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I'm a Doctor and Here's the #1 Sign You Have a Chronic Illness

Experts weigh in on symptoms that could indicate you have a chronic disease.

Millions of Americans are living with a chronic disease, an illness defined as "a long-lasting health condition (lasting for 1 year or even more) and is characterized by several adverse health conditions including severe pain and discomforts, fatigue, and serious mental disorders," Dr. Daniel Boyer of Farr Institute says. 6 in 10 adults in the U.S have a chronic illness and 4 in 10 adults have two different chronic diseases, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "Chronic diseases—including, cancer, diabetes, hypertension, stroke, heart disease, respiratory diseases, arthritis, obesity, and oral diseases—can lead to hospitalization, long-term disability, reduced quality of life, and death. In fact, persistent conditions are the nation's leading cause of death and disability," the National Center for Biotechnology Information Search Database states. There's no cure for chronic illnesses, but there are many signs to watch out for. Eat This, Not That! Health talked with doctors who explain the symptoms of a chronic illness, who is at risk and when to seek medical care. Read on—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.


Who is at Risk for a Chronic Illness?

man stepping onto digital scale
Shutterstock / Andrej Safaric

Dr. Boyer states, "Major risk factors of chronic illness include bad lifestyle habits like smoking and too much alcohol intake, poor education, sex, old age, or obesity/ overweight "

Dr. Shauna Hatcher with NHPW adds, "A weaker immune system increases your chances of becoming very ill. Immunocompromised people can be caused by a variety of illnesses and therapies. Acute immunodeficiency is primarily caused by an inherited genetic abnormality. Prolonged usage of immune-suppressing medications can potentially result in secondary immunodeficiency."

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Signs You Have a Chronic Illness

losing hair

Dr. Boyer says to watch out for the following signs:

  • "Mood disorders. It may lead to physical changes like excess skin rashes, excess hair loss, making you feel embarrassed in front of people.
  • Pain. Most chronic diseases cause acute inflammation in the body, leading to the development of acute pain that can affect several body parts
  • Inability to work normally. It may lead to physical limitations by impairing mobility, causing body pains that may make working difficult."

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Young woman falling asleep in bed with drink in hand

Dr. Beverly Goode-Kanawati DO with Beverly Medical Center explains, "One of the most common symptoms of a chronic illness is fatigue. Unfortunately there could be many causes of fatigue. Fatigue could be caused by a chronic illness such as a chronic virus, hypothyroidism, mitochondrial dysfunction, sleep apnea, other sleep disorders, depression, Iron deficiency, and other nutritional deficiencies etc. A person should consult their physician if the fatigue is ongoing, interrupts their ability to work or live their life in a normal way."

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Poor Gut Health and Inflammation

Middle aged woman suffering from abdominal pain while sitting on bed at home

Inflammation in the tummy is another sign of a chronic illness. Lisa Richards, a nutritionist and author of the Candida Diet says, "Gut dysbiosis, poor gut health, has more negative health consequences than we often realize. From chronic fatigue to chronic disease an unhealthy gut can make one's quality of life substantially lower. A major cause of this issue is fungal overgrowth due to a diet full of processed, sugar-laden, junk food."

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How to Promote Good Gut Health

pouring probiotic drink into glass

Richards explains, "Promote good gut health by eliminating sugar that feeds bad bacteria in the gut and integrating a probiotic into your daily regimen. Probiotics are supplements containing beneficial bacteria that naturally occur, live, and even thrive in the body of healthy individuals. 

There are a myriad of products available containing a wide range of different bacterial strains. It is ideal to select a probiotic with a variety of strains and at least 10 billion CFUs. Probiotic, fermented, foods can help to repopulate the good bacteria in your intestines. These can be taken at the same time as probiotic supplements and are a great addition to any diet. Consuming fermented foods is one of the easiest ways to boost your immune system, improve your digestion, and fight off digestive infections. Some excellent sources of fermented foods to help with gut health include kefir, sauerkraut, yogurt, miso, kombucha, and kimchi to name a few.

Your gut health is vital to your overall health. By improving the health of your gut you are bringing balance back to your life and preventing/reducing bloat, indigestion, fatigue, nausea, gas, diarrhea, yeast infections, and general unwellness."

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What Causes a Chronic Illness?

woman is chewing pizza, while laying on the white sofa. She is watching TV shows, being on blurred background.

"Poor individual behaviors that are made a habit such as smoking, excess alcohol consumption, poor diet, or not engaging in any physical activity are major risk factors of chronic illness and may lead to serious health problems," says Dr. Boyer. 

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Seeking Medical Care for a Chronic Illness

doctor and patient having a somber conversation

Dr. Boyer explains, "When your underlying chronic condition interferes with your general well-being including experiencing sleeping difficulties, inability to stand properly/for long, or causing severe pain and discomforts, making it hard to perform your daily activities." And to live your healthiest life, don't miss this life-saving advice I'm a Doctor and Here's the #1 Sign You Have Cancer.

Heather Newgen
Heather Newgen has two decades of experience reporting and writing about health, fitness, entertainment and travel. Heather currently freelances for several publications. Read more about Heather
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