How many of us stop to consider that our nails are a direct reflection of our inner health? Completely reliant on the health of some 50 trillion cells and a ridiculous amount of biochemical processes that takes place every minute of the day, the outward appearance of our skin, hair & nails are actually great windows into the state of our inner health and wellbeing. In fact, changes in shape, texture and colour of our nails can prove to be important clues to underlying health disorders, including digestive compromises, food intolerances and a variety of nutritional imbalances.
For great blood flow and adequate nutrient supply to all our beauty bits – namely our hair, skin & nails – we need good and balanced nutrition. All those little body parts that bug us the most, are often also the parts trying to tell us something… For years my nails were weak, splitting and surrounded by chapped and dry cuticles. By learning what that meant and addressing the root of the problem, I was able to focus on nourishing my body back to good health – from the inside out. As a result my nails completely changed. The same goes for our skin and hair. Whatever the symptoms… hair falling out, acne or other skin and nail problems… our body is trying to communicate something – we just need to learn what it means and work with it…
Here’s a list of some common nail signs and what they can mean…
- Nails with no colour or a blue-ish hue can be a sign of anemia.
My suggestion: confirm with a blood test and supplement with a good quality iron complex such as tktk. Include grass-fed beef, kale and other green leafy vegetables in your diet to help boost your iron levels.
- Purple nails may reflect poor circulation.
My suggestion: dry skin brushing is great for improving overall circulation. Make sure to brush from your hands and towards the heart. Massaging your cuticles with a rich and nourishing nail oil will also help stimulate blood flow to the nails and improve growth as well as healthy looking nails. Try my homemade nourishing nail & cuticle oil, which is rich in healthy fats without any chemicals and preservatives.
- White spots on the nails often signify a zinc deficiency.
My Suggestion: zinc rich food sources include in seafood (particularly oysters!), beef/lamb, poultry, pumpkin and sesame seeds as well as garlic.
- Horizontal ridges on the nails can be a sign of stress, gut malapsorption and other digestive problems.
My suggetsion: Chewing your food properly is a simple yet very effective way to improve nutrient absorption and digestion. Don’t eat when you’re stressed and always sit down when you eat your main meals. Taking a tbsp of raw apple cider vinegar before meals is also a well known and easy way to help aid digestion. Finally, a good quality probiotic is extremely beneficial for digestion and overall gut health, especially in the case of leaky gut and candida overgrowth. I love the Ultimate Flora probiotics as they are potent multi-strain probiotics in a delayed release vegetable capsule – meaning they can withstand the acidic environment as they pass through the stomach down to the large intestine. For more on probiotics and what they do, read How To Improve Digestion Naturally.
- Soft, brittle nails may be a sign that your body is deficient in essential fatty acids and possibly not receiving enough of these due to a lacking diet or poor absorption.
My suggestion: Include chia seeds, flax seeds & walnuts into your diet. My healthy nut & seed bread & bircher muesli with chia seeds are both loaded with these healthy essential fats. If you prefer a good quality oil supplement I recommend Eskimo’s omega 3 fish oils.
- Brown spots or nails that are pitting (looking like prickles in the nail) are often associated with eczema and psoriasis. However, it can also reflect nutrient deficiencies such as low levels of vitamin C and/or folic acid.
My suggestion: Add a high nutrient alkalising green smoothie to your daily diet to help supply some essential nutrients, such as folic acid and vitamin C. Besides nutrients it will also aid detoxification. Even though psoriasis and eczema are often associated with genetic predisposition, they are also both often rooted in poor gut health such as leaky gut. By healing the gut, the symptoms often improve and disappear. That said, it can be a lengthy process and varies with the individual, so talk to a holistic health care practitioner about the best treatment for you.
- If your nails are spooned (if your nails curve inwards) it can signal low B12 and/or iron. This is surprisingly common, given that around 25% of women of menstruating age suffer from iron deficiency and should be addressed as it can lead to anaemia.
My suggestion: Include iron rich foods into your diet. These include red meat, mussels, fish, green leafy vegetables – kale, collards, mustard greens, chard are especially high in iron. While good quality iron supplements are hard to come by and are often hard on the stomach, Floradix is the exception. Floradix contains less iron than most other supplements, but its absorption rate it much higher compared to most other. It also contains B vitamins and vitamin C which enhance absorption, herbal extracts to increase digestion, and fruit juices to ensure proper stomach acidity (note: Floradix is suitable for pregnancy as well). As for B12, adding a spoonful of nutritional yeast with added B12 to your diet is a great way to get a good dose of B12 from a non-animal source. Other than nutritional yeast, B12 is primarily found in animal meats and is therefore a common deficiency among vegans and vegetarians. This nutritional yeast by Engevita tastes amazing and is an inactive yeast, meaning it won’t contribute to an overgrowth of candida yeast. It is great sprinkled on salads, soup and added to stews and stir fries and tastes great.
- Nails that are weak, dry and split easily can reflect an under-active thyroid function. It can also be caused by a deficiency in minerals such as silica, copper, and magnesium as well as essential fatty acid deficiency.
My suggestion: Eat a variety of fresh produce and make sure to chew your food properly to ensure optimal absorption of essential nutrients needed for strong nails. You may also want to consider a good quality multivitamin to make sure you get adequate B vitamins and minerals (I recommend Chapter Organics and Simply One by SuperNutrition). If you suspect an under active thyroid you will likely have other indicative symptoms as well (here’s an article with a summary of related symptoms and more info). I suggest talking to your doctor and/or holistic health care practitioner about what nutritional and herbal supplements can help restore your thyroid balance before its too late and you need thyroid medication.
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