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Condition - Help my nails look a mess!

By Jenny Bodenham BA (Hons) Dip ION MBANT

Ashamed of your nails? Concerned about brittle or breaking nails, white flecks or ridges? Your nails reveal valuable clues about your general health, so if your nails are a mess you may need to look within.

Nails are composed of keratin, a tough protein also found in the hair and skin with a high sulphur content. Healthy nails should look pink and smooth with the paler “half-moon” marking the nail bed at the base.

Nutrient support

As well as requiring sufficient protein, nails need nutrients such as the B vitamins, vitamins C, A, E, D, calcium, zinc, iodine, silicon and iron. Sufficient hydrochloric acid (HCL) in the stomach is important for the breakdown of protein and absorption of minerals from food. Both chronic stress and the ageing process can cause a decline in production of hydrochloric acid and this may contribute to splitting nails. Indigestion is another sign that you may require a supplement of betaine HCl with meals.*

If your nails are weak, split or peeling or have horizontal or vertical ridges you may need to increase your intake of B vitamins, especially if you are generally run-down. Research has shown that supplementing the B vitamin, biotin, in patients with brittle nails resulted in thicker nails. Good food sources of these important B vitamins include wholegrains, beans, lentils, brewer’s yeast, green leafy vegetables, fish, chicken and lean meat. Foods containing the essential omega fatty acids such as oily fish, nuts and seeds and their oils help to nourish dry, brittle nails. If your diet is lacking in these foods, it makes sense to supplement with flax seed oil or fish oil.

Fungal infections

Nails that separate from the nail bed may be caused by a fungal infection or thyroid problem and this should be checked by the doctor. If you are prone to fungal infections you may be overloading on sugary foods, or lack sufficient “friendly” bacteria in the gut. Hangnails can reflect a deficiency in folic acid, vitamin C and protein in the diet, whilst white flecks on the nails may indicate zinc deficiency. “Spoon” nails or vertical ridges may be a sign of iron deficiency, which should be verified by your GP.

Sulphur, known as the “beauty mineral” is required for the synthesis of collagen and is found in keratin. As well as topping up the diet with plenty of sulphurous foods such as onions, garlic and eggs, MSM (methyl sulphonyl methane), plays a key role in keratin and collagen production and can be supplemented to support nail growth and quality.

Remember – pay close attention to the state of your nails - healthy nails reflect a healthy body!

Your nails reveal valuable clues about your general health

*Not suitable for those with an ulcer or gastritis. 

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