In the second of our two-part series, we explore what could go wrong with your nails and the nutrition you need to repair them.
A scarce supply of zinc in the diet could lead to ridges and white patches on the nails. Replenish body reserves of zinc with oysters, meat and poultry. Zinc is also available in nuts and legumes. White lines in or across the nail can be a sign of fever, liver or heart disease, kidney disorder or, more likely, iron or zinc deficiency in your diet. It can also signify more complex issues such as eczema or psoriasis. To increase your zinc levels eat dried beans, cashews, yogurt, raisin, chickpeas, dairy products, almonds, milk, chicken breast, kidney beans, peas and oatmeal.
Hangnails: Occurs when the skin around the nail dries out. Dry skin that tags at the sides of the nails usually stems from vitamin C, folic acid or protein deficiency. Supplementing with folate rich foods such as green leafy vegetables, fish and eggs helps.
Slow nail growth: Usually occurs due to lack of proteins or vitamin A, intake of certain allopathic medicines, mental stress, illness or by following very low calorie diets which lead to low levels of protein and zinc, both of which are vital for nail growth.
Turning colours: Frequent use of nail paint tends to discolour the nails. Yellowish nails are usually caused by smoking, blue nails indicate breathing problems and pale white nails indicate anemia. Regular intake of beetroot and spinach juice (diluted with water or tomato juice) helps combat anemia and provides bioflavionoids and vitamin C essential to improve breathing and oxygenation to the tissues. Fungal infections are one of the leading causes for fingernails to take on a unhealthy tinge. A yeast infection causes the nail to separate from the base. Whereas, a bacterial infection can cause the affected nail to turn slightly green. Bluish nail beds can be a sign of lung trouble, which causes poor circulation in the finger tips. Whereas reddish-brown spots can indicate a deficiency of folic acid, protein or vitamin C. Undergoing treatment with antibiotics and diet rich in anti-oxidants will help ease the problem to a certain degree. Consuming broccoli, fish, onion, apples, cucumbers, grapes, garlic, asparagus (rich in sulphur) ensures proper circulation and good nail growth.
Nail textures: Vertical ridges that appear on the nail can indicate disorders such as iron deficiency, poor absorption of vitamins and nutrients, overall poor health or kidney trouble. To treat iron deficiency, consume coriander juice made from 100 grams fresh coriander leaves, regularly. Also, top up all your salads and vegetables with limejuice. Up your intake of iron rich foods such as leafy vegetables, fish, eggs, most pulses and nuts such as alphalpa sprouts, almonds and walnuts. Include good sources of protein and calcium such as low-fat milk and curds, to your diet. These vertical ridges, as well as bumpy nails, can also suggest that one is prone to developing arthritis. Ridges running horizontally across the nail can indicate physical or mental stress. A diet rich in vitamins C and B-complex helps reduce the appearance of these ridges.
Apart from the diet, one needs to follow certain basic rules of hygiene while caring for their nails. Thorough cleaning and wiping of hands and feet is essential. Regular inspection of fingers and toes is needed to keep any forms of infections away. Avoid applying artificial nails over your own. They may look nice but destroy your own nail and may also contribute to fungal infections.
Dr Anjali Mukerjee is a nutritionist and founder of Health Total, a nutrition counselling centre.