Ridges on nails
I have noticed vertical ridges on my nails. I want to know if it is a sign of a deficiency?
Our outward appearance is a good indication of our inner state of health and many Naturopaths often consider the appearance of the hair, skin and nails as well as facial signs when taking a consultation. Changes or abnormalities in these areas can be signs of deeper imbalances and these can often be detected before they manifest as signs and symptoms in other parts of the body. The condition of the nails are a helpful tool for Naturopath's when determining areas of ill health in the body. There is an interesting saying that goes "the story of his illness is written somewhere on the man".
Nail diagnosis is only one modality used to form a clear picture of a patients health. Naturopathy takes into account many different diagnosis signs and symptoms (plus lifestyle, diet, family history, medical history, living environment etc.) in order to devise a holistic treatment plan. Signs on the nails may assist in indicating possible ailments, deficiencies and weakness but should not be considered a definitive diagnosis without also looking at many other aspects of an individuals health in order to get the most informed view.
Common causes of ridges on nailsNails are comprised of Keratin (protein) a tough substance that protects the end of each finger and toe. The following is a list of possible causes as to why vertical ridges may appear on the nails:
- It is traditionally believed that ridge formation on the nails relates to a possible weakness in the digestive tract that results in compromised assimilation of nutrients (leaky gut, allergies, food sensitivities, maldigestion)
- Malabsorption in the small intestines (Crohns Disease, Coeliac Disease, Giardia, Ulcerative colitis), this is the area of the digestive tract which absorbs nutrition from the food we eat. If there is inflammation or degeneration present then a mineral or protein deficiency can be the result. With no building blocks (minerals) to strengthen the nails they weaken and form ridges
- Insufficient production of Hydrochloric Acid (Hypochlorhydria) in the stomach and a sluggish metabolism
- A deficiency of the mineral Silica or Iron is also a likely contributing factor
- B Vitamin deficiency may cause nails to become fragile with horizontal or vertical ridges
- Brittle nails that split easily may indicate an fatty acid, protein, Vitamin A deficiency, Iron or Calcium deficiency.
- Nails with white flecks or lines may result due to a Zinc or Vitamin B6 deficiency.
- Nails that tend to broaden and curve downwards at the tip may be a symptom of lung damage.
- Excessively dry nails may be due to a Vitamin B12 deficiency
- Nails which split easily may be caused by a hydrochloric acid deficiency in the stomach
- White bands across the nails or "hang nails" may be caused by a dietary protein, Vitamin C or Folic acid deficiency
- Nails that grow slowly or are dry may be indicative of a Vitamin A or Iron deficiency
- Discoloration of the nails may be due to prolonged illnesses or stress, smoking or allergies
- Pale nail colour may occur due to Iron or protein deficiencies as seen in anemia, kidney or liver disorders
Nutrients to improve the health of the nails
- B Vitamins, Choline, Inositol and Biotin
- The minerals Zinc, Calcium, Silica and Iron
- Vitamin A
- Essential fatty acids
- Amino acids (proteins) - Cysteine, Methioning and Taurine
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Foods and herbs to help improve nail healthFoods and herbs to improve the health of the nails
- Silica rich foods - onions, celery, cucumbers, barley, oats, root vegetables, slippery elm powder, green leafy vegetables and cereals
- Essential fatty acids - fish oil, flaxseed oil, nuts and seeds, fish, avocados, evening primrose oil, walnuts, sunflowers, seaweed, wheatgerm oil and tofu
- Take slippery elm powder before meals to help improve mineral absorption in the small intestines
- Consume more digestive and enzymatic foods to ensure better mineral absorption such as Apple cider vinger, lemon juice, bitter lettuces (rocket, endive, raddichio, kale)
- Herbs which may assist in improving the appearance of the nails are: Gotu Kola, Horestail and Oats
- Consume more green leafy vegeatables (spinach, bok choy, broccoli, kale, slippery elm powder) as these contain B Vitamins, Silica and folic acid
- Ensure that you consume quality proteins (organic chicken, eggs, tempeh, tofu, red meat, fish, nuts and seeds)
Quick fact - Nails grow at the rate of 0.05 - 1.2 millimeters per week.