Is Your Body Trying to Message You?

Why early signs and symptoms shouldn't be ignored
February 10, 2018 Updated: February 10, 2018

Clearly, my body was sending me signals that something was amiss. I call them love notes—those early signs or symptoms your body sends out to let you know that something’s wrong. In most cases, it’s something you can control. I see this all the time with my patients when they’re just beginning to experience a symptom and aren’t sure what it’s about. With a few questions and a little insight, we’re usually able to figure out the cause and act accordingly.

In the case of my heartburn, it took a little sleuthing, but like most health issues, it wasn’t just one thing causing the problem. I realized that it was a combination of working through lunch and wolfing down food while standing up in the back room, combined with a few too many glasses of wine over the week and poor posture while I was eating.

Our body always tells us when things aren’t right. Unfortunately, all too often we ignore these notes until our health gets out of control and the road back to wellness is a long one. Often you know exactly what’s going on, but you resist making the changes your body is asking of you—so the message gets stronger. Sometimes you have no clue as to what’s going on. All you know is that you’re having this weird, new, or uncomfortable symptom, and you want it to stop, now.

Deciphering Love Notes

While they can have many different meanings and may take some time to understand, here are some of the most common love notes I see in my clinical practice:

Sleep issues. This can mean trouble falling asleep, staying asleep, getting no sleep at all, waking up hot, or changes in your sleep patterns. In Chinese medicine, there are about a dozen different reasons why you don’t sleep, and in many cases, sleep is the first thing to go when you’re having health issues.

Digestion. Considered to be the entire process of taking in food and turning it into nutrients, blood, and energy—poor digestion can be an early sign that all is not right. In many cases, poor digestion has an emotional component, as your gut is considered to be your second brain. Stress, strong emotions, and being upset are notorious for disrupting digestion.

Appetite. Hand-in-hand with your digestion is appetite. When you’re stressed or upset, your appetite shuts down, signaling that digestion is closed for business.

Energy. Your energy is a reliable barometer of the state of your health. You need enough energy for a myriad of tasks, such as keeping your body warm, digesting food, movement, immunity, and mental processing. If you find yourself struggling for energy to get through the day, experiencing fatigue after meals, feeling cold, getting frequent colds and flu, or struggling with your digestion, chances are that your body’s love note is all about energy.

Emotional or mood issues, such as depressionanxiety, panic attacks, or persistent sadness are all signals that something’s not right in your world. You are meant to have emotional highs and lows, based on the circumstances of life. However, if negative emotions are your default, you are receiving a love note not only on the physical level but also on the mental and spiritual level that needs your attention.

Pain. New or unexplained pain can be an early signal to pay attention to your health. It can be a sign of inflammation, injury, infection, ischemia (lack of blood flow), nerve pathology, entrapment, or trauma. In most cases, pain is your body’s way of telling you to stop whatever you’re doing and change course.

Not feeling well in general. For some people, the love note they receive is a general feeling of being unwell. They may not be able to put their finger on why, but they’re getting the message. In this case, help from a health practitioner—whether a practitioner of Chinese medicine or Western doctor—is advisable, as they can help translate the body’s messages.

Admittedly, the signals that your body sends you can be a nuisance. It may mean that you need to stop what you’re doing, make some changes, and reverse course. That said, as annoying as these love notes are, if you listen to them, they will help keep you healthy. In my case, it involved carving out some time for lunch, making a few dietary changes, and having a physical awareness of where and how I was eating. I’m actually thankful for that little bout of heartburn. Problem solved.

Lynn Jaffee is a licensed acupuncturist and the author of “Simple Steps: The Chinese Way to Better Health.” This article was originally published on