Top 5 Changes in Your Health That Should Not Be Ignored

by Katherine Chavez, ND

 

Certain changes in your health are red flags, signaling potentially bigger problems. These health issues should have you on the phone making an appointment with your doctor (or in an ambulance on the way to the emergency room) immediately. They include:

• Infections

• Blood in your stool

• Changes in moles

• Chest pain

• Breathing issues

• Tingling or lack of sensation in your limbs

 

Subtle changes in your health, while less dramatic, indicate that your systems lack balance. As a naturopath, I help my patients prevent disease, and investigate and address these subtle changes before they become diagnosable diseases.

 

Your body is wise. Listen to what it is telling you when it is still whispering; you don't want to wait for it to start shouting. Read on for some of the signs and symptoms to watch for.

 

Changes in sleep

 

I usually tell my patients, regardless of their symptoms, if they sleep well and have a good bowel movement daily, most other symptoms will improve or resolve. Sleep is vital to our health. It heals and restores us.

 

Good sleep is necessary for every process in the body. If we don't sleep, we are at greater risk of accidents, anxiety, fatigue, and weight gain.

 

Lack of sleep even puts us at greater risk for breast, colon, and prostate cancer.

 

Address sleep disturbances immediately. Whether caused by stress, poor bedtime habits, a medication, or a thyroid condition, resolve the cause before you encounter additional issues.

 

Changes in bowel function

 

Regardless of why a patient comes in, if her digestion is not ideal, we talk about that first. While most people know of the digestive tract's ability to break down food, absorb nutrients, and eliminate waste, it actually does much more. For example, it also hosts large colonies of micro-organisms.

 

The cells in our bodies are only 20 percent human cells. The other 80 percent belong to micro-organisms-bacteria, yeasts, and viruses. These micro-organisms greatly impact our health. Microbes not optimal for human health produce gasses as a byproduct of their metabolism. This can cause flatulence, bloating, burping, loose stools, or constipation.

 

Additionally, changes in bowel function can indicate:

• imbalance in thyroid hormone levels

• imbalance in neurotransmitters, such as serotonin

• food sensitivity

• dehydration

• lack of fiber

 

Abdominal weight gain

 

Weight gain, especially around the abdomen, is a good marker of general health for many people in our culture. That's because our foods are high in calories but poor in nutrients; our jobs are sedentary; and stress is long-term and continuous.

 

High-calorie foods, rich in sugars and simple carbohydrates are low in fiber, vitamins, and minerals. This causes a roller coaster effect in our blood stream. Blood sugar levels go up after eating, then drop dramatically when the pancreas pumps insulin in response. When blood sugar is low, the adrenal glands make cortisol, which exists in part to raise the blood sugar. Cortisol does this by increasing cravings for simple carbohydrates and sugars. And the cycle repeats.

 

Your body also produces cortisol under stress. Because humans were designed to live in a world of physical stressors, things we could run from or fight, everything that occurs within the stress response is meant to be relieved by physical activity. Today, we have abundant stress but few outlets for running and fighting. This, in combination with the standard American diet, means we're living with higher cortisol levels. When cortisol levels are high for long periods of time, the body takes action. It wants to make sure you have plenty of sugar in your blood for all the running and fighting you should be doing, so it stores fat on your abdomen. There, it's close to your liver, which can turn fat into sugar when needed.

 

Abdominal weight gain is a marker for metabolic syndrome-the triad of high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and high blood sugar. As heart disease is the leading killer in our country and diabetes is a global epidemic, listen to your body before imbalance gets out of control.

 

Fatigue

 

Many of my patients think being tired is normal or happens with age. While fatigue is common, and does increase as we age, it is not normal. It is a sign that something is out of balance. Fatigue can be caused by many variables, including:

• poor sleep

• high stress

• poor nutrient intake

• low levels of B vitamins, vitamin D, or the mineral iron

 

Fatigue can signify thyroid or adrenal dysfunction. Whatever the cause, this is one of the first signs that your body is not functioning properly.

 

Explore and discover any contributory factors before other symptoms start to manifest.

 

Changes in libido

 

Contrary to popular belief, libido does not need to decrease with age. If you have noticed your libido has declined or you have reduced ability to orgasm or maintain erections, schedule an appointment with your doctor.

 

Poor libido can be a sign of sex hormone imbalance or an imbalance in your neurotransmitters-molecules used by your nerve cells to communicate, such as serotonin or dopamine. Sleep disturbances, anxiety, fatigue, and poor communication with your partner should be evaluated and addressed.

 

For men, erection issues could be an indicator of atherosclerosis (buildup of plaque on the arteries that bring blood to the penis). Subsequently, poor libido may lead to depression or anxiety, as well as reduced bonding with your partner.

 

If you worry about any of these issues, make an appointment today by calling the Raby Institute at (312) 276-1212. You can also learn more about our group classes, which focus on many of these issues.

"My physician takes the time to talk to me. When I go to the Raby Institute I know I am going to get more than a prescription – I am going gain a deeper understanding of my complete health."
- Raby Institute patient