Nail health is associated with how well your body is functioning. Ever looked at a chipped, brittle, or black-lined nail and wondered why it looks that way? Well, it turns out that nail health is closely associated with how well your body is functioning in other areas.
“For the general population, nail health is most often an indicator of poor nutritional intake or poor digestion,” explains Dr. Sara Norris, a naturopathic doctor based in Los Angeles. “Brittle, weak, and peeling nails are the most common concerns I see in my practice and these symptoms are more often the result of a poor diet than of systemic disease.”
Norris points out that true nail abnormalities generally only involve one or two nails and aren’t related to any major health concerns. Dr. Mark Benor, clinical assistant professor of family medicine at Keck School of Medicine, agrees: “My job is reassuring people that their nail issues usually don’t bespeak a serious underlying illness,” he explains. “The family medicine clinic is full of patients with nail findings of no significance outside of the anxiety they create.”
Healthy nails are considered to be smooth with no discoloration, but if there’s something amiss with the texture and color of yours, here is a guide to keep your nail-related anxieties away.
Growths around the base of the nail or other changes should be reported to your doctor. According to Norris, more concerning signs of disease of a nail include the following:
• Longitudinal and transverse grooving
• Changes in thickness and surface texture
How do I keep my nails healthy?
“Our bodies are smart so when we’re low in vitamins and minerals, our nails and hair will show it,” explains Norris. Eating a variety of whole foods will usually get you all the vitamins, minerals, and nutrients your nails need. A simple fix is to start taking a quality multivitamin, but Norris advises against a one-aday type: “It’s difficult for our bodies to digest large compressed tablets. When taking these products, we don’t actually break it down effectively so we miss out on the vitamins and minerals that are within it.”
Instead, she suggests looking for a product that comes in easy-todigest capsules. Why? Capsules are typically made from gelatin and it’s much easier for our bodies to break down gelatin to get to the vitamins and minerals within the product.
Opt for popular choices: biotin and the herb horsetail. That said, if you begin taking biotin for nail health, Norris advises to discontinue use two weeks prior to having any lab work. There’s new research showing that biotin may interfere with lab results including thyroid labs and markers to assess for heart attacks.
Overall, if your nails are acting up on their own, without any additional symptoms, it’s usually not a cause for concern.