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Nail Problems

Most nail problems stem from abuse everything from picking and biting to overuse of polish removers, glues, and other harmful chemicals. In some instances, however, unhealthy nails actually reflect a nutritional deficiency or an underlying medical problems.

Normally, nails grow about 1/8 in. (3 mm) a month, although illness, age, and even cold weather slow the rate of growth. nails are composed of keratin, the same hard protein that forms the outer layer of skin (the epidermis) and hair. The visible portion, called the nail plate, rests over the tips of the fingers and toes and grows out of the lunula, the pale half-moon at its base. The cuticle acts as a protective seal between skin and nail. Only the lunula is living tissue; the rest is made of dead cells.

Even though nails are mostly dead tissue, they are an important indicator of a person's state of health; this is the reason a doctor carefully examines them for clues to many diseases. Soft spoon-shaped nails that curve upward, for example, point to iron-deficiency anemia. Rounded, club-shaped nails indicate either impaired circulation or a serious lung disorder; thickened, discolored nails may be due to a fungal infection; psoriasis can cause pitting; and horizontal ridges may indicate a systemic infection or debilitating illness.

Healthy nails are strong and smooth, with a pinkish cast. Like hair, they need moisture for flexibility; without it, they become yellowish and break or ship easily. In order to maintain healthy growth and strength, nails require a steady supply of oxygen and other nutrients. But because the body is very efficient in delivering nutrients to its areas of greatest need, and the nails are not vital organs, they are one of the first parts to be short-circuited if there is greater demand elsewhere in the body.

Many of the nail problems that reflect diseases and nutritional deficiencies disappear when the underlying condition is corrected. In order to make keratin, the body needs high-quality protein from lean meat, poultry, fish, seafood, and other animal products; a combination of grain products and legumes will also supply complete protein.

You may need iron-rich foods.

A more common nutrition-related problem involves iron-deficiency or other anemias, in which the blood does not deliver adequate nutrients to the nails. Increasing the consumption of iron-rich foods lean meat poultry, fish, seafood, fried apricots, and enriched cereals and breads may be enough to cure mild iron-deficiency anemia. A doctor should be consulted however, to determine whether the anemia is due to other nutritional deficiencies or to chronic hidden bleeding. (Never self-treat with iron supplements; they can lead to toxicity and many other serious problems.) Vitamin C helps the human body absorb iron from plant sources; thus, a balanced diet should include citrus fruits and a variety of other fresh fruits and vegetables.

 

Try folate

Some types of anemia that affect the nails are caused by a deficiency of folate, an essential B vitamin. Whole grains, legumes, dark green leafy vegetables, peas, nuts, and orange juice are good sources of folate and other important B vitamins.

     
     

Pain from ingrown toenails

Unhappy over brittle nails

Brittle nails

Yellowish toe nails

Brittle nails

Nails give clues to your health

Nail Problems

 

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