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Chapped lips, itchy ears and other signals your body might be giving off due to bad health

by , 15 February 2016

Your body is similar to laptops, cars and even relationships in a sense that when things go awry, it generally doesn't just shut down without warning. Instead, it sends you subtle signals to let you know that something isn't right. The tricky part is interpreting those signals, which, like any skill, takes time and practise to perfect.

Read on to find out how to identify six of the most common conditions underlying frequent (and sometimes mysterious) symptoms.

Six signs that could indicate bad health

#1: Fatigue
You might have: Caffeine overload
Background: Caffeine works by stimulating the central nervous system. Specifically, the chemical gooses the adrenal glands into releasing hormones (cortisol and adrenaline) that tell the body to go faster. The short-term result can be increased focus and better hand-eye coordination. But overdo caffeine on a regular basis and, eventually, the central nervous system runs out of gas. 
What to do: Try limiting your daily dose of caffeine to less than 300 mg. As a reference, a 350ml cup of filter coffee packs 260 mg of caffeine, while the same amount of green tea only has 50 mg. Also, fuel up on healthy, whole foods that boost and maintain your energy.
Other signals: Jitters, agitation, insomnia, heartbeat irregularities, frequent urination
#2: Chapped lips
You might have: Dehydration
Background: Lips are a reflection of the health and hydration of the entire body. If you're constantly using lip balm to sooth chapped lips, it’s a sign you need to drink up.
What to do: Drinking eight glasses of water a day can be intimidating, so if you’re not able to quaff that amount, you can still hydrate yourself by sipping herbal tea and eating more whole fruits and vegetables. Your best bet: Foods that are rich in essential fatty acids, such as nuts and seeds, avocados and salmon, which help maintain healthy cell membranes and hold in moisture.
Other signals: Headaches, infrequent urination, dark yellow or smelly urine, dry skin
#3: Itchy ears and throat
You might have: Candida overgrowth
Background: Candida albicans is a common yeast-like fungus living in the gut. A small amount is fine when its numbers are kept in check by healthy flora, but when an intestinal imbalance allows it to run amok, it acts like kudzu, colonizing everything in its path. Among its favourite environs are the body’s warm, dark nooks and crannies, such as between the toes, under the breasts and, yes, in the ears.
What to do: If you think you have candida overgrowth, the quickest fix is to starve the little buggers. Candida flourish in the presence of both refined and unrefined sugar, such as fresh fruit, dried fruit, and fruit juice. Cutting off their food supply can bring their numbers back to a healthy level.
Other signals: Mood swings, fatigue, weak immune system, weight gain, frequent yeast infections
#4: Frequent colds
You might have: Low levels of good gut flora
Background: The immune system’s command centre is housed inside the gut. “An ecological imbalance of organisms in the gut means the body can’t defend itself against unfriendly microbes,” says Kathie Swift, well-known American nutritionist. “The result is we get sick a lot.” Ironically, it’s often medicine, such as antibiotics, that wipe out the gut’s supply of good bacteria.
What to do: One of the easiest (and most delicious) ways to restore the gut’s healthy 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).
Other signals: Intestinal gas, bloating, loose stools or constipation, vaginal yeast infections, urinary tract infections, skin rash, athlete’s foot, nail fungus
You might have: Fibre deficiency
Background: “Our hunter-gatherer ancestors ate up to 100 g of fibre a day and had an average stool weight of 2 pounds,” says Mark Hyman, physician and New York Times best-selling author. “Today the average American eats less than 8 g of fibre a day, and the average bowel movement is a puny 4 ounces.” That’s a problem, he says, because the bowels are key to the body’s elimination process. When traffic is backed up, toxins from the bowel leach back into the body and can cause a multitude of inflammation-based health problems in everything from your digestion and skin to your heart and brain.
What to do: Eat more legumes, vegetables, fruits and whole grains. All are chock-full of fibre and other nutrients, making them natural go-to foods for getting the recommended 35 g to 40 g of fibre a day. 
Other signals: Frequent hunger pangs, energy slumps, digestive trouble, skin problems, inflammatory conditions
#6: Cracks at the corners of the mouth
You might have: Vitamin B deficiency
Background: “You see nutritional deficiencies first in those tissues that turn over the quickest, such as the tongue and lips,” says Elizabeth Lipski, American clinical nutritionist. Studies show that cracks or sores that appear at the corners of the mouth may be a sign that your body isn’t getting enough B vitamins.
What to do: Your best bet is eating a whole-foods diet and prioritizing foods high in B vitamins. The richest dietary source of B vitamins is found in brewer’s yeast or nutritional yeast, but other solid picks include wheat germ, whole grains, legumes, egg yolks, sweet potatoes, salmon, red meat, liver, and poultry.
Other signals: Anaemia, low energy, fatigue, skin problems, dark circles under the eyes

If you suffer one or more of these symptoms, it may be a good idea to chat to your doctor as soon as possible.

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