Fat is a good sign. Heartburn and brain fog too.

Common symptoms can be signs of a needed change and shift in your life.  Sometimes disease progression is beyond our control, but most often it creeps up slowly with warning signs that it’s time to do something differently.

Fat displays a good, robust sign

Fat cells signing

Fat waving for your attention. Photo credit: Great Beyond / Foter / CC BY-NC-SA

Excess body fat often signals that your metabolism is off kilter.  It’s hugely important to keep your metabolism in balance.  Metabolic syndrome affects one-third of Americans, increasing their risk of a host of conditions including diabetes, heart disease, and Alzheimer’s disease.  Although it’s called a silent epidemic, you can often plainly see it: four out of five people with metabolic syndrome are fat.

And thank goodness for that big fat sign.  I think the one-out-of-five thin people who have metabolic syndrome without the tell-tale bodyfat are the unlucky ones.  People who are skinny-fat or “TOFI”—Thin on the Outside, Fat on the Inside—don’t have the benefit of belly bulge to warn them about lurking diseases.  They can feel blind-sided by a heart attack, diabetes diagnosis, or other health crisis.

Back when I had a spare tire, I felt lousy.  Even if purely out of vanity rather than how it made me feel, obvious excess bodyfat compelled me to make different food and exercise choices.  Stress and insufficient sleep were certainly other factors that disrupted metabolism and put on the pounds.

Please be gentle with yourself if you see extra fat.  Although the chances of being healthy while obese are slim, moderately overweight individuals who feel glorious and are free from disease markers may belong to the healthy overweight minority.  For most of us, though, excess body fat produces brain-damaging factors called adipokines and generates generally health-depleting inflammation.  Simply take fatness as a cue to tweak our lifestyle in ways that normalize bodyweight and make us feel and perform better.

Heartburn is a sign worth investigating 


Daily Tums

I had a close family member who mostly ignored his chronic heartburn, shrugging it off for decades.  Tragically, he found out the hard way that chronic heartburn and gastroesophageal reflux disease dramatically increase the likelihood of developing esophageal cancer.

Taking antacids and acid-suppressing medications, including Prilosec, Tagamet and Zantac, for decades is commonplace, but cautioned against if you read the fine print.  For one thing, long-term acid-suppressant use is associated with a greater risk of Alzheimer’s disease.

When your body gives you a sign like chronic heartburn, please don’t simply swallow pills to suppress symptoms.  Acid reflux can be a symptom of many different issues, such as increased intra-abdominal pressure from obesity, over-eating, lying down after eating, and gas pressure due to gut dysbiosis.  And, though it may sound paradoxical, heartburn can sometimes result from too little stomach acid.

Let heartburn be the impetus to investigate what might be affecting your gut.  The functional medicine approach to preventing and reversing cognitive decline prioritizes addressing heart burn and other forms of gut distress. Restoring and optimizing gut health is a pillar of all-around health and vital brain functioning.

Other signs worth appreciating

I know I’m not alone in sometimes suffering symptoms like brain fog, lethargy, and skin problems.  Middle age has brought me some wisdom that my dis-ease symptoms often signal that I’m not managing stress or prioritizing sleep.  I now know it’s unwise to simply mask these common ailments with mass-marketed methods for tuning them out–caffeine, OTC medications, cosmetics, “natural” herbal stimulants, and so on.

Accumulated years of chronic stress and sleep deficiency could have invisible, internal, devastating health effects. Without these uncomfortable symptoms, I might not have otherwise been motivated to deal with my compromised lifestyle.  In this way, I’m a bit grateful for my signs and symptoms.  They incited me to invest time and energy into stress management and improving my sleep before the bothersome conditions developed into something grievously worse.  Getting better quality sleep and moderating stress puts me at a statistically lower risk for developing dementia.  That’s something to appreciate!

We can recognize the signs that how we are living now is not working optimally for us. Let’s avoid being like the proverbial frog who does not heed the rising heat until gradually boiling in a pot of water.  We can be thankful for signs and pay due attention to symptoms that tell us to act now to jump out of the hot water before it’s too late.