Your Feet Are The Key To Unlock Your Body’s Wellness Map

07 Aug 2020

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Man, our feet sure have it rough! From that fun night at the club to the last minute office run and of course, the weekend football games, our feet go through a lot daily. They handle the entire body’s weight, every time you take a step, even if it’s just getting out of the bed. Think about that, the next time you eat the extra slice of cake.

While your feet may be the key to unlock the length and breadth of the world map, they house your entire body’s wellness map within them too. You may not know this, but our feet are amazing diagnostic tools that give us hints about our health. They tell you about many approaching diseases just in time for you to prevent it. 

It may sound all ‘science-y’ but it’s actually quite simple. You don’t need to read a medical journal to understand it, here we translate what your feet are trying to tell you.

The Foot – Body Connection

Besides the core, our feet also serve as the platform of a stable foundation. The American Podiatric Medical Association (APMA) considers it to be a marvel of engineering, and for all the right reasons. Together, the feet contain 52 bones, that’s nearly one-fourth of all the bones in the body, and somehow, they also manage to make room for nearly 60 joints, and about 200 muscles, tendons, and ligaments [1]. Well, you guessed it right! With so many joints, bones, and muscles, a lot can go wrong.

The factor that plays a big role in indicating approaching health issues is the appearance of the feet. Since feet are the farthest body part from the heart, the blood must travel through arteries to reach them. Conditions such as peripheral arterial disease can reduce the flow of the blood to the feet due to the buildup of plaque in these blood vessels. This may lead to an obstructed flow, which may result in the feet and lower legs not getting oxygen-rich blood they need to thrive and may change the appearance of the feet [2]. 

Similarly, many other conditions affect the skin and joints of the feet that can either be related to foot problems or can be an indicator of other health problems.

What Your Feet Say About Your Health

Here are some of the most common foot problems that indicate serious health concerns that you must pay attention to. 

Feet Swelling: Swelling in the feet and ankle often indicates high blood pressure. It may also indicate the existence of severe illness like kidney failure, liver failure, and even congestive heart failure [3]. 

Cold Feet: Having cold feet can be an indicator of thyroid or circulation problems. Cold feet are usually more commonly seen in women because they naturally have a lower core body temperature. However, if you’re above 40 years of age, and your feet are perpetually cold you may want to have your thyroid checked [3]. 

Sores: In the course of walking, we can bruise our foot, create a stub or blister on the toes. Such minor injuries pain initially, but heal soon. However, if the sores on the feet refuse to heal, they may indicate elevated blood sugar levels caused by diabetes [3]. 

Numbness: Numbness in the feet or a tingling sensation may be an indication of diabetes or a sign of peripheral neuropathy [3].

Hair Loss: While not having hair on the toes can be a reason for rejoicing on one side, it can also be an indicator of serious health issues on the other. Hair loss, patchy spots, changes in nail or skin color are said to be indicators of poor blood circulation. If the hair growth on the toes has stopped suddenly, look for a pulse in your feet. If it’s hard to find, contact your doctor immediately [3].

Cramp And Spasms: Foot cramps and spasms may be a signal of dietary deficiencies, overwork, dehydration, or something more serious. In some cases, the cause may be due to a brain or nerve condition [3].

Sore Toe Joint: Sore toe joints are one of the symptoms indicating rheumatoid arthritis. This degenerative joint disease often attacks the smaller joints in the hands and feet first. It is four times more common in women than in men. If not treated on time, rheumatoid arthritis can cause permanent deformity [3].

Pitted Toenails: Pitted toenails may point towards approaching arthritis or psoriasis. If treated early, these diseases can be controlled [3].

Itchy Skin: Dry, flaky itchy skin is a sign of an athlete’s foot. If you experience this condition, don’t push it under the rug. You may have picked up athlete’s foot fungus. If not treated, the dry flaky irritated skin can progress to becoming a blister and cause inflammation. It can also spread to other areas of the body [3]. 

Numb Toes: Toes that turn white and feel numb are symptomatic of Raynaud’s disease. 

This disease causes the blood vessels to overreact. The skin turns white, feels numb, turns blue then red before returning to its natural color [3]. 

Foot Pain: Pain in the feet may be telling you to lose weight, signal the onset of arthritis or result from a stress fracture [3]. 

Toenails Deformities: Spoon-shaped or pale and sunken areas in the toenail may be an indication of anemia, which is caused by a lack of hemoglobin in the blood. If your nails look like this and you are perpetually tired, irritable, short of breath and have problems concentrating, you should contact your doctor. Anemia is usually treated with iron supplements and diet [3].

Lifestyle Factors That Affect Feet Conditions 

We spoke about how the appearance of the feet can be an indicator of various lifestyle diseases. Now let’s see how various lifestyle factors can affect the health of your feet.

Activities: If your job demands you to stand all day long or move up and down the stairs, or if you are involved in high-impact sports, your feet and ankles are at a high risk of getting injured. Excess and rigorous use of the feet can cause some serious damage to your joints leading to extreme pain and a negative impact on daily life [4].

Sedentary Lifestyle: Sedentary lifestyle may not only be the result of laziness, but also health issues and disorders that demand minimal mobility. When you lead a sedentary life, you sure do spend most of your time sitting. This can lead to a number of diseases like plantar fasciitis, which causes excruciating pain in the bottom of the feet near the heel. The pain is typically the worst with the first few steps after waking up. It can also be triggered by prolonged standing or when you get up after sitting.

When not being used quite often, the feet and ankle may develop edema, a condition in which there’s a build-up of fluid located in the feet and ankles, which can spread to the blood vessels and cause a reaction in your body.

Improper Footwear: Whether you are a fashionista squeezing into those gorgeous heels, or needing to wear steel-toed boots for your work site – shoes definitely matter! Trying to force your feet into something that is too narrow or too small for you can have a serious impact on the health of your feet. 

High-heeled shoes may look great, but they’re not doing any favors to your feet or your back. This pain and discomfort caused by wearing improper footwear can pave a way for more serious problems [5].

Since feet play an important role in our overall health, it’s only wise to check them regularly, noting any visible changes or looking for indicators for problems such as bunions, foot injuries, skin infections, signs of foot pain, etc. If you notice anything unusual it’s better to visit your doctor without any delay. 

References: 

  1. https://www.arthritis.org/health-wellness/about-arthritis/where-it-hurts/anatomy-of-the-foot#:~:text=Each%20foot%20is%20made%20up,provide%20support%2C%20balance%20and%20mobility.
  2. https://newsnetwork.mayoclinic.org/discussion/treatment-options-for-poor-circulation-in-feet/
  3. https://healthcare.ascension.org/Blog/2017/05/Your-feet-give-health-warning-signs
  4. https://www.unitypoint.org/livewell/article.aspx?id=d5102982-938f-43e3-a0db-5cb38fb91164
  5. https://orthoinfo.aaos.org/en/diseases–conditions/tight-shoes-and-foot-problems/

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