Here is a list of symptoms we like to call “red flags”. All nutritional therapists are obliged to refer a client to their GP to investigate further, if any “red flags” are mentioned during a clinic appointment.
In my nutrition clinic, I often see clients with symptoms from this list, who don’t want to waste their GPs time or worry that their GP won’t take them seriously. We’ve all heard that GPs are busy people, working long hours and seeing lots of patients everyday. The last thing anyone wants to do is to waste their time, talking about their health concerns. But if you have a symptom in this list, or any other symptom that has come on suddenly or is causing you concern, then you must make that appointment.
Any pain which is persistent and/or severe, that occurs anywhere in the body, should never be ignored. The most concerning pains are those in the head (including eyes and temples), abdomen, and central chest. Your GP will be able to refer you to the appropriate specialist to explore the underlying cause of your pain.
Whether it’s red, brown or black, thick, thin or lumpy, just a few spots or several cupfuls, any and all unexpected blood loss needs to be checked out as soon as possible.
There may be red blood in your vomit, urine or bowel movements, or you might have seen brown or black “coffee grounds” in your vomit (a sign of coagulated blood). And if your bowel movements have become black and tarry (and you’re definitely not taking an iron supplement), then you should see your GP straightaway.
3. Sudden Changes in bowel habit
A sudden change in bowel habit, whether it be the frequency, type, colour etc. should be reported to your GP. They may request a sample to send away for analysis or to check for parasitic infection.
4. Change in a skin lesion
A change in size, shape, colour, itching, bleeding or pain in a skin lesion such as a mole should always be shown to your GP, who will refer you to a dermatologist (skin specialist) if necessary.
5. Unexplained Weight Loss
We’d all like to lose weight easily, without even trying, but if you’re losing more than 1lb (0.5kg) per week without any major dietary changes, then your GP needs to know. Routine blood tests will be used initially to rule out issues such as overactive thyroid (hyperthyroidism) and further investigations will take place if these initial tests are negative.
6. Recurring Cystitis
Women are much more likely to get cystitis than men, because their urethra is shorter, making it easier for bacteria to enter the bladder. More than half of all women will experience cystitis at least once in their lifetime, but women who experience cystitis that recurs more than 3 times need to have their case examined thoroughly by a urologist (urinary tract specialist) to see if there is an underlying kidney or bladder issue.
7. Non-menstrual vaginal bleeding
Whether you’re between periods, postmenopausal, pregnant, or using hormonal contraception, any vaginal bleeding not associated with menstruation should be reported to your GP, who may then consider ultrasound scans and blood tests for the underlying cause.
We all get breathless from time to time, but if you’re finding walking up a short flight of stairs has you gasping for air, or you struggle to catch your breath on a short walk down the road, then you should ask your GP for some routine blood tests to rule out anaemia (serum ferritin, serum B12 and serum folate should all be checked). If those come back negative, your GP will need to explore other causes for the breathlessness.
Health and happiness to you all!