Our nails reveal much about our internal health. Abnormalities on either the fingers or the toes can indicate an underlying disorder.
For instance, nail fungus is indicative of a systemic problem which allows fungus to thrive. Chances are that if you have it on the outside, you also have it on the inside.
Healthy nails are strong, flat and smooth and have pink nail beds. Any variation such as discolorations, ridges, curving or splitting reveals an underlying health problem.
White spots on the nails are generally zinc deficiency. However, they can also be a chronic adrenal problem.
Concave nails that "spoon" up are indicative of iron deficiency and / or internal parasites.
Hangnails are caused by a lack of protein, folic acid and vitamin C.
Thick, red and peeling cuticles are a sign of too much protein.
Splitting and weak nails are a sign of poor digestion, particularly insufficient stomach acid which is necessary for assimilation of minerals.
Nails that flake and peel are a sign of yeast/fungus.
Lack of vitamin A and essential fatty acids (omega 3 oils) causes dryness and brittleness.
B vitamin deficiency causes horizontal and vertical ridges.
Vertical ridges and beading indicate tendencies towards arthritis. They also are a sign of poor nutrient absorption and sometimes kidney disorders (both of which can be an underlying cause for arthritis.)
Nail ends that curve downward can indicate heart, liver or respiratory problems.
Blue and black colorations can indicate serious health problems such as cancer, heart problems or pulmonary disorders.
For healthy nails, address systemic problems. If there is nail fungus, try olive leaf. Quality is a big issue with olive leaf. It needs to be at least 18 percent oleuropein content. There are other good anti-fungal products. Most of these are combinations of olive leaf and oregano and work well on internal fungus.
If nails indicate a parasite problem, there are many good herbal parasite cleanses. Always follow a fungus or parasite cleanse with a probiotic to reestablish the beneficial bacteria in the body. This helps keep the critters from coming back. It also will help establish better digestion and assimilation of nutrients.
If your nails are weak and brittle, consider some of the deficiencies above, but also consider taking digestive enzymes with hydrochloric acid which aids in assimilation of minerals.
Most nutritional supplements for nails include various B vitamins along with one or more forms of silica. Silica is the main building block of nails and is found throughout the plant kingdom, but is concentrated in herbs such as horsetail.
Also, be sure you are getting plenty of essential fatty acids in the form of borage seed oil, flaxseed oil, fish oil or evening primrose oil.
Healthy nails come from the inside out.
Margaret Durst owns The Green House, a vitamin, herb and health food store in Mason, Texas. www.naturalcowgirl.wordpress.com