Our faces say so much more than we realise – they’re not only a way of showing our emotions, they also carry clues about the state of our health. Holistic experts say those little lines, the odd colours, the blemishes and changes in skin texture that appear from time to time all point towards certain conditions.
“The face can be a window to our health,” says Mary-Lou Harris, natural well-being practitioner and senior nutritionist at the New You Boot Camps in Europe. “What’s going on in the body is shown in the face, whether that’s something as obvious as pain, or something much more subtle such as digestion trouble or a congested liver.
“If there is a problem area within the body, maybe an area that’s under stress, or isn’t working at its optimum, we can see it in the face. Once the issue has been sorted out, the corresponding area in the face often reverts to how it used to be.”
A light grey shadow running from the inside corner of the eye down the cheekbone, at a 45-degree angle, indicates congestion in the liver.
“This may be caused by too much caffeine in the form of tea and coffee,” says Mary-Lou. “Or it may be down to the medication you’re taking. The liver collects all the rubbish in your body and takes it away, so if it isn’t working at its best, your body won’t be getting rid of toxins as well as it could.”
If you have a congested liver, you may get headaches over the forehead or you may feel nauseous, especially after eating greasy, fatty foods. A pain between the shoulder blades is a typical liver backache.
Eat turmeric! “Turmeric is one of the few plant foods that supports the liver, as it helps to clear the rubbish away faster,” says Mary-Lou. “It can be liquidised in shakes, mixed into an egg dish or used in curries, soups and sauces.
“You can also use tumeric to a make a drink that tastes like chai tea, by putting a quarter of a teaspoon each of turmeric, ginger and cinnamon into a cup of boiling water.”
Garlic, red onions, beetroot and asparagus are also good foods to help fight against liver problems.
A puffy jawline and eyebrows that thin on the outer edge are signs that the thyroid isn’t functioning well. “The thyroid controls all the body’s functions, so keeping it in good form is vital,” says Mary-Lou.
“One of the most obvious signs of thyroid disease is a goitre – a swelling near the oesophagus. This may be obvious or it may be a swollen, raised, rounded area.”
An underactive thyroid can effect your energy levels and make you feel cold all the time. “Because you feel the cold, you start growing hair around your upper lip and chin to keep you warm,” says Mary-Lou.
“Constipation is also a symptom. Women who miscarry in the first trimester of their pregnancy sometimes find their thyroid is underactive.”
Seaweed is high in minerals and iodine, and iodine is needed for the conversion of the thyroid hormone T4 into active T3. The selenium found in nuts and seeds is beneficial for the thyroid because it supports the conversion of hormones.
Pumpkin seeds are recommended because they are a relaxant, and oily fish is also beneficial because of its omega 3, which is anti-inflammatory.
Spots or blemishes at the corners of your mouth could indicate problems with the colon or large intestine.
“It’s a myth that you must eat a lot of fibre if you’re suffering from digestion problems,” says Mary-Lou. “A high-fibre diet can cause pancreatitis, which is an inflamed pancreas. This can be very painful and in some cases, life-threatening.
“Fibre also feeds bacteria, whether it is good or bad bacteria. If our stores of good bacteria are low when we’ve been stressed or on antibiotics, then the extra fibre we eat will feed the bad bacteria, causing us more problems.”
Constipation, diarrhoea, bloating or irritable bowel syndrome all indicate
a weak large intestine.
“Eat yogurt, which supports the gut, and good-quality fibre like courgettes, tomatoes, avocados, brown rice and oats,” advises Mary-Lou.
The chin reflects how well our kidneys are working, so redness, blemishes or spots in this area might indicate a renal weakness.
“The kidneys are our body’s filters, so when we take in too many toxins from caffeine and junk food, the kidneys take a hit,” says Mary-Lou. “Ammonia is produced when protein is broken down, so a high-protein diet like the Atkins Diet may be harmful to the kidneys.”
Kidney problems show up as backache and night sweats.
Keep your system clean by drinking plenty of water and eating foods such as green leafy vegetables and fresh cranberries, which are high in antioxidants.
“These antioxidants slow down cell-damaging free radicals in the body, which means the kidneys don’t have to work as hard,” Mary-Lou says.
The end of your nose reflects your heart health, so look for redness, spots and inflammation.
“If your nose is red for any reason other than you’ve just had a cold, it might be worth having your blood pressure and cholesterol checked,” says Mary-Lou.
Feeling tired all the time or being breathless without exerting yourself may well be caused by stress or a panic attack, but they may also indicate your heart is at risk.
The co-enzyme Q10 is essential for heart health and this can be found in organ meats such as liver, kidney and heart, as well as beef, soy oil, sardines, mackerel and peanuts.
The omega 3s found in oily fish such as sardines, herring, kippers and wild salmon are excellent for the heart. Magnesium acts as a relaxant, so snack on some pumpkin seeds to help keep your
A grey shadow just under the eyelashes, which often looks like smudged eye make-up, highlights a problem with the stomach. There may also be a single furrow in the middle of the eyebrows, above the nose.
“Low stomach acid is one of the most common digestive conditions,” says Mary-Lou.
“About 90 per cent of the people I treat have low stomach acid and it is vital for good health because one of its main functions is to assimilate animal protein, which we need for our brain, our hormones and our moods. To make stomach acid, our bodies need vitamin B6 and zinc, but when we are stressed and when our sugar and caffeine intake is high, B6 and zinc get depleted.
“Without stomach acid, food won’t get assimilated properly, so no matter how healthy our diet is, the nutrients won’t get used.”
Indigestion and heartburn show low stomach acid, but it also manifests with depression, poor memory and mood disorders.
Take a good supplement of hydrochloric acid, such as Nutri-West Hypo-D.
Bags and puffiness under the eyes, which make us look as if we’ve had too many late nights.
“The adrenal glands control the body’s response to stress, so if you are permanently stressed, this will have a knock-on effect on your adrenals,” says Mary-Lou. “A diet high in sugar and caffeine also affects the adrenal glands.
“These bags are usually seen on stressed people who have a blood sugar imbalance. These individuals are so busy, worried or anxious, they turn to sweet food such as chocolate or caffeine for energy and to keep their spirits up, but while they get a temporary lift, they experience a blood sugar crash soon after. This leaves them feeling even more tired and irritated, so they reach for more sugary food or another coffee to pick them up again.”
Mood swings, irritability, poor sleep patterns and anxiety are all signs of sugar imbalance and adrenal fatigue.
When we’re stressed we make more cortisol, a fat-storing hormone, which causes us to put on weight around our abdomen. Inflammation (anything that ends in –itis) is linked to high cortisol.
Avoid carbohydrates such as white bread, rice, flour and pasta, and fizzy drinks, because they will trigger the blood sugar roller coaster. Instead, sprinkle cinnamon on your cereal or porridge to stabilise your blood sugar. Eating quality protein such as fish and nuts will keep your blood sugar in check.
“Eggs are a natural tranquilliser,” says Mary-Lou. “So if you have a stressful or busy day ahead, have an egg or two for breakfast.”