Sometimes we miss the signs when our body is a little out of balance, run down or under the weather. It can be easy to keep going and ignore the mid-afternoon energy slump, cravings for sugar or changes in our digestive habits, but it is important to look after yourself and notice when you need to take a break or cool things a bit.
Of course, there are certain symptoms that need medical attention, but there are other little imbalances that can just be a nudge for us to take care of ourselves a little better.
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Here are a few signs, and some suggestions for how your diet can lend a helping hand.
1. WHITE SPOTS ON YOUR FINGERNAILS
This is really common, and can be a sign of low zinc levels. Zinc is important to help maintain a healthy immune system, and is used for healing and repair. It is also involved in taste function. Zinc is found in foods like meat, fish, seafood, nuts and seeds.
It is always advisable to get your nutrients through food, but if you do decide to take a zinc supplement, take it away from other minerals, especially iron, that can compete for absorption and reduce its effectiveness. This competition with other minerals is one of the main reasons why I am not keen to supplement individual minerals, as prioritising one can have a negative knock on effect on others. A decent multi-vitamin and mineral is often best.
2. ENERGY SLUMP
A mid-afternoon energy slump could be linked to what you've munched for lunch. If you have had a feed of white bread, or an excess of refined starchy carbohydrates, it can rock your blood sugar balance. This crash can leave you feeling fatigued, with 'hangry' cravings for sugary stuff and unable to concentrate. Swap your white carbs to wholegrains, add a little protein to lunch and don't forget to keep your veg intake topped up in your midday meal.
3. SUGAR CRAVINGS
Whether you get the sugar munchies mid-afternoon or at night, it is usually a sign that your blood sugar is a little out of balance. Adding in some fibre and protein help to maintain and sustain a more even blood sugar balance and can reduce cravings. Of course, cravings can be hunger by another name, so make sure you are eating enough at main meals to help keep you going and reduce hunger pangs between meals. Some people benefit from a supplement containing B vitamins, chromium and magnesium for a short time to help support healthy blood sugar and insulin balance.
4. DRY SKIN
This could be your body's way of telling you that you need to moisturise your skin from the inside, out. Of course, water is important for well hydrated skin, but we also need healthy fats to nourish our skin. These include omega 3 fats from oily fish like sardines, salmon or mackerel. Omega 6 from nuts and seeds and a daily supply of olive oil can also make a difference.
5. CHAPPED LIPS
Chapped and sore lips can be a seasonal side effect of the cold air or central heating in winter, but if you notice that your lips are chapped most of the year, look to the B vitamins for a possible reason why. Of course, the healthy fats and enough water are important here too, but supplementing a B complex for a few weeks could make all the difference.
6. TOILET TROUBLE
If you are finding it hard to go and are tending to be a little constipated, its usually your body's cry for more fibre in your diet. Just remember that as you increase your fibre intake with more fruit, vegetables, wholegrains, pulses and flax seeds, you will probably need a little more water too.
These are just simple suggestions, and not medical advice... Don't forget that if symptoms are out of the ordinary, or persistent, it is important to talk to your GP.