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Alternative Medicine: How to read your body's early signs of health problems

By By Dr. Tim Holcomb
Sept. 17, 2013 at 4:17 a.m.

Tim Holcomb

A pale tongue can indicate anemia. A swollen, smooth or sore tongue can indicate a deficiency of B vitamins. A thick, white coating on the tongue suggests an infection with candida yeast, which can be a sign that yeast is overgrown in the intestinal tract.

Intestinal yeast can cause major health problems, such as "leaky gut syndrome," which can allow toxins to seep back into the bloodstream from the intestines. This can lead to food allergies.

Grooves in the middle of the tongue is seen with digestive problems such as irritable bowel syndrome or ulcerative colitis. Indenting on the sides of the tongue can be caused by liver or gallbladder problems. Smooth areas on the tongue are another sign of nutritional deficiency.

Sunken cheeks indicate a deficiency of cortisol, the stress hormone, because of tired adrenal glands. It could also indicate low levels of growth hormone, which can be a problem with the pituitary gland.

Puffy cheeks can be caused by excess estrogen. Redness of the cheeks or nose may be caused by inflammation of the skin because of bacteria originating in the stomach.

A swelling at the base of the throat could be an enlarged thyroid gland, called a goiter. The most common reason is a deficiency of iodine, which is very common. The thyroid gland needs iodine to make thyroid hormone. Toxins can kick the iodine out and prevent the thyroid from working. It could also be because of an autoimmune reaction against the thyroid gland caused by a hyperactive immune system.

By the way, one of the most common problems I see is thyroid problems. It is occurring at epidemic proportions, so screening the thyroid in an examination is a top priority. About 27 million people in the U.S. suffer from a thyroid condition, half of which have not been diagnosed.

Thyroid disease predisposes you to many health problems, including obesity, heart attack, fatigue, depression, seizures, dementia, mood changes, psychosis and symptoms associated with menopause.

Ear lobes with creases can be a warning sign of heart disease.

A stiff neck, tilted head or unleveled shoulders can suggest a misalignment of the vertebrae in the neck, which can cause painful spasms of the muscles of the neck and shoulders and headaches.

An accumulation of fat at the bottom of the neck suggests a problem with the adrenal glands, the hormonal glands that produce the stress hormone cortisol.

Sagging breasts in a woman can indicate a deficiency of estrogen, especially if there are hot flashes or a loss of skin elasticity. An indicator of too much estrogen is red dots on the skin, usually on the chest, abdomen and back. Excess estrogen activity places a woman, even a man, at risk of certain cancers.

I place most of my women patients on supplements that are natural extracts from cruciferous vegetables, such as broccoli and cauliflower. These help prevent the conversion of "good" estrogen to "bad" estrogen and help prevent these cancers.

If you see or feel bumps on the back of your arms, this is usually due to a deficiency of vitamin A. Thin, fragile skin or a loss of hair on the skin is a sign of low levels of the hormones testosterone and dehydroepiandrosterone. Low levels can increase the risk for having depression, fatigue, memory problems, low sex drive, weak bones and heart trouble.

The fingernails are also important to look at. Spoon-shaped or pale nails are probably revealing anemia. Ridges in the nails are probably due to low thyroid function. White spots on the nails are caused by a deficiency of zinc, an essential trace mineral. Brittle nails are a sign of deficiency of protein and essential fatty acids. Nail problems can also be caused by a general inability to absorb nutrients because of low stomach acid.

An apple-shaped abdomen, the or the appearance that the person is wider at the waist than at the hips, is a sign of blood sugar problems, called insulin resistance. The excess blood sugar goes to fat. Fat accumulating around the hips is a sign of excess estrogen. These problems can be improved with hormone balancing and improving blood sugar metabolism.

These are some of the indicators that I use in my practice that you can use to check yourself to help detect health tendencies that might develop into health problems in the future.

Dr. Tim Holcomb is a local nutritionist, pharmacist, naturopath and chiropractor.

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