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Healthy hair, skin and nails

By Nadia McMorran

One of the most common questions we are asked at Health House is what to take to improve hair, skin and nails. Nadia writes about this with a special focus on nail health.

There are a number of different vitamins and minerals that are important to help boost collagen and maintain the health of our hair, skin and nails including vitamin C, zinc, iron, calcium, silica, biotin and omega 3 oils. Protein is also important for healthy growth and strength.

Foods that are especially beneficial and contain these vitamins and minerals include egg yolks, shellfish (such as mussels and oysters), liver, fatty fish (such as salmon), leafy green vegetables, walnuts and capsicum.

Herbal teas are another way to absorb vitamins and minerals that promote strong, healthy hair and nails and clear, supple skin.

Particularly nutrient dense options include oat straw, nettle, horsetail and alfalfa. To get a therapeutic benefit from these teas, they should be steeped for at least 10 minutes and one cup consumed three times a day. Most health shops have these herbs available to purchase so that you can make your own blend with a tea strainer.

To help your hair become silkier, softer and shinier and encourage healthy growth, use a little argan oil (also known as Moroccan oil) on the ends for a wonderful treatment that can even prevent split ends and tame frizz.

A small drop of argan oil can also be massaged into each cuticle on your fingernails to moisturise the nails, stimulate healthy growth and repair any damage.

Your fingernails can be a very insightful window to your overall health

Healthy nails should be strong, smooth and pink with clear white moons. If your hands in particular are dry and you have brittle fingernails this may be from an external source such as a result of the dishwashing liquid you use. If it is both fingernails and toe nails, it is more likely to be as a result of a mineral or vitamin deficiency, or some other internal issue in the body.

Vertical ridges

Vertical ridges on your fingernails can be an indicator of decreased digestive function (often low stomach acid) and poor gut health, which can result in poor nutrient absorption, but can also be attributed to ageing.

Horizontal ridges

Horizontal ridges on your fingernails can be an indicator of more serious health conditions such as malnutrition, cardiac problems, severe infections, thyroid issues or can be a side effect of diabetes.

Black discoloration

If you have black discoloration (such as lines or streaks) or a painful growth on a fingernail, it may be indicative of a melanoma, so you should always have this checked by your doctor or dermatologist immediately.

White marks

White marks on your fingernails, also known as leukonychia, may be an indicator of zinc deficiency. However just one or two white marks is nothing to be concerned about. These marks can usually be attributed to a prior injury where you may have knocked your finger below the nail bed (usually around six weeks prior to seeing them, which is why we never remember the injury!). If you have multiple white marks across your fingernails, a zinc supplement may be of benefit.

Brittle and peeling

Brittle, peeling nails can be a sign of a silica deficiency, or it can simply be dehydration and lack of fats and oils being consumed. Exposure to chemicals can also be a cause such as cleaning products, nail polish or nail polish remover.

Pale nails

Pale nails may be a sign of anaemia, so the first action you should take is a to have a blood test to show iron levels.

Blueish nails

Blueish nails may be a result of poor circulation or just cold temperature. If they are persistently blue please see your health professional.

Most of the time you will find that food or supplementation will improve the health of your nails, however, if you have concerns about the signs you see in your fingernails, go to your naturopath, doctor or dermatologist for a check up.