We don’t usually associate our fingernails with our health, but there are some fingernail health warnings you should never ignore.
Have you ever really stopped to look at your nails? Back when I was younger, and of poor health, my nails always had issues. They were brittle, and often had white spots on them. At the time, I didn’t really know why this was happening, but very likely the result of zinc deficiency, chronic malnutrition and anemia (which, I very likely could have been suffering, given my poor diet).
These health warnings your fingernails may be telling you can be reversed through proper nutrition (whole plant-based diet), exercise, sleep and meditation techniques (aka. yoga and breath work). Healing the body from the inside is necessary to feel amazing. Taking drugs and other supplements simply act as a band-aid and never really resolve the underlying issues. Take care of your health, and watch your body thrive!
Remember that if you take the steps to change your health, your nails will not show results for 3-6 months, as that is the full turn-around period for total nail re-growth.
1. Dry and Brittle
• Thyroid Disease
If your nails have become extremely dry and brittle out of nowhere, it could be the sign of a health issue like anemia or thyroid condition. And sorry to say, but lotion and cuticle oil is not going to help the problem. Check your hormone levels and make sure your thyroid is in check. Fungus can also make your nails dry and weak.
• Liver, Kidney, Heart, or Lung condition
Fungi is the main cause of nail discolouration in about 50% of cases, whereas more chronic medical conditions can be suggestive of diabetes or of liver, kidney, heart, or lung conditions. Healthy nails should be pink with whitish half-moons near the base. Here are what different colours could represent:
– Green = bacterial infection
– Red streaks in nail bed = heart valve infection
– Blueish = low oxygen levels in the blood
– Dull = vitamin deficiency
– White = liver disease (hepatitis) and/or anemia
– Dark stripes at top = aging and congestive heart failure
– Dark lines under nail = acral lentiginous melanoma (skin cancer)
3. Splitting and Cracking
• Folic Acid, Vitamin C, or Protein Deficiency
• Chronic Malnutrition
• Psoriasis (if combined with nail beds that have “dents”)
If your hands are chronically in water (for example, a dish washer), then your nails may constantly get hydrated and de-hydrated, which may cause them to split and crack. Injuring yourself can also cause this to happen. Splitting also includes nails that peel or flake away layer upon layer. This condition could be indicative of a folic acid, vitamin C or protein deficiency, as well as psoriasis, if combined with nail beds that have “dents” (see below).
4. Thick Nails
• Normal Thick Nails = Lung Disease
• Thick, Uneven Nails = Fungal Infection
• Thick, Split Nails = Thyroid disease and Psoriasis
• Unusual Thickness = Circulation Problems
If your nails are overly thick, then you probably have something going on underneath. Thick nails do not mean strong nails, especially if they resemble talons or claws. If you are taking medications and your nails suddenly grow thick, this may be indicative of an allergic reaction – so keep an eye out, and be aware of your body and how it reacts.
5. Concave (Spoon) Shaped Nails “Koilonychia”
• Iron Deficiency Anemia
• Hemochromatosis (liver condition)
• Heart Disease
This one isn’t as common in individuals, but if your nails start to turn thin and concave with raised vertical ridges (enough to hold a drop of liquid), you may suffer from a condition called koilonychia (“spoon nails”). Spoon nails are a sign of iron deficiency anemia, or hemochromatosis, a liver condition that occurs when your body absorbs too much iron from the food you eat. Clearing up your health issue should get your nails looking back to normal in 3 months time.
• Inflammatory Arthritis
• Iron Deficiency
• Lupus (red lines at the base of nails)
Obvious ridge lines in the nails are a signal that there is something deeper happening in your body. Your nails should be smooth, with very little line definition. If you have heavy, obvious ridge lines, then you may suffer from the above conditions. If you are older (60+), then this won’t really apply to you, as nail ridging happens naturally as you age. However, if you’re young and buffing away those ridges – STOP! It may be an underlying condition!
7. Small Nail “Dents”
• Alopecia areata (autoimmune hair loss disorder)
• Connective Tissue Disorder
• Zinc Deficiency
Sometimes you may injure your hands, and your nails at the same time. This could result in cracking, splitting, or small nail “dents.” However, if you haven’t been damaging your nails, then this could be indicative of a hair loss disorder (Alopecia areata), psoriasis, connective tissue disorder or zinc deficiency (when the “dent” forms a line across the middle). If your dents tend to last a little while, it could signal an underlying issue.
8. “Clubbed” Nails
• Lung Disease (low blood oxygen)
• Inflammatory Bowel Disease
• Liver Disease
Clubbed nails literally look as though someone has hammered your nail and the plump skin around the nail swells. It could also look like your nails have curved around your fingertips (usually over the course of years).