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Nails on the finger and on the toes are an essential form of protection for the thousands of nerve endings that are part of the body's sensory system. Nails are made of a hard protein called keratin, and renewed from a plate above the finger bone.
Because nails are on the outer extremities of the body they are often the first to show disturbances in body function, and have been used to diagnose problems in health care in the past and still do today.
The appearance of nails can be affected by diet, especially a change like dieting or malnutrition. Aging and menopause also affect nails, as well as other parts of the body.
Taking care of your nails is important. Numerous vitamins and minerals are essential in the care and maintenance of nails.
Healthy nails are pink. When you press down on one for a few seconds to push the blood out, it should go from white to pink again in 2 seconds or under. If it takes too much time to turn pink again there are possible problems with circulation and others conditions.
• Keep nails cut short - not much past the end of the finger
• Do not cut the cuticle because this guards the inner part of the nail from infections; instead push it back with a wood or soft plastic implement made for this purpose
Many health problems show up in nails first because as an extremity nails are the first to go without vitamins and minerals essential for running more vital organs in the body. Changes in nail color and texture can indicate simple deficiencies as well as more serious conditions and diseases.
• Brittleness, including chipping and cracking: usually a general deficiency in nutrition absorption, especially lack of fatty acids, calcium, vitamins A and D, lack of hydrochloric acid (digestion), and others, but also possible thyroid problem, impaired kidney function, or circulation problems
• Dryness: lack of calcium and vitamin A
• Hang nails: lack of vitamin C, folic acid, and protein
• White spots or slight shading: probably low zinc levels or low zinc absorption; also possibly high copper levels
• White lines: liver disease
• White spots: zinc deficiency, but also can be caused by illness
• White overall, which shows that the nail isn't getting enough blood: circulation problems, anemia
• White bands, usually two, that stay in the same place as the nail grows: a blood protein deficiency called hypoalbuminemia
• White with pink near the tip: cirrhosis
• Red in the otherwise white area at beginning of nail: heart problems
• Weakness: apple cider vinegar, silica will help to strengthen
• Peeling in layers: possible vitamin A deficiency
• Fungus: infection. Tea tree oil and B-complex vitamins to help the body's immune system fight the infection
• Flat or concave surface: possible iron deficiency, but do not take iron supplements without a proper diagnosis
• Flat nails and lack of blood in fingers: possibly Reynaud's disease, a vascular disorder that affects blood flow to the extremities
• Wide, square-ish shape: hormone imbalance
• Deep blue color under nail: some kind of pulmonary obstruction such as asthma or emphysema
• A dark blue spot or area: sometimes indicates skin cancer
• Dark, side-to-side streaks: weakened adrenal gland, also from chemotherapy and radiation treatments; sometimes an early sign of melanoma
• Blue half-moon, called the lunula, at the beginning of the nail: heavy metal poisoning or lung trouble
• Dark nails: vitamin B-12 deficiency, or anemia, but can also be caused by chemicals such as bleach or anything that causes an allergic reaction
• Black splinters: possibly endocarditis, or other serious heart infection; also disorders associated with bleeding
• Greenish: fungal infection, also possibly a bacterial infection. Men are more susceptible to this than women, and age, poor hygiene, as well as a wound to the nail, can increase the chances of a fungal infection
• Yellowish: numerous possibilities, including diabetes, liver disorders, lymphatic problems, respiratory disorders, psoriasis, and others
• Red skin around the cuticle: possible infection; lack of essential fatty acids; or possibly from a connective tissue disorder like lupus
• Bumps on the surface: rheumatoid arthritis
• Ridges, lengthwise: a number of possibilities from nutrient absorption problems, kidney function, iron deficiency and poor general health
• Ridges, side-to-side: usually caused by severe illness and sometimes by stress
• Pitting, in red-brown spots: psoriasis; lacking vitamin C, folic acid and protein
• Thinness: possibly lichen planus, a skin disorder
• Broadening: lung disease
• Thickening: circulation problems; also psoriasis, incorrectly fitting shoes, or fungal infection
• Detached or partially detached: severe fungal infection; sometimes thyroid problems
• Clubbing - when the nail and skin area nearest to it become rounded and swollen and look like one rounded shape rather than two separate sections: this can signify congestive heart failure, emphysema, or even lung cancer
Cosmetic Tips for Healthy Nails
Natural oils and minerals can help keep nails in good condition, improving both health and appearance
• Compound made from jojoba, lavender and sandalwood oils
• Olive oil and wheat germ oil: soak finger ends for 10-15 minutes
• Honey, avocado, egg yolk and salt: rub into nails and let sit for 30 minutes
By following these diet tips and taking appropriate supplements for your specific nail condition as mentioned above, you should be able to attain better nail health – and better health over-all.
• Avoid refined sugar
• Avoid simple carbohydrates
• Citrus, salt and vinegar should be eaten in small amounts because all can cause an imbalance between protein and calcium
• Include proteins, like mushrooms, nuts, oatmeal, and various seeds
Nail-friendly vitamins and minerals
• MSM (methylsulfonylmethane - METH-əl-sul-FON-il-METH-ane), a natural source of sulfur that occurs in trace amounts of some foods, has been shown to help hair, nails, joints and cartilage. As a supplement it can be taken with other joint remedies like glucosamine, and is also used for osteoarthritis pain and swelling
• Acidophilus (non-dairy) - inhibits bacterial and fungal infections throughout the body
• Calcium helps general nail health; vitamin D-3 helps with calcium absorption
• Zinc is essential for growth
• Vitamin A, B-vitamins, calcium and Magnesium for brittleness
• Silica for weak nails
• Horsetail, Oat straw, and Dulse (a type of seaweed, also called palmaria palmata), made into teas, contain natural silica which helps resiliency
• Alfalfa, black cohosh, yellow dock, and others contain silica and zinc and other minerals and vitamins which strengthen nails
• Essential fatty acids, found in pumpkin seeds, borage seeds, flaxseed, lemongrass, parsley and sage
• Iodine binds proteins in nails and makes them stronger. It also has anti-fungal properties and is the basis for some iodine cures
• Protein, which contains amino acids like L-cysteine and L-methionine, is found in many foods like poultry, fish, beans, etc.
• Sulfur, which is essential for cellular function, and present in foods like onions, garlic, broccoli, egg yolks, and also sea-vegetables
• Black currant oil helps with brittleness
• Tea tree oil for all fungal and bacterial infections
• Grapefruit seed extract for fungal infections: soak nails in this; also effective when used with tea tree oil, although some find a garlic-honey paste effective
• Glycolic, lactic and malic acids keep skin around the nail soft and supple
• Brewer's yeast, which contains B-vitamins and proteins, is for general nail health
• Castor oil helps with brittleness
• Turmeric, rosemary, sassafras, chamomile, and ginkgo biloba are good for circulation in the fingers and nails
• Royal jelly is a good source of essential fatty acids