Listening To Your Body – Red Flags You Should Never Ignore

By Julia Westbrook
As first seen on

Learn how ignoring or downplaying your symptoms can hurt your health.

In our over-stimulating world, we’ve become very good at tuning things out, like background conversations on the train, sidebar advertisements online, and TV commercials. Unfortunately, this seems to have carried over into our heath lives and a concerning number of people are ignoring messages from their body, even potential cancer symptoms, according to research published in the journal PLOS One.

Surveying 1,700 people, they found that 53 percent had experienced at least one symptom that could be a red flag for cancer during the previous three months. The scary part: Only 2 percent didn’t dismiss cancer as a possibility.

“It’s worrying that even the more obvious warning symptoms, such as unexplained lumps or changes to the appearance of a mole, were rarely attributed to cancer [in this study],” says Dr. Katriina Whitaker, lead study author and senior research fellow at University College London.

Dr. Whitaker also points out that, even if cancer isn’t at the root, responding to this kind of serious symptom could catch other serious diseases early. “That’s why it’s important that these symptoms are checked out, especially if they don’t go away. But people could delay seeing a doctor if they don’t acknowledge cancer as a possible cause,” she says.

In addition to unexplained lumps or moles, some of the cancer red-flags included in the questionnaire included unexplained cough, bleeding, unexplained weight loss, unexplained pain, and persistent changes in bowel or bladder habits. Of the people who experienced concerning symptoms, just over half contacted their doctor, even if they didn’t attribute the symptom to cancer.
Catching cancer, or any disease really, early is a huge advantage for recovery, but that means that you need to dial into what your body is telling you and really listen. Gary Kaplan, DO, author of Total Recovery, says learning to listen to our bodies can save lives, but we’re really bad at doing this.

“It still amazes me how many aches and pains patients take for granted. At the most basic level, many people are stiff in the morning when they get out of bed,” says Dr. Kaplan. “They’re irritable and foggy-headed until they have a second cup of coffee. Since their friends are having the same experience, they joke about ‘getting older’ and assume that what they’re feeling is just nature taking its course, that there’s nothing they can do about it. But that’s not true.”

He asks us to ask ourselves the question “‘What are you putting up with?’ Whatever it is, the research is showing that the time to address it is now, not later.”
One of the big things we can listen for are signs of inflammation. “Only recently have we come to realize that so many of our most chronic diseases are primarily inflammatory conditions: inflammatory bowel disease (5 million),3 cancer (10 million), diabetes (14 million), 4 autoimmune disease (24 million), asthma (30 million), allergies (50 million), rheumatoid arthritis (50 million), 5 and cardiovascular disease (60 million), among many others,” he explains.

Dr. Kaplan recommends watching out for these three sneaky symptoms that may be trying to tell you “Something is wrong!”

Nutritional and Gastrointestinal Issues
“Gas, bloating, and poor digestion are also so common in our culture that it’s easy to assume they’re normal and nothing to worry about,” says Dr. Kaplan, but he points out that this is not the case: An upset tummy is not status quo. “It may be a symptom of a sustained inflammatory reaction in your body due to leaky gut, celiac disease, gluten intolerance, or other gastrointestinal disorders.”

Infections with pain, fever, malaise, or mood alterations
“The body is an ecosystem, so inflammation in the periphery can always potentially affect the central nervous system as well,” he says. “A lingering infection in the body can perpetuate inflammation.”

Unfortunately, he also points out that our best cure for infections, antibiotics, can upset the microflora in your gut, leading to leaky gut [link]. “It’s not that antibiotics are bad,” he clarifies, “But we know that antibiotics can have damaging side effects, so it makes sense to be aware of the consequences of using them and take precautions to offset it.”

“The injuries that contribute to [relentless inflammation] seem to be the ones that have never fully healed,” he says. Unfortunately, the “bad back” or “trick knee” that people force themselves to just live with keeping the inflammation going. ” If you still feel lingering effects from physical trauma, I encourage you to find a way to treat it. Total recovery is your best protection against the effects of cumulative traumas.”

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