Whether it’s constipation, a leaky bladder or a strange odor, doctors have seen nearly every health issue there is.
When it comes to talking to our doctors about our strange symptoms, however, many of us are too shy. In fact, 46 percent of Americans don’t talk to their doctors about health issues because they are embarrassed or fear being judged, according to a survey by health platform ZocDoc.
Yet talking to your doctor about your symptoms can help you figure out what they really mean and help treat them fast.
Here are four embarrassing health problems you should talk to your doctor about and the simple solutions to nix them for good.
1. Peeling skin on the feet
Dry, peeling skin on your feet is unsightly especially during sandal season but it could also mean that you have a condition known as bile deficiency.
Every day, your liver produces approximately a quart of bile, an emulsifier that helps to absorb and break down fats and helps to detox and transport waste out of your body.
If the bile becomes congested or thickened, however, it can cause dry, peeling skin on the feet.
“One of the reasons bile is so important is that it helps to absorb fat-soluble vitamins and essential fatty acids that are critical to skin,” said Ann Louise Gittleman, Ph.D., a nutritionist who works in Texas and Idaho and author of “Eat Fat, Lose Weight: How Smart Fats Help Reset Metabolism Stress, Hunger and Sex Hormones for Lasting Weight Loss and Radiant Health.”
People who have had their gallbladders removed are more likely to have bile deficiency. Since they don’t have a place to store bile, they don’t secrete it when they eat fatty foods.
Bile can also be thickened if you’re not eating enough bile-thinning nutrients, if you have clogged bile ducts, or if your body doesn’t produce a sufficient amount of bile because there’s a lack of hydrochloric acid, which triggers bile to be released from the gall bladder.
Other telltale signs of a bile deficiency include constipation, chalk-colored stool, nausea, fatigue and a bitter taste in the mouth.
What to do:
A bile salt replacement supplement can help. Look for one that contains ox bile, vitamins A, B, and C, choline, lecithin, taurine and betaine. Also, eat foods that thin the bile such as lemon and water, beets, dandelion root tea and bitter foods like arugula and endive.
2. Vaginal odor
The most common reason women have vaginal odor is due to bacterial vaginosis, the most common vaginal infection that occurs in women ages 15 to 44. Menopausal women are more likely to experience vaginal odor.
Bacterial vaginosis is caused by an imbalance of bacteria in the vagina. Bacterial vaginosis can also cause a thin, white or gray discharge, pain, itching or burning.
The odor can also be caused by antibiotic use, sitting in dark, moist exercise clothes, a forgotten tampon, or excessive washing or douching, which can alter the pH levels in the vagina.
“The inside the vagina does not need to be vigorously scrubbed,” said Dr. Alyssa Dweck, a board-certified OB-GYN in Mt. Kisco, New York and and assistant clinical professor at the Mt. Sinai School of Medicine in New York City.
Sexually transmitted diseases such as trichomoniasis and gonorrhea can sometimes cause odor, as could a new sexual partner.
“Sometimes it could be related to sexual activity but it’s not a sexually transmitted disease,” Dweck said.
What to do: Make an appointment with your doctor to determine the cause of the odor. If it’s bacterial vaginosis, she will likely prescribe an antibiotic vaginal gel or oral antibiotic.
If you also have a fever or a rash, or think you have a retained tampon, call your doctor immediately because you could have Toxic Shock Syndrome, a rare, but serious, life-threating complication.
Always use a mild or moisturizing cleanser to wash the vulva and never douche. Intimate washes with hyaluronic acid or almond oil and those without parabens are OK to use.
3. Thinning hair and hair loss
Androgenetic alopecia, or male or female pattern baldness is the most common form of hair loss.
One of the most common causes is Hashimoto's Thyroiditis, an autoimmune disease that affects approximately 14 million people and is 7 times more common in women than in men, according to the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists.
Hashimoto's Thyroiditis is a condition whereby the immune system attacks the thyroid gland as well as the adrenal glands, the digestion track and the liver.
“This is so insidious that it’s being chalked up to menopause, or having a baby or going through a lot of stress,” said Dr. Joni Labbe, a board-certified clinical nutritionist in San Diego, Calif. and author of “Why Is Mid-Life Mooching Your Mojo.”
Hair loss can also be a result of an excess production of testosterone, specifically a type called dihydrotestosterone (DHT). DHT produces an enzyme known as 5-alpha reductase and when testosterone is already present in the hair follicle, it combines with alpha reductase to create DHT which shrinks the hair follicles.
To make matters worse, some people can have both conditions.
What to do: A blood test can determine your hormone levels. Since most conventional medical doctors consider a thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) level between .5 and 5.0 normal, between .3 and 3.0 is actually optimal, Labbe said.
Your doctor should also test T3 and T4, sex hormones, cortisol, and neurotransmitter levels and run the thyroxine-binding globulin and thyroid peroxidase antibody tests.
Although minoxidil and steroid medications can help hair loss, and thyroid medications may be prescribed, making dietary changes and using supplements can help too. Some include biotin, B6, DHEA, essential fatty acids, iron and lysine amino acid, l-arginine, glutathione, zinc and selenium.
4. Oral thrush
Oral thrush, a condition caused by an overgrowth of a normal fungus in the mouth called candida albicans, causes white lesions on the outside and the roof of the mouth, the tongue, cheeks and the throat that can also be itchy or burn.
Oral thrush is common in babies, the elderly and people with weakened immune systems such as those who are taking steroids or antibiotics for an extended period of time, are undergoing chemotherapy treatments or those who have uncontrolled diabetes, HIV or AIDS.
Oral thrush can also happen in the corners of the mouth, particularly in people who are elderly and have collapsed bites, said Dr. Joseph Banker, a cosmetic dentist and founder of Creative Dental Care in Westfield, New Jersey.
What to do: See your doctor, who can prescribe an anti-fungal cream, rinse or an ointment to treat oral thrush.
To prevent it from reoccurring, good oral hygiene is key. Brush your teeth twice a day, remove and clean your dentures and have regular dental check-ups and professional cleanings. If your bite is the cause, talk to your dentist about dentures or implants to correct the problem.
Julie Revelant is a health journalist and a consultant who provides content marketing and copywriting services for the healthcare industry. She's also a mom of two. Learn more about Julie at revelantwriting.com.