From low sex-drive to brain drain, these key signs could mean you’re in need of a dietary overhaul.
Our bodies are just like cars. When the oil, battery or electronics symbol lights up on your dashboard, it indicates a potential fault in the vehicle that requires your attention. In a similar way your body is constantly communicating its needs, giving outward signs when things need fixing from within. So listen to what it’s saying, give it the right nourishment and it will soon be running like a well-oiled machine.
1. You don’t heal properly
If you find your scrapes, cuts and other injuries heal slowly, poor nutrition may be to blame. When your body builds new tissue to replace damaged ones, a good supply of nutrients is needed to maximise tissue strength, boost recovery time and for your body to fight off any infection that may creep into a wound. By focusing on the intake of certain key nutrients you can help your body heal much more effectively.
Protein is an important building block for muscle, skin, and other body tissues and also helps fight infection. When you have a cut or wound, studies show that you actually lose protein from the wound secretions, so intake of this nutrient is even more vital. Eggs are a great source of protein, as well as Greek yoghurt, kefir, and (surprisingly) broccoli.
After an injury there is always some inflammation as part of the first stages of wound healing. But, according to a study from the journal Sports Medicine, if this inflammation remains too high for too long, your recovery can slow down. Researchers have shown that omega-3 fatty acids have anti-inflammatory properties that can help prevent excess inflammation from delaying your recovery. Good food sources include fish, algae, walnuts, flaxseeds and chia seeds.
Other key nutrients to focus on include, vitamin C and zinc, which is a component of many enzymes needed for wound healing, tissue repair and growth. Regularly consuming zinc-rich foods like shellfish, seeds and nuts can really ramp up your recovery time. In fact, a study in the Journal of Research in Medical Sciences showed that not getting enough zinc from your diet can actually delay wound healing.
2. You have an overly musical behind
Farting is a normal and natural occurrence. In fact, according to the Cleveland Clinic, the average person produces 14 to 23 farts every day (don't ask me how they researched that). But if you find yourself doing a lot of tooting, this is a sure-fire sign that your digestion could do with a helping hand. Flatulence is caused by a build-up of intestinal gas produced by bacteria in the digestive tract. Sometimes foods such as beans, lentils and barley can contribute to this condition as they contain carbohydrates that can’t always be digested and absorbed by the intestines. If you can’t cut these out of your diet entirely, researchers from the University of Michigan Integrative Medicine suggest gradually increasing the amount of beans and other legumes eaten, over several weeks, to help overcome this problem.
However it could be that you are suffering from a food intolerance, which can cause digestive upset like diarrhea, gas, bloating, and nausea. Common culprits for food intolerance are lactose, found in dairy products, and gluten, which is in all wheat products like bread and pasta. If you think this might be the case, an elimination diet could help.
Chewing food properly and eating slowly and mindfully can help too. Most of the gas in your body is swallowed air. When you eat too quickly, you swallow far more air which can lead to increased flatulence. The same goes for chewing gum too. People who chew gum throughout the day swallow far more air than those who don’t – this is known as aerogphagia. A study in the Journal of the Association of Basic Medical Sciences also found that chewing gum has stimulatory effects on bowel function, including speeding up flatulence. Pop a mint in instead.
Introducing more probiotics into your diet can also help. Probiotics occur naturally in fermented foods like kefir, sauerkraut and cultured milk, but you can also find manufactured probiotic supplements. Studies have shown probiotics to be beneficial in easing symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome, including flatulence. If you’re new to taking these, ease into increasing your intake slowly and pay attention to any positive or negative side effects. You might find it helpful to keep a food journal during this introductory period.
3. Your brain feels drained
In order for your brain to keep concentration and memory at its peak, it needs fuelling with the right nutrients. Adequate intake of omega-3 fatty acids is especially important as it plays a part in cognitive development at all stages of life. Foods such as omega-3-rich salmon, tuna and flaxseeds can help to protect your brain cells and increase memory, as can antioxidant-packed foods like blackberries and blueberries. But the key vitamins for memory are B12, and B6. These are found in animal products like eggs and meat.
Studies also show that increasing your dietary fats can help with brain health and mood. In a study from the British Journal of Nutrition, researchers found that when participants cut their dietary fat intake from 41% of total energy to 25%, it had an adverse effect on their mood, with significant increases in anger, hostility, tension and anxiety. So getting more fats is key to good brain health. But upping your fats alone may not be enough. Many studies have shown that a low-carb diet in tandem with a high-fat intake can offer far greater brain-boosting benefits.
4. You've lost your libido
If you are struggling to get fired up in the bedroom, your diet could be a potential contributor. According to a study from the International Journal of Eating Disorders, malnutrition can lead to a loss of libido as well as causing sexual anxiety.
A nutrient-rich, real-food diet is the best way to provide your body with everything it needs for hormone production and all of the other physiological functions needed for a healthy sex life. So next time you’re knocking up a romantic dinner, add a little basil or garlic to your dish. The smell of basil stimulates the senses, and garlic contains high levels of allicin, which increases blood flow.
Another highly rated libido boosting food is maca. A sweet root vegetable, it is commonly used in South America to boost fertility. Several studies, including one in the Journal Ethnopharmacology reported that participants experienced enhanced sexual desire after they consumed maca. Other foods to help put you in peak performance include, red ginseng, fungreek, oysters, saffron and pistachio nuts. In one study, men who consumed 100g of pistachio nuts per day for three weeks experienced increased blood flow to the penis and firmer erections.
5. Your last three meals came out of a packet
Those pre-packaged meals and snacks can make calorie counting and portion control a whole lot easier, not to mention saving you time in the kitchen. But there could be a hidden cost to this convenience. In a study published in the journal Health Economics, consumption of processed foods resulted in an increase in weight, whilst another study found that when fed whole foods, our bodies burn 50% more calories compared with processed foods.
Many processed foods contain hidden sugars, which can also wreak havoc on your health. In a study published in the journal Open Heart, researchers found that whilst sugar may provide quick bursts of energy, it does so at a cost. Not only does it deplete valuable nutrients from other nutritionally superior foods that have been consumed, but it can drain existing nutrients in body stores as well. The consumption of added sugars also damages the mitochondria - the parts of the cell that release energy, ultimately hindering energy production in the long run. The bottom line? Making meals from scratch is key to maintaining your weight, health and happiness.
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This information is for educational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for medical diagnosis or treatment. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat a health problem or condition. Always check with your doctor or healthcare provider before changing your diet, altering your sleep habits, taking supplements, or starting a new fitness routine.