You push back from the computer and yawn, eyes falling upon a clock which reminds you of the many hours left until you can leave work. You notice your bladder is full, shoulders are tense, and stomach is rumbling. Then you detect the hint of a headache starting on your right temple.
In today’s unceasingly racing world, our bodies often fall to the bottom of our priorities list, stuck behind a mountainous back-log of seemingly insurmountable tiny, and big, to-dos. Its little signals are often drowned out by the noise of our work deadlines and chores. Yet, these little symptoms are the body’s attempt to communicate with you. Like a baby, its little whimpers can become melt-downs if its needs – to eat, sleep, play, and eliminate (or the clean-up thereafter) – are ignored. As adults, what starts as a slight, pulsing tension headache can grow into a full-blown migraine.
How do you develop a satisfying relationship with anyone? You start by listening. The same goes for developing a genuine connection with your body.
By tuning into your body at regular, short intervals during the day, you can prevent a lot of the strain and stress placed upon it. Just stop, close your eyes, and take a few deep breaths. Another tip is to look in the mirror and pretend to be your own parent or health-care provider as you check-in with yourself. Do you have dark circles under your eyes? Stomachache or bloating? Brittle hair? Ridged fingernails? Is constipation or diarrhea an issue?
If you notice dark under-eye circles, can you make a connection to fatigue and being under stress? In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), this can show a deficiency of kidney Qi (energy that flows through the acupuncture meridians. When Qi is strong and moves smoothly through the meridians, our health is said to be good). Prioritizing sleep, exercising for stress reduction, good nutrition and even acupuncture can help re-balance the body here. Also consider that the dark circles can signal anemia and may require a visit to your doctor for a blood test.
Perhaps your hairdresser has mentioned it, or you notice on your own that your hair has gotten drier and more brittle recently. The simplest explanation could be a reaction to your hair care products; however, it could also be a signal of low thyroid function (which slows down metabolism and can lead to depression, PMS, anxiety and depression, constipation, and migraines). In TCM, this is often associated with our very yang (active, masculine) culture and not enough yin (passive, feminine) energy. To address the hair issue, you may want to have your doctor check your thyroid function or eating more ‘yin’-nourishing foods such as apples, broccoli, celery, cucumber, spinach, sweet potatoes, and healthy fats.
Peeling or ridged fingernails can be caused to low mineral absorption relating to a deficiency of stomach (hydrochloric) acid. When we are under stress, for example, our body is prepped to run from danger or fight; the body’s priority is to increase our heart rate and breathing (and release glucose from the liver into the bloodstream for energy) while it shunts energy away from digestion (imagine the body yelling, “No time to digest now! We have to run from a tiger!”). Low hormone levels during menopause can also relate to ridged fingernails. Consider getting evaluated for stomach acid production and, for menopause, remember to support your adrenal glands (they play an important role in boosting estrogen levels).
Constipation a constant companion? If you’re not having a bowel movement everyday, there could be a lot of factors to look into. A simple reason for this issue could be dehydration or not enough fiber in the diet; even supplement and medication side-effects can cause constipation. For women, hormonal changes can cause slow transit of the gastro-intestinal tract a few days before menstruation starts.
Diarrhea can signal abnormal intestinal flora or yeast (especially if you were recently on antibiotics) and can also signal a food sensitivity or allergy. Let’s not forget stress and anxiety, which can also manifest as diarrhea. If you’ve had a round of antibiotics recently, consider taking a probiotic supplement (including acidolphilus, lactobacillus, and bifidobacterium) to help re-establish the ‘good guys’ in your gut. To help identify a food sensitivity or allergy, reach out to a registered dietitian to help you make an effective food elimination plan. Common triggers can include dairy, eggs, fish, nuts, soy, and shellfish; however, other foods and even food chemicals can also be at play. This is where a food sensitivity test and certified LEAP therapist can help pinpoint the foods contributing to the increased transit time of your gut. To help reduce stress levels, consider joining a yoga class, prayer/meditation, listening to music, getting a massage, or spending some time alone to unwind.
Next time you get a minute at work or stop by a mirror, do a quick check-up on yourself, beyond lipstick application or ensuring hands are clean. By addressing health issues and symptoms while they are mild and quiet, you can help avoid the more intense, painful symptoms later on.