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Signs from your body

Signs from your body
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Maybe you’re losing more hair or gaining some extra weight. Perhaps you’re always tired or your partner says you snore. There are probably harmless reasons for these everyday happenings. But maybe there’s something more serious going on. From gassiness to sleepiness, muscle cramps to weirdly coloured nails, here’s a look at some hidden signs you might not be as healthy as you think.

You’re bloated

You’re bloated
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Just because you follow doctor’s orders – you eat your greens, choose organic when you can, exercise regularly, and get eight hours of sleep each night (err, most nights) – doesn’t mean that your health is in the clear. You may think your post-dinner bloat is totally normal, but sometimes a subtle symptom like that can signal a more serious health issue.

Simple reasons for bloating include constipation, overeating, or reflux. More serious causes include infection, inflammation, irritable bowel syndrome, Crohn’s disease, and some medications.

“When you eat too much, or you eat food you’re not supposed to eat, you’ll have temporary discomfort, and you might not feel good for 20 or 30 minutes,” says Dr Tasneem Bhatia. “But then it usually dissipates, as the digestive system takes over.

“A one-time thing is easy to ignore as long as the pain isn’t lasting,” says Dr Bhatia. But “if it happens more than three times, or if the pain lasts more than 12 to 24 hours, you need to be examined by a physician.”

Find out the reasons behind why your belly may be bloated.

You snore

You snore
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Snoring happens when air can’t move freely through your mouth and nose as you sleep – the muscles in your throat relax and your tongue can slip back in your throat – and can be caused by adenoids, nasal polyps, or even just a stuffy nose. If you’re overweight or have had a lot to drink, you’re more likely to snore.

“Snoring can also be a sign of obstructive sleep apnoea,” says Dr Albert Wu, from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore. That’s when your upper airway becomes blocked repeatedly while you sleep, causing you to partially or completely stop breathing for a few seconds. “The resulting disruption of sleep can lead to daytime sleepiness, crankiness, difficulty concentrating, high blood pressure, and heart conditions.”

How to know if your snoring is cause for concern?

“If your partner notices that you stop breathing for long periods of time, you should consult a specialist,” says Dr Wu. “Treatments for simple snoring include losing weight, treatment for allergies, sleeping on your side instead of your back, and avoiding alcohol before bedtime. If snoring is caused by sleep apnoea there are dental mouthpieces that keep your airway open, and continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) masks that direct pressurised air to keep your airway open during sleep.”

This is what you need to know if you or your partner snore too much.

You’re gassy

You’re gassy

Believe it or not, passing gas 13 to 21 times a day is normal. A lot more or a lot less than that could indicate a problem.

“Not passing gas indicates that your bowels aren’t functioning properly, but passing gas too much or too often can indicate a food intolerance, or a digestive disorder like gastroesophageal reflux disease (GORD), Crohn’s disease, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), or coeliac disease,” says Dr Wu. “You should see a doctor if you have persistent and unexplained flatulence. You should also do so if you have symptoms along with it, such as abdominal pain, a swollen stomach, vomiting, diarrheoa, constipation, unintended weight loss, severe heartburn, or blood in your bowel movements.”

You’re always tired

You’re always tired
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If you always feel lethargic (no matter how many hours of shut-eye you get), it’s definitely worth talking to your GP. Unlike drowsiness, which is the need to sleep, fatigue is lack of energy and motivation. It can be a normal response to lack of sleep, lots of physical activity, stress, or even boredom. But fatigue can also be a sign of a number of health problems.

“Missing sleep, almost any illness, and many medications can cause temporary fatigue,” says Dr Wu. But “persistent fatigue can be caused by a number of serious conditions including anaemia, chronic kidney disease, liver disease, cancer, thyroid disorders, chronic infection, and arthritic conditions. It can also be caused by depression and anxiety disorders.”

Here are some medical reasons you’re tired all the time.

You can’t sleep

You can’t sleep
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It’s one thing to have trouble falling asleep when you just aren’t tired, but if you can’t get any Zzzs despite feeling exhausted, it’s worth bringing up with your doctor. Acute insomnia is short term and can be brought on by stress at work or at home or a traumatic event.

Chronic insomnia, on the other hand, “is a common problem, and can simply be a sign of ageing, lack of activity, or consuming too much caffeine, nicotine, or alcohol,” says Dr Wu. “It can also be caused by medications like cold remedies that include stimulants, some antidepressants, and medications for asthma or high blood pressure.”

Other causes of insomnia include “mental health problems like anxiety and depression,” says Dr Wu. “It can be a sign of some medical conditions like chronic pain, overactive thyroid, GORD, heart disease, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease.”

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You have bad breath

You have bad breath
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Bad breath – or halitosis – is the most common reason for dental referrals, after tooth decay and gum disease, according to a review of studies published in 2018 in The Open Dentistry Journal. Sure, the culprit could be all that garlic you consumed at your last meal. But sometimes bad breath is a sign of something more serious.

Usually caused by bacteria on your teeth and tongue, bad breath can be linked to poor brushing and flossing habits, or oral issues like dry mouth, gingivitis, or periodontitis. In some cases, sinusitis, bronchitis, tonsillitis, and some gastrointestinal issues can also trigger bad breath. If brushing and flossing doesn’t help, see your doctor or dentist.

Here’s how to say goodbye to bad breath for good.

You get headaches regularly

You get headaches regularly
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Besides being a pain (literally), headaches are often pretty harmless. But some headaches are more serious than others. Talk to a doctor if a headache is sudden and severe or is accompanied by a stiff neck or follows a blow to the head or pain in your ear or eye. Get medical attention if you have a headache and fever, convulsions, confusion, or pass out or have a fainting episode. If you’ve never had a headache before and suddenly have your first, it’s time to ask your doctor what’s up.

Your muscles cramp up

Your muscles cramp up
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Everyone suffers from a muscle cramp now and then, especially after a tough workout; in fact, a review of studies, published in 2018 in Journal of Electromyography and Kinesiology, suggests that exercise-associated muscle cramps are the condition most often requiring medical treatment during sports.

But some conditions can increase the risk of having leg cramps, like being dehydrated, having low levels of electrolytes, taking certain medications, having a nerve disorder, or an underactive thyroid gland (hypothyroidism). A review of studies published in 2019 in European Journal of Neurology found that many aspects of cramping are not completely understood. Pay attention to when and how often you have muscle cramps so your doctor can determine the potential cause.

Your nails are a funky colour

Your nails are a funky colour
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Nails are supposed to be pink, so if yours are venturing into any other colour category, speak to your doctor. Funky-coloured nails could be harmless but it could also be a sign of various skin disorders, if not something more systemic, according to research, including a study published in 2015 in Indian Dermatology Online Journal.

Blue nails can mean you’re not enough oxygen in your bloodstream. White can signify liver disease or diabetes. Yellow nails can signify a nail infection or liver disease. Dusky red half moon could be a sign of heart disease, arthritis, lupus, alopecia areata (an autoimmune skin disease), or an inflammatory disease known as dermatomyositis.

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