Learn To Listen To Your Body

Dr Vernon Coleman

Your body can tell you a lot if you will listen to it. Many minor symptoms which you might regard as a nuisance, or which you might hurry to treat, are early signs that something is wrong. Other signs may be simply ignored because you are not aware of their importance.

Here are some pointers to help you listen to your body more attentively.

1. If you are lifting or moving something and you feel a twinge of pain, consider that a warning. If you persist then you are probably going to end up with a strained muscle or damaged joint. If you are digging the garden and your back begins to ache that is an early sign that you would be foolish to ignore. Most episodes of pain should be regarded as early warning signs – the longer you ignore a pain the more likely you are to end up with a serious problem.

2. Vomiting and diarrhoea may be extremely inconvenient but they are sometimes important defence mechanisms employed by your body for very specific purposes. If you develop either of these symptoms without any other signs, there is a chance that you may have acquired some form of gastro intestinal infection and that your body is trying to get rid of the infection. Any treatment you choose to employ to control your symptoms may also ensure that the infection stays in your body for longer. You must always consult your doctor immediately about either of these symptoms.

3. The cough reflex is a sophisticated defence system designed to eject unwelcome foreign matter from your respiratory tract. You should help your body by spitting out anything that you cough up. If you have a persistent or recurrent cough then you could have a persistent or recurrent infection or irritation in your lungs. Or there could be an irritant of some kind in the air you breathe. If you have a cough it isn’t always sensible to try to stop it – the cough is, after all, trying to protect your body! The best solution is to enlist your doctor’s help and find the cause of the cough.

4. If you develop an unusual or unexpected skin rash the chances are high that you have been in contact with an irritant. The reaction of your skin is a result of the fact that your skin tissues, recognising the irritant as a threat, have produced chemicals designed to counteract it. You can probably ease the resultant rash by using powerful drug therapy to oppose your body’s reaction. But it is far more sensible to identify the irritant and avoid it.

5. If you develop cramp in your legs it may be because your circulation has been impeded. The cramp pains develop because the waste products from the metabolic processes which occur during muscle use have accumulated. The slowing down of the circulation has meant that the blood has not been able to clear the wastes away. The cramp pains tell you to change position. Once you have acted the blood will flow more easily. The waste products can then be washed away, and the pain will disappear.

6. If you eat the wrong sort of food, or eat too quickly, you may develop indigestion. If you do your stomach will be telling you that you have done something wrong. You can solve the problem temporarily by using antacids or by taking tablets. Do that, however, and the pain will probably come back. To get rid of the symptoms permanently you must listen to your body and take notice. Maybe you need to change your diet. Maybe you need to change your eating habits. You probably need good medical advice.

7. If you have a lot of accidents, it may be that you are constantly under too much pressure. There is a strong correlation between accident proneness and stress.

8. A woman who has irregular menstrual periods may well be worried about something. Girls who are taking examinations often have delayed periods – and so do girls who think they may be pregnant.

9. Most headaches are caused by pressure, tension and anxiety producing tight and tense muscles. Relaxing those muscles will often help a tension headache disappear more speedily than taking a pill. Relaxing the muscles at an early stage and dealing with the underlying tension may stop a headache developing. Persistent, recurrent or worrying headaches should always be investigated by a doctor.

10. Blood pressure often rises as a result of stress. Taxi drivers, school teachers and surgeons are far more likely to develop high blood pressure than accountants, church ministers or farmers. If your doctor tells you that you have high blood pressure the chances are high that stress is damaging your health. You can help yourself by exposing yourself to less stress or by improving your resistance to stress.

You will find more about how to listen to your body in my book ‘Bodypower’. Remember that you should always seek professional medical advice for any symptoms which persist for more than five days, which reappear or which worry you.

Taken from `How to stop your doctor killing you’ by Vernon Coleman – available as a paperback and an eBook.

Copyright Vernon Coleman October 2023