Holistic health care practitioners such as doctors of Chinese medicine, naturopaths and nutritionists use observational skills to understand a person’s overall health and wellbeing. There are some easy to read signs that your body may be telling you, all you need to do is know what to look out for.
Observing the colour, condition and texture of your skin, ears, hair and nails can provide a great insight into both your current and potential chronic health conditions. For example, rosy cheeks may appear when there is a cold or lung infection, breakouts may appear at the corners of the mouth during ovulation, and white spots may appear on the nails due to poor mineral absorption, in particular zinc. The face is viewed to be much like a mirror, so the internal condition and wellness of our bodies is reflected externally through various facets of our faces. Disharmony within will most often lead to a change in the complexion and texture of the facial area. Analysing the face is similar in principle to how we read and access the organs of the body via the feet in reflexology.
The cells of our body are affected energetically by thoughts and emotions. If we continually have negative thinking patterns or hold on to feelings such as anger or resentment, they can be stored in the body and create disharmony, even illness. These stored emotions can etch away into the lines of our face and tell the tale of the life you have lived. Massage, acupuncture, yoga and meditation are all wonderful ways to keep the body in harmony and unleash trapped emotions. The skin is also one of the first places where we can observe signs of nutritional deficiencies. If we are not getting adequate nutrition through our diet, our skin will let us know.
Here are my top tips to help you understand what your face might be telling you …
Skin colour and texture
A change in the colour or texture of your skin in a particular area of the face can indicate whether the underlying condition is current or chronic, and which part of the body may be affected.
* Red skin: Current inflammation or stimulation.
* Pale skin: Poor circulation or energy flow, nutrient depletion.
* Blackheads: Sluggish circulation and poor lymphatics.
* Breakouts: Current overstimulation, inflammation, heat.
* Pigmentation: This can indicate that there is more of a chronic long-term issue which could be linked to hormones, toxicity accumulation, free radical damage, medications and/or lack of dietary antioxidants.
* Lines and wrinkles: Chronic, long-term condition or repressed emotions.
Associated organ – kidneys; Stored emotion - fear/anxiety
The hair reflects our general health, wellbeing and nutritional status. According to Eastern medicine, the kidneys are believed to store vital chi or life force energy, thereby governing the rest of the body. The kidneys regulate water balance, blood pressure, the reproductive system and fertility, bones, teeth, hair and hearing. Causes of hair issues:
* Extreme stress and fear can affect the health of the hair and in some stressful situations we can even lose our hair.
* Excessive high-protein diets can put strain on the kidneys and may show as thick, coarse and wiry hair, while a lack of protein consumption can lead to thinning hair and even hair loss.
* Iron or essential fatty acid deficiency can lead to dry brittle hair, hair thinning.
* Lack of biotin and B-group vitamins can lead to thinning hair.
In some cultures hair can be very symbolic. Cutting your hair can be symbolic of new beginnings, cutting away negativity and stress from your life. Many women cut their hair when they get married, divorced or give birth. If you are noticing your hair is not your crowning glory, try including the following foods in your diet: nutritional yeast, seaweed, miso soup, high quality protein (e.g. fish, organic eggs, meat, poultry and fish), spirulina, fresh fruits and vegetables, good oils (e.g. omega-3s), avocados, nuts and seeds.
Associated organ – kidneys; Stored emotion: fear/anxiety
The ears represent the kidneys, which interestingly have a similar shape to the kidneys. If you have hot or red ears it may mean that you are under stress or your system is overstimulated. The tips of the ears may turn red due to poor tolerance to stimulants like caffeine or high histamine foods (e.g. alcohol, processed meats, fermented foods, citrus, strawberries, tomatoes). Reduce consumption of these foods if you have an issue with red ears as this may be a sign of a food intolerance. Foods to nourish include: plenty of antioxidant-rich fresh fruits and vegetables, oily fish, avocados; foods to minimise include sugary foods, refined carbohydrates such as breads, pasta, baked goods, and processed meats.
Associated organs - bladder and stomach (digestive tract); Stored emotion: worry
Troubled souls, worriers and over-thinkers often have deep furrowed brows. The forehead links with the process of digestion and assimilation. You can find even very young people with quite deep lines on their forehead that can’t be attributed to the ageing process but certainly can when taking into account their dietary habits and digestion. The upper part of the forehead is associated with the bladder, the middle with the stomach and digestion, and the lower with the small intestine. Sensitivity on the middle of the forehead, for example, could relate to poor diet and sluggish digestion or gut flora imbalance. Irritated, red skin on the top of the forehead could relate to cystitis or poor urination and toxin elimination due to inadequate water consumption. Breakouts on the forehead can also relate to a change in diet, food intolerances such as wheat or dairy, constipation or a diet high in refined carbohydrates. Foods to nourish include: filtered water, high-fibre prebiotic foods (e.g. fruits and vegetables), slippery elm, wholegrains, and bone broth; foods to minimise include: sugary foods, refined carbohydrates (e.g. breads, pasta, baked goods), and alcohol.
Between the eyes
Associated organs - liver, gall bladder and pancreas; Stored emotion: anger, judgement and resentment
The section between the brows relates to the liver and detoxification. The liver is the major detoxification organ in the body: it processes medications, and toxins, and regulates hormones, fat assimilation and cholesterol production. Sometimes this area on the face becomes red or irritated or you may even have a permanent vertical line there, not always associated with frowning. This could be reflective of eating rich or fatty foods that the liver finds harder to process, (e.g. dairy products, saturated or trans-fats, refined sugars) or simply poor eating habits. Medications, recreational drugs, the Pill, iron or copper accumulation, poor methylation function, nutritional deficiencies and tobacco all put a strain on the liver detoxification process, which can show up as redness, breakouts, or dry, peeling skin in this area. Liver disorders include fatty liver disease (often from alcohol or high refined sugar or carbohydrate consumption), cirrhosis, hepatitis, hemochromatosis and cancer.
Deep lines between the brows could signify resentment or unresolved anger issues. Foods to nourish include: parsley, coriander, cruciferous vegetables (e.g. broccoli, Brussels sprouts, kale, cauliflower); foods to minimise include: sugary foods, refined carbohydrates (e.g. breads, pasta, baked goods), alcohol, unnecessary medications, recreational drugs, processed foods.
Associated organs - adrenals, thyroid; Stored emotion – fear and stress
The adrenal glands are two small endocrine glands that sit on top of the kidneys. They produce a number of important hormones including cortisol and adrenaline, the hormones involved in managing our response to stress. The adrenals also produce small amounts of male and female sex hormones such as testosterone and oestrogen. When our body is under constant stress it has a knock-on effect to our adrenal glands and our hormone production. A quick way to check how stress may be affecting you is to look at your eyebrows. If they seem unusually wiry or long, it could indicate that your adrenal glands are under too much stress. Fine eyebrow hair or tapering brows can be a sign of adrenal exhaustion (you are near burn-out and your adrenal glands are struggling to work efficiently) or thyroid issues, such as an underactive thyroid. The thyroid is a large gland found in the neck that controls our metabolism and pretty much every cell within the body. The thyroid regulates your metabolism or the way our cells are fuelled via the production of thyroid hormones. A slow metabolism or weight gain is often blamed on an underactive thyroid which means the body is slow to utilise food for cell fuel or energy This leads to excess fuel or energy being stored as fat within the body. The body requires a dietary intake of iodine and selenium for healthy thyroid hormone production. Often when the adrenal glands are out of balance there is a knock-on effect on the thyroid and sometimes the reproductive system - the three systems work synergistically. If left untreated it will have a knock-on effect to the entire health of the body.
Foods to nourish include: vitamin C-rich foods (e.g. citrus, strawberries, capsicums), magnesium-rich foods (green leafy vegetables, nuts, seeds), mineral-rich seaweed, kelp, Brazil nuts (selenium), sea salt; foods to minimise include: salt, processed foods, alcohol, soft drinks, raw cruciferous vegetables (e.g. broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, kale), protein powders and supplements
The eyes have it
Associated organs - kidneys, eyes; Stored emotion – fear and anger
What do those dark circles under the eyes really mean? Are they simply a result of too many late nights? Well, in Eastern philosophy, the under-eye area relates to the kidneys, so it may indicate your elimination is weak. It may also be genetic or simply due to a stressful lifestyle, poor food choices and not enough water consumption. The darkness can reflect excess toxins and the need for a system cleanse, or simply that the body would benefit from more water to aid its functions. Not all dark circles are the same. The colour of the skin around the eyes can be indicative of what’s really going on within the body. Some dark circles can be purely genetic due to slightly darker skin colouring and are often seen in people of Middle Eastern and Indian backgrounds. However, prominent dark circles in lighter skins may be your body trying to tell you something.
* Blue-black: Can indicate a food intolerance or autoimmune condition. Monitor if the dark circles worsen after consumption of particular foods, especially wheat, gluten and dairy.
* Yellow-brown: Can indicate liver or gall bladder disharmony. It may be related to a diet high in environmental toxins, sugar, fats or long-term drug or medication use. The liver is overburdened and under stress. People that consume high amounts of junk food often have a slight yellow/brown skin discolouration around the eye area.
* Dark brown: May also be seen in iron metabolism disorders such as hemochromatosis, liver disorders or gall bladder disorders such as gall stones and problems with bile production.
More eye-related symptoms
* Dark sunken eye bags: May indicate internal dehydration. Increase filtered water and ensure your diet is full of potassium-rich fruits and vegetables (potassium is in most fruits and vegies).
* Grittiness under the eyes: May be a sign that your body is on the acidic side. Reduce your intake of salt, sugar, processed foods, refined carbohydrate foods, and coffee.
* White spots: Called milia, these tiny, white milky looking bumps around the eyes may be due to poor assimilation or breakdown of fats. Sometimes these appear when dairy consumption is high or when there is a dairy intolerance. Moderate consumption of excessively rich or fatty foods and increase choline-rich foods (e.g. eggs, lecithin, green leafy vegetables, peas) to assist with the breakdown of fats.
* Puffy eyes: Can indicate poor lymphatic drainage, and essential fatty acids deficiencies. Puffy eyes can sometimes be a sign of high blood pressure.
Foods to nourish include: beetroot, carrot and celery juice, potassium-rich fruits and vegetables (if you are not on potassium-sparing blood-pressure medication), flaxseed oil, fish oil, leafy green vegetables; foods to minimise include: wheat, dairy, tea, coffee, and processed foods.
The Forensic Nutritionist is available in leading book stores, health food stores and www.fionatuck.com