What is your body trying to show you?
Five signs your body is trying to tell you something important about your health.
Have you ever wondered what your nails, hair, or skin could tell you about your health?
Unless you're getting glammed up for a night out, or thinking about what colour to commit to for your holiday gels, we rarely give our hair and nails the health scrutiny they deserve. If we did, we may notice some questionable (and sometimes funky) things happening right underneath our very noses!
From brittle hair to dark circles, our bodies are on a never-ending mission to keep us informed about our inner health. Some of these indicators are obvious, others are more subtle and difficult to spot. These signs aren’t always a cause for concern, but they can be a good reason to take a closer look at your health.
Here are five physical changes that you can look out for and what each could signal about your health.
Five secret messages your body is trying to tell you
1. Moisture (or something more?) - reasons for dry, brittle hair
Much like your mood, your hair has good days and bad days. Overdoing it with the hairdryer and styling products is bound to affect the health of your hair. But if you’ve noticed changes in your locks that seem abnormal or constant, it might be time to dig a little deeper.
Dry, brittle hair develops when your hair doesn’t get or retain enough moisture. This reduces its sheen and can make it appear frizzy or dull. It also makes it more prone to falling out. Often, your hair just needs some TLC and a break from styling, but it might also be a sign of an underlying condition.
An underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism) disrupts your hair growth cycle and can lead to hair problems particularly if the condition is severe or prolonged. It tends to affect the scalp diffusely rather than discrete areas. However, people with thyroid conditions are more prone to alopecia areata, which can cause patches of hair loss or thinning.
Other signs to look out for with hypothyroidism:
- Weight gain
- Dry skin
- Irregular periods
Your hair may also be thinner with conditions like polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). PCOS affects the way the ovaries work and the hormones that are released. It generally causes excess hair growth on the face, back, or chest, but tends to thin the hair on the scalp. Check for signs of this condition with our Polycystic Ovary Syndrome Blood Test.
2. Pale or dry skin - is anaemia at play?
The skin is the largest organ in the body, so it’s a good place to look for tell-tale signs of ill health.
If you’ve noticed your skin is a lot paler than usual, it might be a sign of anaemia. Lack of haemoglobin and red blood cells can cause you to look washed out or yellowish. One of the most common symptoms of anaemia is tiredness or lack of energy.
Other symptoms of anaemia:
- Shortness of breath
- Feeling lightheaded or dizzy
- Hair loss
Anaemia is usually caused by a lack of iron, B12, or folate. You’re more at risk if you have heavy periods, a chronic condition, or have a diet lacking in these vitamins and minerals. You can check for anaemia with our Advanced Well Woman Blood Test.
Dry skin is common. It’s often due to excessive hand washing or cold weather. But there are other conditions that can leave your skin feeling tight and flaky, like an underactive thyroid, a nutrient deficiency, or diabetes. Find out more about the causes and treatment of dry skin.
3. I need more sleep (and other reasons for dark circles)
After several nights of broken sleep, you’ll probably notice changes under your eyes. But the need for a good night’s kip goes way beyond getting rid of those under-eye bags. Sleep plays a huge role in our overall physical and emotional well-being.
If dark circles have become a new and permanent feature for you, it might be a good idea to investigate why you’re not getting the sleep you need or why you’re feeling so tired all the time.
Conditions or factors that affect your sleep:
- An overactive thyroid (hyperthyroidism)
- Chronic stress
- Depression, anxiety, and other mental health problems
If after maintaining good sleep hygiene, you’re still not managing to get a good night’s rest, consider a health check to see if an underlying condition may be affecting your sleep. Our Advanced Well Woman Blood Test can help you identify conditions like thyroid disease and diabetes whilst also testing for common causes of fatigue.
Are you finding it difficult to drift off at night? Here’s some advice on how to improve your sleep.
4. Clues from your cuticles - brittle nails
Pitting, clubbing, coiling, crumbling, ridging, thickening. These are just a few examples of nail changes that might be a sign of an underlying problem.
Most nail problems are caused by injuries, biting, frequent nail varnish, or fungal infections. Sometimes, they can be a symptom of a more serious or long-term condition.
One common condition that can lead to nail changes is iron-deficiency anaemia. It can lead to:
- Spoon-shaped nails (koilonychia) that appear scooped out
- Brittle nails
- Vertical ridges
Brittle nails are also sometimes seen in hypothyroidism and with nutritional deficiencies.
For more info on nail health and what it can tell you about your body, visit our blog — Nail your health: clues from your cuticles.
5. Are hormones the reason for stubborn body fat?
Losing weight is never easy and it can be difficult at the best of times. But if after a consistent diet and exercise programme those pounds still won’t shift, it could be that your hormones are out of kilter.
Some of the most important hormones when it comes to weight are oestrogen, cortisol, and thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH).
How hormones can affect your weight:
- Oestrogen — Oestrogen is one of the primary female sex hormones and has a significant impact on appetite and metabolism. Having low oestrogen levels can lead to weight gain, and affect where fat is stored, usually around the middle.
- Cortisol — If you’re stressed all the time, it can cause cortisol levels to increase. High levels of cortisol can suppress your immune system as well as increase your appetite and lead to weight gain.
- Thyroid-stimulating hormone — An underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism) slows down your metabolism which can make weight loss more difficult.
For more info on how you can minimise hormonal imbalances, visit our blog — are your female hormones sabotaging your weight loss? And if you’re looking to check your hormone levels, try our Female Hormone Blood Test or our Stress Cortisol Saliva Tests (4).
Quick body scan
Every now and then, it’s worth tuning in and performing a quick body scan. You might notice new aches, itches, and twitches. These symptoms are often just part of the normal human condition. Tiredness, for example, might just be due to a busy day at work.
But sometimes, tuning in can alert you to something that doesn’t feel quite right or has persisted for longer than expected without you realising. In these cases, it’s best to get a health check or speak to your doctor.
1. NHS. 2022. Iron deficiency anaemia. [online] Available at: <https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/iron-deficiency-anaemia/> [Accessed 6 April 2022].