We all know our bodies can talk – usually half way through a spin class when they’re screaming ‘stop!’ However, there are a host of other more subtle messages about our health that our bodies send us all the time.

The quality of our skin, hair and nails are directly related to our nutritional status. The shape of our bodies, whether we have gained weight round our middles for example, can provide a clue to an underlying health issue. Even the foods we crave can tell a powerful story about a dysfunction in a particular body system.

It pays to learn body language. Here’s what to listen out for.


Hair is made of keratin which we manufacture from the protein we eat. So, if your hair is weak, not growing much or you are losing it, it could be a sign that you aren’t eating enough protein. It could also signal that you are deficient in certain key vitamins and minerals, such as vitamin A, C B, copper, zinc, selenium and essential fats.

Hair loss can be a sign of stress. This is because hair growth is a ‘non-essential’ body process, i.e. one that doesn’t directly keep us alive, so any stressed state measurable by a rise in the stress hormone cortisol (lost job, broken relationship, bereavement or even just a crash diet) can cause the hair to fall out.

An underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism) can also cause brittle hair and hair loss. Other symptoms include lost eyebrows and eyelashes, weight gain and feeling cold all the time. Hypothyriodism is most common in women over 40, often because menopausal hormonal changes unbalance the thyroid.

What to do:

  • Eat more lean protein – skinless chicken, white fish, eggs and low fat dairy.
  • Increase healthy fats (salmon, mackerel, nuts and seeds) and multi-coloured fruits and vegetables for a full range of nutrients.
  • Reduce your stress level. Confront that unreasonable boss, dump the bad relationship, take up relaxing exercise like yoga or tai chi.
  • Ask for a thyroid test from your GP.


When they tell kids to eat carrots to help them see at night, they are right. If you find yourself straining to see the road when driving at night, it could be proof that you are low in vitamin A. This vitamin is also implicated if you have dry eye or conjunctivitis.


  • Eat retinol found in liver, beef chicken and eggs.
  • Eat betacarotene, which is converted to retinol in the body, in orange/yellow fruits and dark green leafy vegetables.

Your skin is probably your most effective diagnostic tool. It is covered by a thin waterproof layer made partly of essential fats. This layer seals in moisture. If your skin feels or looks dry, it is therefore likely that are deficient in essential fats.

If you have a rash, it could be a sign of liver problems. This is because your skin is the second most important organ of detoxification in your body, the first being your liver. If your liver is not safely detoxing any nasties inside you (alcohol, caffeine, e numbers), the toxins may be thrown out through your skin instead, giving you the rash. A skin rash can also be a sign of bacterial infection in the gut, as this creates toxic waste products.

If your rash is in a butterfly pattern across the nose and cheeks, this may be acne rosacea which is associated with digestive problems and can also be a signal you are under stress.

A less uniform pattern of spots on the face, along the jaw line, on the chest, back or stomach which doesn’t fluctuate throughout your monthly cycle could indicate you are suffering from PCOS (polycystic ovaries) or have type 2 diabetes. In both cases, uncontrolled blood sugar causes the release of adrenal hormones, including testosterone, which increases sebum production, blocking pores and causing spots.

Skin bumps without redness, often seen on the backs of upper arms, could be a sign of ‘follicular keratosis’ which could suggest a deficiency of essential fats

Easy bruising is a possible sign of lack of vitamin C.


  • Eat omega 3, 6 and 9 essential fats (oily fish, nuts, seeds, avocado).
  • Look after your liver. Limit alcohol and caffeine, try to eat as much organic as possible.
  • Take a probiotic capsule daily to replenish friendly bacteria to fight infection.
  • Adopt a low GI diet to fight PCOS and type 2 diabetes.
  • Eat an orange a day (the whole fruit, not the juice) to boost your vitamin C.


The most obvious cause of teeth and gum problems is too much sugar in your diet, combined with poor dental hygiene. However, there are also specific vitamins we need for a healthy smile.

If you suddenly have a need for fillings it could suggest you are deficient in vitamin D and this helps your body fix calcium into teeth to harden them. Bleeding gums can be a sign of a lack of vitamin C. This is a water soluble vitamin and we can’t store it in our bodies. So eating three oranges one day and none for a fortnight could impact your teeth. You need a steady supply.

Mouth ulcers can be a sign that you are run down and your immune system is depressed or they could suggest a B12 deficiency. B12 anaemia, as it is called, most often affects vegetarians as B 12 is found in the most concentrated form in organ meats.

Cracking at the corner of your mouth and sore tongue can be a sign that you are low in iron and the B vitamins.


  • Eat vitamin D rich foods such as eggs and oily fish. Get outside more, or take a D3 supplement daily.
  • Eat foods containing vitamin C, such as citrus fruits, berries, broccoli and peppers.
  • If you are a vegetarian, choose fortified foods such as soy milks and margarines, or take a B12 supplement.
  • Take iron and B Complex supplements daily. Avoid drinking tea or coffee with meals as this can reduce iron absorption.


If you see brittle, flaky of spotted nails, you should immediately think: ‘stomach’. Nails, like hair, are made from protein, but this needs to be absorbed and so if your nails don’t look good it could be that you are not absorbing enough protein or other nail-friendly nutrients such as the B vitamins, iron and zinc.

Low stomach acid is the most common cause of poor nutrient absorption. Stomach acid production can be interrupted by stress (yes, stress can upset your tummy) or can be hindered by a lack of zinc. White spots on the nails are a particular sign of zinc deficiency.
Poor nails can also suggest an underactive thyroid.


  • Eat plenty of lean protein
  • Boost your stomach acid by taking HCL tablets with your meals.
  • So not drink water with your meals as this may dilute HCL.
  • Eat whole grain foods which are a good source of B vits, plus red meat for iron and oily fish, nuts and seeds for essential fats.
  • Ask for a thyroid test at your GP.
  • Boost iodine rich foods which support thyroid function such as shell fish and seaweed (sushi).
  • Boost your zinc by eating more nuts.


If you have noticed that you have gained weight round your mid-section recently, then it could be a sign either that you are under a lot of stress, you are on the way to type 2 diabetes or that you are perimenopausal.

Stress causes ‘visceral’ fat stores, that is fat to be laid down around essential organs which happen to be in your torso, so you get a fat tummy and slim legs, rather than the more traditional female pear shaped bum. A high sugar diet has the same effect on the body, in that it induces a stressed state which results in a similar pattern of fat storage.

Perimenopause is the final reason you might not be able to do up your jeans. As we approach the menopause, our ovaries produce less oestrogen and our bodies may look for a way to replace this. Visceral fat manufactures oestrogen so our bodies may try to increase this to replace ovarian oestrogen.


  • Reduce your stress levels. Learn to say ‘no’ to extra work and family responsibilities.
  • Reduce your intake of sugar and stimulants which put the body into a stressed state.
  • Eat phytoestrogens, plant compounds that can replace lost oestrogen, found in soy products and pulses.



If you crave sugar: Tryptophan. Happy hormone serotonin is made from the amino acid tryptophan. Insulin which is released when sugar is eaten, helps the tryptophan enter the brain. Action: Eat tryptophan containing foods such as turkey, avocado and bananas

If you’re excessively thirsty: diabetes, or a deficiency in essential fats. Action: Ask your GP for a diabetes test and take a fish oil tablet delivering 1000mg of EPA/DHA p/day

If you can’t sleep: Magnesium, because it is a natural muscle relaxant. Other symptoms include headache and muscle pains. Action: Eat nuts, peanut butter, spinach and halibut.

If you crave salty foods: adrenal stress. The adrenals are a pair of glands that help us deal with stress and control salt balance in the body. If they are stressed, salt balance may also be affected, leading to the craving. Action: Reduce stress and try the herb rhodiola which may interrupt the stress response in the body.

If you crave spicy foods: Zinc. This mineral is important for our sense of taste. If depleted, you may crave more highly flavoured foods. Action: Eat fish and seafood.