Did you know you can tell a lot about a person by looking at their nails?
Not just what their shade of polish is, or whether they do heavy housework and not by the nail length. We're not just looking at cosmetics here, but rather at unpolished nails and seeing if they have anything to say about health.
Nails are our protection for the nerves in our fingertips, while toenails protect toes from damage or injury. They are part of the skin layer and are made up of a protein called keratin. A healthy blood supply will create a peachy-pink nail bed. If there is a deficiency or physical problem within our bodies, the fingernails will show it.
What are some of the problems that can show up on the nails, and what are the signs?
Discolored nails: Diabetes, stress, allergies and simple illness can cause your nails to appear discolored. A greenish nail color, however, can be a sign of infection, either in the nail bed or in your system. Bluish nail beds can be a sign of lung trouble, such as emphysema or even asthma. A simple dark blue line in the nail can be a sign of skin cancer. Tiny black streaks can indicate a heart problem, while reddish-brown spots can indicate a deficiency of folic acid, protein or vitamin C.
Yellowing nails are early signals of various internal disorders, such as diabetes, respiratory or liver problems. White lines in or across the nail can signal fever, liver or heart disease, kidney disorders or, more likely, a lack of iron or zinc in your diet.
We've seen what the color of our nails has to say, but what about the shape, texture and overall condition?
Nail shapes: Nails that tend to curl under at the tips can signify respiratory or heart problems, while nails that are raised at the base can also signal respiratory trouble. Square, wide nails can be a result of a hormonal disorder while flat, thin nails can be from insufficient vitamin B12.
The texture of fingernails can tell as much about ones general health as the color can. Below are some common texture abnormalities and what they can possibly indicate.
Nail textures: Vertical ridges that appear on the nail can indicate disorders as simple as iron deficiency, poor absorption of vitamins and nutrients, overall poor health or they could indicate something as serious as kidney trouble. (So, you see why consulting your physician is so important.) These vertical ridges, as well as bumpy nails, can also suggest that one is prone to developing arthritis. Ridges running horizontally across the nail can indicate physical or mental stress.
Nutrition plays an extremely important role in every function of our bodies, right down to the tips of our fingers and toes, literally. As well as signs of other possible disorders, nails can let us know how we add up when it comes to getting all of our required nutrients.
Since nails are mainly made up of protein, they can immediately alert us to a lack of it in our diet. White lined bands across the nail beds can signal a protein deficiency. You can get protein from beans, oats, seeds, nuts, eggs and lean meats.
Calcium is also important for healthy nails. Without it, the nails lose their strength and become brittle and dry. You can find calcium in green leafy vegetables, dairy products, sesame seeds or even a daily supplement.
As mentioned before, ridges in the nails can be a result of vitamin deficiency, one of which is the B vitamins. Vitamin B is needed for strengthening, while vitamin B12 also strengthens while promoting normal nail growth and healthy coloring.
Vitamin C is another necessary vitamin. Adequate intake can help prevent hang nails and swelling of nail tissue, and a frequent occurrence of either of these symptoms is a good indication of a deficiency.
Probably the most common sight on the nails is the "white spot". Although it has been noted that white lines can be symptoms of a serious disorder, their presence is more than likely a result of iron or zinc deficiency.
Before worrying about any severe disease, your first step should be to see your doctor and have him/her test your levels of iron and zinc. Zinc supplements are easily found in any pharmacy while additional iron intake needs to be monitored by your physician.
The best way to assure yourself of healthy nails is to eat a well balanced diet. You'll need plenty of protein as well as fresh fruits and vegetables.
Sufficient water intake is also important, for as well as keeping the rest of you healthy it provides moisture for nails. If you feel you are still not getting enough essential vitamins and minerals it is recommended that you take a comprehensive