood and counteract high glucose levels. And, diabetics can’t get glucose energy from their food due to insulin resistance. The body will keep sending hunger signals, trying to get more energy. 
  • Lack of sleep: when you’re underslept, your body will crave the next best energy source, food.
  • Dehydration: your body might mix up hunger and thirst cues if you’re dehydrated. Many people will reach for snack after snack, only to find their cravings subside after a glass of water.
  • Thyroid problems: if you’re eating constantly but still seem to be losing weight, hyperthyroidism might be to blame. Overactivity of your thyroid gland can also bring on anxiety, difficulty sleeping, and general weakness. 

6. Bloating after eating

Everyone bloats, especially after a heavy meal. Even after a light lunch, it’s still normal for your abdomen to expand to digest your food. But bloating that’s noticeable, uncomfortable, and predictable after eating anything at all could be a sign of gastrointestinal issues. 

  • Irritable bowel syndromes: IBS leads to a spastic digestive system. People with this condition often experience a cycle of constipation and diarrhea. 
  • Heartburn: bloating and heartburn have similar contributing factors. Eating too quickly, drinking fizzy drinks, or eating heavy, fatty, or spicy foods can cause both heartburn and bloating. 
  • Food intolerance: allergies and intolerances to certain foods can cause gas and bloating. They can also create widespread inflammation throughout your body. 

7. Painful or burning urination

A burning sensation when you pee is most commonly commonly caused by bacterial infection of the urinary tract. This can result from sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), or urinary tract infections (UTIs). If you’re feeling the heat when you pee, speak to a doctor. 

There are so many facets to our health that keeping track of everything can seem overwhelming. The good news is, you don’t have to be a medical doctor to take care of your own health. Health is built by small, consistent decisions, like choosing a veggie bowl over poutine, or going on an evening jog instead of binging a season of the newest docu-series. 

If you’re experiencing strange symptoms and want to talk to a doctor, you can speak to one online. Our doctors can connect with you in under two minutes, so there’s no need to ponder those burning health questions. 

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