You’re constantly thinking about food
Food is delicious, and so it’s only natural to have your meals at the top of your mind every now and again. However, if monitoring your intake seems to be the only thing you think about, then Molly Bahr, LMHC, a licensed mental health counsellor with an eating disorder specialty, warns that this could be a silent sign that you aren’t eating enough.
“Our culture often praises people who are intentionally trying to lose weight or be healthy, but they don’t realize how often these behaviors are actually disordered eating or even a diagnosable eating disorder,” says Bahr. “Eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of all psychological disorders.”
You have irregular bowel movements
If you’re not going to the bathroom regularly or if your bowel movements seem to be out of the ordinary, it could be a sign that there’s something going on in your gut.
“The transit time of food through your intestines is one of the first signs of a problem,” explains Lisa Richards, a nutritionist and the creator of the Candida diet. “When you don’t have enough beneficial probiotic microorganisms in your gut, pathogenic bacteria and yeast can start to take over. They affect all kinds of processes in your gut, including nutrient absorption and vitamin production. This can mean constipation or diarrhea and inconsistent, unhealthy bowel movements.”
You’re always thirsty
Craving a glass of water after an intense workout is normal. Feeling like you absolutely need one while sitting at your desk? A little bit less so. “Excessive thirst can be an indication of a blood sugar imbalance,” explains Self. “It can be an early sign of insulin dysregulation or even diabetes.”
You have irregular periods
“Many women think period abnormalities are normal, but your cycle is actually considered an important vital sign,” explains Self. “A heavy, irregular, or painful period can indicate anything from a thyroid condition to fibroids.” One 2002 study published in the journal Obstetrics and Gynecology even found that young women with irregular periods were more likely to be diagnosed with a hormonal shortage that could develop into osteoporosis.
You have headaches
Multiple sclerosis (MS) doesn’t always immediately manifest as muscular issues. Rather, one 2018 study published in the journal European Neurology found that 78 percent of MS patients experienced headaches at the onset of their illness that got better within six months of treatment. If you think that it’s at all possible that MS could be causing your head pain, seek a medical professional’s opinion as soon as possible.
You’re losing your hearing
Hearing loss is one of the most silent health symptoms out there. According to 2013 research from Johns Hopkins University, older adults with hearing loss were 24 percent more likely to be diagnosed with Alzheimer’s within a six-year period.
You get short of breath when you bend over
You shouldn’t be out of breath just from bending over to tie your shoes. If you are, it could mean that your heart is starting to give out. According to a 2014 study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology: Heart Failure, this phenomenon—dubbed bendopnea—can be a symptom of excess fluid retention in patients with underperforming hearts.
You have jaw pain
Believe it or not, heart attacks can sometimes cause jaw pain. Unfortunately, the majority of individuals suffering aren’t aware that this is a symptom until it’s too late. One 2012 study published in the Spanish-language journal Medicina Oral Patologia Oral Y Cirugia Bucal even found that approximately one in every 10 heart attacks begins as jaw pain.
You have shoulder pain
Sometimes a tumor in the lungs—called pleural mesothelioma—manifests as shoulder pain. That’s according to a 2015 study published in Advances in Experimental Medicine and Biology, which found that 14 percent of people with this rare type of cancer experienced shoulder pain, often as their first symptom.
Shoulder pain isn’t usually a sign of cancer, but if you have inhaled a harmful substance like asbestos in your lifetime, then you should see that discomfort as a warning of something more serious.
You have pain in your armpit
When you think about breast cancer, the first symptom that comes to mind is lumps. However, that isn’t the only way that this form of cancer manifests.
One study presented at the 2016 National Cancer Research Institute Cancer Conference found that breast cancer patients with less obvious symptoms—like nipple abnormalities, breast inflammation, and pain in the armpit—were more likely to wait more than three months to seek treatment.
You have hoarseness
Having a hoarse voice after going to a loud concert or sporting event is hardly concerning. Having a hoarse voice after enjoying a relaxing and quiet day, however, is. According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, this could be a symptom of vocal cord cancer—and if you smoke or were a smoker in the past, then you should be hyperaware of this silent health symptom.
“Fatigue can be related to a number of different issues, and talking with your physician can narrow down a potential diagnosis,” explains Erik Polan, DO, assistant professor of internal medicine at Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine. “Things occurring with fatigue—such as unexplained weight loss, night sweats, easy bruising, and lumps or bumps under the skin—could signify potential cancers. Other issues that can cause similar symptoms include viral infections (like HIV) or rarer endocrine or rheumatologic issues.”
Your lips are chapped
If your lips are chapped and dry in the middle of December, then odds are that you have harsh winds and dropping temperatures to blame. However, if it’s the middle of the summer and your lips are still not well hydrated, then you could be dealing with a myriad of issues ranging from an allergy to dehydration. It’s worth visiting a doctor to try to diagnose and remedy the issue.
Your brain is in a fog
Both your brain and your kidneys are impacted by the cardiovascular systems. Therefore, if you ever find yourself dealing with brain fog, it’s quite possible that your kidneys are the source of the problem. In fact, one 2012 study published in the journal Nephrology Dialysis Transplantation found that declining renal function was associated with declining cognitive function.
You’re always itchy
When your kidneys start to fail, your skin responds by getting itchy—and we mean really itchy. One 2017 study published in the journal Seminars in Nephrology notes that approximately 40 percent of patients with end-stage renal disease deal with moderate to severe pruritus, i.e. severe itching of the skin.