Proper Care For Healthy Nails
Just like our bodies, not all nails are created equal. Our nails protect the nerve-rich fingertips and tips of the toes from injury. Nails are composed mainly of keratin, a type of protein, and grow at the rate of about 0.05 to 1.2 millimeters per week. The nail bed is the skin on the top of which the nail grows. Healthy nail beds are pink to dark pink, which show a rich blood supply. Nails, like hair, are technically dead, but they still need moisture and nourishment to keep them strong and supple. Flawless nails are sign of good internal health, while brittle, discolored or misshapen nails are sometimes indicative of something more ominous.
What Are Nails Made Of?
Nails are composed of a hard, strong protein called keratin, as well as small amounts of sulfur, calcium, fats and water.
- The nail plate – the visible part of the nail, and it protects the sensitive nail bed underneath it.
- Nail folds – the folds of skin that surround the nail on three sides.
- The cuticle – connected to the nail folds and nail plate.
- The lunula – the whitish, half moon shaped area at the base of the nail.
Here is a rundown on some of the most common problems:
- White nails – Liver diseases such as hepatitis
- Yellowish, thickened, slow-growing nails – Lung diseases such as emphysema
- Yellowish nails with a slight blush at the base – Diabetes
- Half-white, half-pink nails – Kidney disease
- Red nail beds – Heart disease
- Pale or white nail beds – Anemia
- Pitting or rippling of the nail surface – Psoriasis or inflammatory arthritis
- ‘Clubbing’, a painless increase in tissue around the ends of the fingers, or inversion of the nail – Lung disease
- Irregular red lines at the base of the nail fold – Lupus or connective tissue disease
- Dark lines beneath the nail – Melanoma
- Terry’s nail – Congestive heart failure, diabetes, liver disease or malnutrition
- Spoon nails (koilonychias) – Anemia
- Ridged – Rheumatoid arthritis, fever, illness, age changes, eczema or damage to the nail matrix
Nutritional Therapy For Healthy Nails
It is quite difficult to deliver healing agents to the site of the infection. However, a few nutrients stand out for their ability to support strong and healthy nails.
An essential trace mineral that is vital to the health of bone and skin. It helps facilitate the formation of collagen, which is necessary for the strength and healthy development of epithelial and skeletal connective tissue.
The results of several small studies show that vitamin E can be effective in the treatment of the nail changes in yellow nail syndrome, which also has profound effects on heart and lung function that must be treated separately.
In one study, supplementation with the B-complex vitamin biotin increased nail thickness by 25% in the majority of participants who had brittle nails.
A blood test should be used to diagnosed iron-deficiency anemia in people with brittle nails. Supplementation with iron should take place under the supervision of a physician.
A zinc deficiency has been associated with poor nail health, manifesting as deformed nails, hangnails, inflamed cuticles, and white spots in the nail plate. Small studies show that oral supplements of zinc can be helpful in resolving nail abnormalities in yellow nail syndrome.
A conditionally essential amino acid, one of only three sulfur-containing amino acids. L-cysteine is an important component of keratin, hair and nails.
Proper Nail Care
To help achieve and maintain healthy looking nails, consider the following guidelines:
- Use cotton-lined rubber gloves when doing dishes or using harsh chemicals, then wash hands with a gentle soap and dry them thoroughly. Renew and replace gloves frequently to reduce possible fungus accumulations.
- Avoid biting your nails or picking at your cuticles.
- Keep nails clipped slightly longer than the tip of finger or toe to prevent hangnails or ingrown nails.
- Try to keep your nails short, square shaped, and slightly round on the top. It is best to trim brittle nails after a bath and apply moisturizer.
- If your nails are brittle, avoid nail polish.
- If your nails or cuticles are dry, consider moisturizing them at bedtime and wearing cotton gloves while you sleep.
- Use nail polish remover no more than twice a month. If necessary, touch up nails with polish.
- Mend split or torn nails with nail glue or clear polish. To avoid fungal infections:
- Wear shower shoes of flip flops in communal showers
- Make sure your feet and body are thoroughly dried
- Avoid sharing towels or clothing
- Use nonirritating soaps and detergents