How to Listen to Your Body

Girl Lying on a Couch with Her Back ArchedPhoto Courtesy: Laura Betancourt

The human body is an amazing thing; it comes equipped with a waterproof exterior that heals itself (skin), an information center that not only stores years of memory but also has the capacity to synthesize millions of new ideas (brain), a power station that self-regulates and lasts longer than any battery (heart), and much, much more. It is resilient and built for decades of survival in an ever-changing world.

In addition to all these features, the human body has also come equipped with several warning systems which, if listened to, provide insight into the body’s inner workings. Many times, we attempt to treat these warnings with drugs and unhealthy foods that only address the symptoms, but don’t necessarily fix the underlying problems:


Mirrored Images of a Man having a Headache holding His Head

Image Courtesy: Gerd Altmann

Headaches are as much a part of life as sleeping, breathing, and eating. Over half of the adult U.S. population has experienced at least one of the nearly 30 different varieties of headache. And while many theories have been submitted as to the direct cause of headaches in the human body, researchers have not been able to agree on one singular source.

The headache treatment market is saturated with painkillers, muscle relaxants, antidepressants and other drugs, but they only temporarily relieve the pain. Lasting relief requires a change in behavior:

  • Get More Sleep: Lack of restful sleep at night, and constant fatigue during the day, activate proteins that trigger pain receptors in the head.
  • Eat Healthy/Avoid Dehydration: Waiting too long to eat causes your blood sugar to drop. Your body then releases headache-causing hormones in response to the low glucose levels.
  • Avoid Stress and Overexertion: When too much stress is placed on the body or mind, your muscles will naturally contract and cramp up in defense. Headaches can result when this happens to the muscles in your neck and head. Poor posture can have a similar effect on your muscles.

Lower Back Pain

Man having Acute Back Pain Lying in Bed holding His Back

Photo Courtesy: Erik Ogan

Lower back pain is responsible for over 70% of workplace absences, and is the single leading cause of disability worldwide! Given that the human back and spine is composed of a complex network of bones, joints, ligaments and muscles, lower back pain can have a number of causes—many of them preventable:

  • Sitting/Poor Posture: Sitting is not good for you. Excessive sitting or slouching places undue stress on your back, and puts you at risk for chronic disease. If you’re sedentary for most of the day, stand up and walk around a few times every hour.
  • Obesity: Similarly, a body mass index (BMI) of 25 or more is at great risk for lower back pain. People with a BMI of 20 or below reduce their risk by half.
  • Sports Injury: People with active lifestyles are not exempt from lower back problems. Contact sports, or activities that involve a lot of jumping and pivoting can cause severe lower back strain if you’re not careful. Back injuries are not worth playing through—the pros don’t even do it.


Young Boy Drooling Over a Doughnut

Photo Courtesy: Pawel Loj

The human body produces two types of cravings: hunger and appetite. Hunger is the physiological side-effect of some type of nutrient deficiency in the body. For example, when you start feeling fatigued, irritable, or lightheaded, it is likely because your body requires nutrient-rich food (e.g. protein, fiber, complex carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals, etc.). Appetite, on the other hand, can be produced by social and emotional factors, such as boredom, depression, or social eating.

The problem for most people is that they can’t distinguish between the two, and often mistake appetite for hunger. And given that many of the foods that spark appetite contain sparse nutrients, your body requires more of that food until it has taken in all the nutrients it requires. What results then is an overindulgence of unhealthy food.

If you’re hungry, and you have the choice between an apple and a brownie, remember you’ll never get enough of that which does not satisfy.


Close-Up of a Young Girl Pinching Around a Pimple on Her Cheek

Photo Courtesy: Saluda UdeA

When your body experiences a hormonal or chemical imbalance, the symptoms will often manifest themselves in the form of acne. And while you could spend hundreds of dollars on expensive creams and washes, you might be better served by understanding the root causes, genetics aside:

  • Stress: If you already have acne symptoms, stress can make it worse. One stress response is the production of sebum, the oily substance that mixes with dead skin cells and bacteria to produce pimples. Constant picking as a result of stress can also cause infection, scarring and additional breakouts.
  • Diet: Excessive levels of glucose (sugar) in the bloodstream causes inflammation at a cellular level. This, in turn, triggers a hormonal response in the form of acne. Nutrient-rich foods, on the other hand, reduce this inflammation.
  • Hygiene: Many people believe that chemicals and washes that dry out the skin is the best way to fight acne, but this is simply not true. Acne is often brought on in response to dry skin. When the body detects the skin drying out, it produces sebum to moisturize the skin, which consequently produces acne. Lotions and soaps that moisturize the skin can protect against breakouts.


Maybe the YOLO (you only live once) crowd is right in the sense that you really only get one body in this life. Listen to it, take care of it, and make your life a long and happy one!


Joseph CarneyJoseph Carney is a sports fanatic and loves writing about anything competitive. His degree is in health and wellness and he also freelances as a personal trainer. Joseph keeps up to date on the latest in sports, health, and fitness. He also writes for Nurse TV, who work to provide personal medical assistance to a world-wide audience.

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