7 Nail Signs of Health Problems
Welcome back everybody today, we're going to be talking all about nail health, and I'm going to share with you seven signs that your nails can be showing and what health problems they could be connected to. More specifically, we're going to be focusing on nutrition problems.
So our nails, grow every six months. So if you damage your nail, or if there's some sort of deficiency showing like we're going to talk about today, it might take about six months for that part of the nail to grow out. So if in the last six months you notice something different about your nails, just pay attention to it and see how it changes as it grows.
Like if this starts happening more, maybe it's more of a current issue ongoing, or if it starts to resolve itself, then maybe it was for example, like one-time damage of your nail causing a white spot, but white spots could be something else. So stay tuned.
The nail is mostly protein. It's about 5% fat and then there are vitamins and minerals as well that are required for proper growth. And so that can be the root cause of some issues that we're going to discuss today. And I actually have a client story.
I want to share with you where I had a client come to me that had nails that were really breaking and tearing, and she had gut issues as well. But honestly, she was more concerned about the appearance of her nails than her gut. So that was number one.
If we could improve that for her, she would probably be more energized to kind of work on some of these other things as well, but they often can go hand in hand, with gut health, and nail health. And so by supporting her gut and specifically for her by helping to improve and increase her stomach acid, which the stomach's supposed to be very acidic to properly break down foods and for proper vitamin and mineral absorption downstream, because it is really upstream to how food is churning in the stomach that acidity is starting to break it down.
And then it goes trickles into the small intestine where most of the absorption happens. So anyway, we improved her stomach acid and she pretty instantly, within a matter of weeks, we started to notice how healthy and strong her nails were getting. They weren't tearing they weren't breaking.
So that's just a story to show kind of the connection between gut health, nutrition, and nail health. And so I hope this video is interesting and valuable to you.
I'm Ashley Oswald, registered dietitian and founder of Oswald Digestive Clinic, where we help people improve and eliminate bothersome gut issues like gas, bloat, diarrhea, and constipation. You can work with us in one of two ways. You can schedule an appointment with us and we are now accepting insurance. So this is if you want to work one-on-one with our clinic, or you can start by downloading our FREE GUIDE: 5 ways to improve gut health. So let's dive right in and talk about these signs that nails can show for health and nutrition problems.
White spots on nails
The number one sign that we're going to talk about is those little white spots that you can get on nails. This is a very common question. So this could A: be just trauma.
So for example, you can see my finger there. Maybe in the video, it has a bunch of white spots on it. There are like five, or six on it right now.
And that's because a couple of weeks ago, a horse munched down on my nail while I was feeding it carrots. I just thought of my finger as a carrot and I can't really blame the horse. So within those about six, or eight months, right?
Cause the nail grows every about six months. I should expect those lines to disappear or basically grow out as the new nail grows in unless, I have another trauma to it, or it could be a sign of a zinc or calcium deficiency.
One notable thing with zinc, because I do see this happening is people hear that those white lines can be caused by zinc. They'll start a zinc supplement themselves and stay on it for a long period of time. And why this is a concern because zinc and copper work together.
And if you're taking too much zinc for too long, it could start to deplete your copper. And that can cause issues of course, because copper is important, an important part of processes in the body.
Soft, brittle, and breaking easily nails
So the number two that we're going to talk about is soft, brittle, breaking easily nails. And this is another really common one that we hear about. So this could be a variety of root causes.
Starting out, you'll want to think about how often you get your nails done. How often do you go to the nail salon? How often are you putting nail polish remover on your nails? Are you, is your job washing dishes? Are you exposed to a lot of chemicals?
So certainly rule that out first, if for like a few weeks or a month, you aren't doing those things and your nails are getting stronger. That certainly could be the root cause for you. So rule out the obvious and then number two would be protein.
Our nails are mostly made up of protein. So not only do we need to make sure that you're eating enough protein, but we also need to make sure that you're absorbing enough protein. So that story I told you at the beginning about that woman with low stomach acid and how upping that supporting that improved her nail strength, got rid of those brittle nails could be because we need that stomach acid to start that breakdown of protein into amino acids, which then can get absorbed through the small intestine.
Also, if somebody has a bacterial overgrowth like SIBO or fungal overgrowth and their small intestine, like, candida that could be causing not only low stomach acid but also in a roundabout way affecting the strength of your nails. Also, minerals and vitamins can play into soft brittle nails. So a lot of that could play into it.
There isn't like the one that I would say, you know, trial and see if it improves. So here I would suggest maybe just trying a multivitamin with minerals, check with your main healthcare provider, I'll link a good professional quality one below that you could take and ask your healthcare provider.
So everything from magnesium and zinc and boron and the vitamins like vitamins A, D, and C and more vitamins and minerals could contribute to this. It could also roundabout way go back to low stomach acid and just absorption. If you're having gut issues, if you have like IBS, you might not be absorbing these from your foods properly.
And that could be contributing to issues because you need enough stomach acid to, for example, cleave that vitamin B12 off of mostly meats, a great source of B12. There are certainly vegan sources for it to then travel down and get absorbed through the ileum, which is the third part of the small intestine.
And then the last thing that you could consider after kind of thinking of these other components is low thyroid. Or if you already know you have Hashimoto's or hypothyroidism that could be contributing to poor nail health. Also, a really quick kind of consideration to see if it would improve your nails is trying to incorporate some gelatin.
So it's a component of bone broth. And so if you're making a homemade bone broth or using that and making soups, you could also use like some gelatin packets for a few days and see if that helps it to support that strength of your nail as well. This other thing is very light pink nails.
So the nail, most of them, this area that should be kind of like medium pink is very, very light and that can be a sign of anemia, so low iron. And if you follow a vegan way of eating, that puts you at risk for iron deficiency, because what type of iron in meat products and animal products is about 30% absorbed. And the iron in vegan and plant sources is less than 10% absorbed.
So not only do you have to eat more of it to help support your levels. And if you're a woman kind of menstruating, you're going to have a higher demand for this. So it's really important to pay attention to how much you're getting.
And not only that but also you'll want to try to pair it with vitamin C, which can help to improve absorption. And certainly, if you find that you're anemic, you'll have to possibly support with supplementation to help replace those levels. And then food can support the maintenance of that level.
So if you have light nails, very light pink nails, don't, I'm not saying like that's a diagnosis of low iron. What I'm saying is to go to your main health care provider, and get your labs checked. And if it's low, then either check with a dietitian if you're working with a dietician, to support improving your level back to normal. So if you're having other signs of low iron, generally, that's like extreme fatigue and weakness and pale skin as well. Just all more kinds of red flags to look into this more for yourself.
So number four is yellow nails. So the first couple of things to rule out is smoking can cause this, and also acrylic nails or using nail polish remover too much. Next. It could be related to a fungal infection.
So if you're having a lot of itchings like skin itching or frequent athlete's foot, that could be a fungal cause of the yellow nail and that could stem from gut health issues. And then the next thing which would be more serious is Jaundice. You might expect to see yellow eyes as well. This could be a cause of liver failure.
So let's move on to number five, which is spoon-shaped nails. So that would be if you have your nail and right, like an upside down, it should be like a spoon. But if, when it's upright like this, it goes down and then up kind of like a spoon.
That's a classic sign-up for iron deficiency anemia. Now, if this happens in young children, it's usually harmless, usually not cause for concern more seriously, it could be a side effect of thyroid disease or heart disease.
So number six is vertical ridges. So this would go up and down. And if you just feel your nail, if you have these you'll feel these really slight ridges, or you can just very faintly see them. Now, this could be just a normal part of aging.
It doesn't seem to be cause for concern or it could be a low protein or low fats. Cause again, the nail is mostly made up of protein about 5% fat and it might be why it's related to aging. Actually, there's no research on this, but we know as individuals age, they tend to not eat enough protein.
And also stomach acid tends to go down. So they might not be breaking down proteins properly. And thus, maybe it's contributing to those vertical ridges, but also if your nails are pretty healthy like you're not, they're not breaking and chipping.
And the only thing you have are these faint, vertical ridges. I wouldn't think it's a cause for concern. On another note, don't buff those out. It's just going to make your nail weaker. So, just let them be. Don't like buff over it. And also it could be related to low minerals and vitamins like low vitamin B12 or low magnesium, but consider the other components first.
Last but not least number seven that I want to share with you is something called Beau's Lines. So these are these white ridges or lines that run across the nail. You typically might have a few of them. They're thicker.
They're separate from the light dots. And these could be a sign of either low protein intake or a low protein absorption of low levels of iron zinc or calcium, or it could be a sign of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, or a side effect of chemotherapy.
So I hope you learn a lot from this topic! I think it's always important to remember and think about finding the root cause of what's going on of what symptoms you're experiencing. Symptoms can simply be your body, trying to give you information to explore further so that you can work towards the kind of just feeling your best and having your best quality of life.
I hope you all have a great rest of your day and I'll see you at the next one!
If you'd like to explore any of this information further or obtain an individualized nutrition plan, you can schedule an initial appointment at our clinic using the link below.
We also take insurance and some of our clients get full coverage, which is great.
Or you can just start by downloading our FREE GUIDE: 5 Ways to Improve Gut Health.