Your nails can significantly contribute to the impression you leave on people. But they can say a lot more about you than just how strongly you take care of your appearance.
Research reveals that your hair and nails can be an indicator of your overall health. Healthy hair and nails have been linked to good nutrition. On the other hand brittle discolored nails and dull hair, among other conditions, can offer warning signs of malnutrition, infection and serious disease.
You probably don’t spend much time looking at your nails and hair. Abnormalities in these two areas often indicate illness in the body before the rest of the body will. Although nothing replaces a proper diagnosis from your doctor, read on to learn how to decode the signs of ill health.
Are your nails cracked, brittle, and quick to break? That’s often a sign of iron deficiency, anemia. However, if your tips seem to crack at the slightest touch, this could be caused by an underactive thyroid.
White spots on nails, also known as milk spots, are ironically not signs of calcium deficiency. They are simply a result of minor injuries to the nail. In some cases, they are indicators of zinc deficiency.
Pale nails, on the other hand, could be a sign of anemia. Inadequate oxygen levels in the blood can leave the tissue beneath your nails looking ghostly. More seriously, pale nails could be a sign of congestive heart failure and liver disease.
The thickening of nails, often combined with their yellowing, is usually a sign of fungal infection. In rare cases, yellow nails can indicate a more serious condition such as thyroid disease.
Rippled or pitted surface of the nails can be an early sign of inflammatory arthritis or psoriasis.
You are what you eat
While your nails aren’t a living part of your body, improving your inner health will affect their outer appearance. Before you invest in all those nail strengthening products and pills, follow these 10 simple steps to have strong healthy nails by improving what you eat. After all, you will be tackling the condition from the core.
Consuming a balanced diet abundant in fruits and vegetables, grains, dairy, meat, and good fats will provide you with the nutrients you need for strong healthy nails and prevent any nutrient deficiencies. Eliminating one of these food groups may disturb the balance.
Nails are layers of keratin, a type of protein. So, including protein in your diet, from meat, chicken, fish, and eggs, is essential for their strength.
Make sure to have one iron rich food source in your daily diet. You can try these foods: Pumpkin seeds, pine nuts, lentils, oatmeal, red meat, spinach, dark chocolate, and tofu.
Drink more water. It keeps your nails and hair hydrated. Aim for at least 8 cups daily.
Also, exercise regularly to relieve stress. Brittle, peeling nails are a common side effect of stress due to the rise of the stress hormone cortisole.
Vitamin B7 (biotin) can also reduce your body’s stress levels. Common dietary sources of biotin are bananas, beans, and whole grains.
Keep your thyroid regulated by consuming sufficient Iodine. It is abundant in dried seaweed, iodized salt, milk, shrimp and eggs.
Antioxidants can play a role in your nails as well. They can prevent dry weak nails and repair broken tissue. Antioxidant superfoods you should consider in your diet include berries, green tea, broccoli, cocoa, and avocados.
Omega-3 fatty acids, amongst their countless benefits, promote nail health. Omega-3 is found in salmon, tuna, eggs, sardines, flaxseed, walnuts and almonds
Excessive alcohol drinking and smoking can have a negative impact on nail health. It keeps the liver strained as it excretes toxins from the body.
Now that you’ve been equipped with the right information, make a habit of checking your nails on a weekly basis.
Racha Adib is a Beirut-based licensed dietitian who offers nutrition and wellness counseling to individuals and corporations. She graduated from the American University of Beirut with a Bachelor of Science degree in Nutrition and Dietetics followed by a certificate in Essentials of Business. She is a member of the Lebanese Academy for Nutrition and Dietetics and the Lebanese League for Women in Business. She has also been frequently featured in media on MTV's “The Doctors,” LBC's “Mission Fashion,” and Orbit's “Ayoun Beirut” among others, and hosts a weekly radio program on the latest nutrition news and science breakthroughs. She can be found on Twitter: @rachaadib