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Nutritionist reads your ‘body language’ for clues to illness

By: Natalie Otis, Journal Correspondent
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Did you know your body has a language of its own? Say you have a dark spot under the eye or cramped legs ” they could be telling you something about your nutritional regimen. That is, if you know how to understand body sign language. Auburnite James McAfee has written Your Body's Sign Language: Clues to Nutritional Well-Being as a reference book to help people with the challenging task of trying to understand their health and how it relates to nutrition. As a board certified clinical nutritionist with the Image Awareness Wellness Institute on High Street in Downtown Auburn, McAfee has been referred to by some as the Sherlock Holmes of nutrition since the publication of his book in 2005. This friendly nickname came about because, at 60, he has found a way to connect nutritional dots together with health problems by examining an individual carefully and knowledgeably. It started for the nutritionist out of a natural curiosity to find out more about himself. I was having muscle cramps, was overweight as a child and was getting frequent colds, he said. In my studies I would come across a piece of work that pertained to me, and I would make a note of it and save it. As it was, McAfee had never intended on becoming an expert in body sign language. I would just find something interesting about me or my family members and collect it, he said. Eventually, McAfee's natural curiosity about the link between nutrition and the body led him down the path of researching more than just his close friends and family. He branched out and collected information for 35 years before sitting down to write the book. If laid out on the coffee table Your Body's Sign Language piques just about anyone's interest in their own health. For example, say someone has a beer belly. In McAfee's book they could look up the condition under the Body Shape chapter and read the information under the headings of sign, significance, discussion and suggestions for the condition ” all in about one page. I tried to create something that was easy to reference and that anyone can look up and study, he said. As it turns out McAfee's book suggests that beer-belly syndrome is linked with insulin resistance. Weight gain about the middle is an indicator of ˜Syndrome X,' a pre-diabetic condition associated with excess insulin, he states. Diets high in sugar and refined carbohydrates will easily cause Syndrome X. McAfee even goes as far as suggesting that people with beer-belly syndrome should eat multiple small meals, exercise regularly and restrict refined carbohydrates and sugars. McAfee says another frequently viewed page in his book is one pertaining to dark circles under the eyes. Someone once said that the eyes are a window to the soul. The eyes can provide clues to a number of nutritional problems. Tendencies to experience allergic responses are often reflected by changes in the appearance of the eyes and the tissues around the eyes, he said. This can include dark circles around the eyes, puffiness resulting from fluid retention and characteristic wrinkling patterns beneath the eyes. The reflectivity of the eye is a rough gage of adequacy of specific nutrients like essential fatty acids, zinc and vitamin A. McAfee gives a class on body sign language through the Placer School for Adults and he says most people who sign up for the class are curious about their own body and skin tags just as he was 35 years ago. They come wanting to know more about themselves but eventually end up reading the whole book, he said. Millions of people in the United States do not have a clue as to the nutritional needs of their bodies. The class covers the same topics as the book which include body shape, scalp, hair, eyes, forehead, nose, ears, mouth, teeth, neck, shoulders, skin, hands, fingers, back, legs, appetite, digestion, internal organs, the brain and nerves. McAfee says he is already in the process of writing a follow up to Your Body's Sign Language and has been asked to speak to groups of doctors on the subject in the coming year. A basic understanding of body signs is valuable for a number of reasons. It can provide either the health practitioner or the patient clues that all is not well and further investigation may be warranted, he said. Natalie Otis is a freelance writer for the Auburn Journal. Contact her at Natalie otis@gmail.com.