The Secrets of Your Fingernails

Have you always had beautiful long healthy fingernails? Or are you among those whose nails always seem to be breaking, chipping or splitting? Your diet or your overall health may be the reason.


Body produces fingernails. They are a fibrous protein called keratin and one of the body's strongest tissues. Like the rest of the body, nail health depends on getting the proper nutrients to maintain their natural color and shape.

Many of us use nails to open containers, scratch off stickers, pull out staples or type on keys all day. We have tried the Gelatine hardener formulas and even taken Gelatine supplements, as it is said to have proteins that strengthen nails. Yet we have also found it has not stood up to its claims of miracle nails in a week. The reason is it doesn't have the sulphur containing tryptophan and other amino acids necessary for nail formation.

Fingernails may reveal a lot about the state of your health. Vitamin B deficiency may result in ridges. Lack of calcium can result in dryness, brittleness and white patches. A deficiency of zinc, Vitamin B6 or Folic acid, can be the perpetrator of hangnails. Pale, spoon shaped, grooved nails could be as sign of anemia and the need for more iron or B12; while thick, hard nails may suggest circulatory problems, perhaps related to arteriosclerosis or diabetes. If they're also yellowed, they may be infected with a fungus (most often in toenails), a fairly common problem, which affects about one in 25 people, particularly older adults. If you see white streaks that run the length of the nail, it could indicate heart disease. A bluish tint may be a sign of asthma or emphysema.

Over the years, the body has a harder time holding on to moisture, resulting in thin, brittle nails. You can help preserve the youth and usefulness of your nails by keeping them short -- so they're less prone to cracks and breaks -- and wearing gloves when doing chores that involve harsh cleansers.

A balanced diet goes a long way toward healthy, good-looking nails. Make sure you are eating foods that provide your nails with these nutrients. B vitamins, particularly B6, can be found in tuna, bananas, rice bran and prunes. B12 can be found in fish, meats and eggs. Folic acid is plentiful in lentils, black beans and asparagus. Vitamin C is plentiful in blueberries, strawberries, watermelon, pumpkin and sunflower seeds, and sweet peppers. Eat yogurt, milk, soymilk and soy products for calcium, and cream of wheat, lean meat and poultry for iron. Biotin, a B Vitamin, can increase the thickness of the nail, and can be readily found in cauliflower, lentils, whole grains and peanut butter. If you find your nails cracking, increase your intake of omega 3s and omega 6s, the fatty acids. Good sources of these are primrose and flaxseed oils.

Some herbal remedies that can be used will be a drop of tea tree oil or Lavender oil spread on the nail two or three times daily to treat infections. Or to strengthen nails, try a cup of Oat Straw horsetail or nettle tea daily.

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