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Nail Problems

Definition

A nail consists of a body, composed of keratin, the exposed portion, and a root, the proximal portion hidden by the nail fold, both of which rest on the nailbed or matrix. The latter consists of epithelium and corium continuous with the epidermis and dermis of the skin of the nail fold. The crescent-shaped white area near the root is the lunula. The epidermis extending from the margin of the nail fold over the root is called eponychium; that underlying the free border of the distal portion is called hyponychium.

A nail grows in length and thickness through activity of cells in the stratum germinativum of the root. Average rate of growth in fingernails is about 1 mm. per week. It is slower in toenails and slower in summer than in winter. Nail growth varies with age and is affected by disease and certain hormone deficiencies.
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Causes

Changes in the nails, such as ridges, may occur in defective nutrition or after a serious illness. In some types of anemia, excessive spoon-shaped nails, which are depressed in the center, may occur. In chronic pulmonary conditions and congenital heart disease, excessive curving of the nails may be associated with clubbed fingers.

Nail changes or abnormalities are often the result of nutritional deficiencies or specific conditions.
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Symptoms

Deficiencies produce the following changes in the nails:

  • Lack of vitamin A and calcium causes dryness and brittleness.
  • Lack of vitamin B causes fragility, with horizontal and vertical ridges.
  • Lack of vitamin B12 leads to excessive dryness, very rounded and curved nail ends, and darkened nails.
  • Lack of protein, folic acid, and vitamin C causes hangnails.
  • White bands are also an indication of protein deficiency.
  • Insufficient “good” bacteria (lactobacillus) present in the body, fungus forms under and around nails.
  • Lack of hydrochloric acid (HCL) contributes to splitting nails.
  • “Spoon” nails and/or vertical ridges may indicate iron deficiency.

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Nutrients

Protein (free form amino acids), taken as directed on the label, are the building materials for new nails.

Vitamin A, 25,000 IU per day, is needed because the body cannot utilize protein without vitamin A.

Brewer’s yeast, taken as directed on the label, contains all the needed nutrients and is high in protein.

Calcium and magnesium and vitamin D, taken as directed on the label, are necessary for nail growth.

Gelatin, taken as directed on the label, is the foundation for nails.

Iron, taken as directed on the label (iron deficiency produces “spoon” nails and/or vertical ridges.

L-Cysteine and L-methionine (amino acids), taken as directed on the label, contain sulfur, which is necessary for skin and nail growth.

Silicon, taken as directed on the label, is needed for hair, bones, and strong nails.

Vitamin B complex plus extra riboflavin (B2) and vitamin B12 and folic acid, taken as directed on the label.

Vitamin C, 3,000 mg. per day (hangnails and inflammation of the tissue surrounding the nail are linked to vitamin C deficiency.
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Herbs
  • Almond oil
  • Alum root
  • Blood root
  • Golden seal
  • Horsetail (brittle nails)
  • Peanut oil
  • Ragwort
  • Wheat germ oil

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Recommendations

A high-protein diet with a protein supplement is necessary for healthy nails. Egg yolk is a good source of protein. Eat oatmeal, nuts, seeds, grains, and a 50% fruit and vegetable diet.

If hands are exposed to too much water and soap, the nail may become loose from the nail bed. Water causes the nails to swell, and they shrink when dry, resulting in loose and brittle nails

Do Not cut cuticles. Uncovering the nails this way is harsh and irritating, causing infection. Use baby oil or cream and gently push them back. If diabetic, check with the doctor if cuticles become inflamed, because the infection can spread. Do not repeatedly immerse hands in water that contains detergents or chemicals; this results in split nails. Discolored nails can be caused by prolonged illness, stress, nicotine, allergies, or diabetes.

Use a base coat before using nail polish to prevent yellowing. If nails are green, it could be a bacterial infection or a fungal infection which separates the nail from the bed. Acidophilus is needed.

Wear cotton-lined gloves when doing housework such as dishes and laundry or when using furniture polish. This protects hands against harsh chemicals.

Poor thyroid function may be reflected in the nails.

Nail changes may signify a number of disorders elsewhere in the body. These changes may indicate illness even before the rest of the body does. Seek medical attention if any of the following symptoms are suspected:

  1. Thick nails may indicate that the vascular system is weakening and the blood is not circulating properly.
  2. Lengthwise grooves or ridges may indicate a kidney disorder and is associated with aging. An iron deficiency may also cause ridges.
  3. If the white moon area of the nail turns red, it may indicate heart problems; if it turns slate blue, then it indicates overexposure to silver or lung trouble.
  4. Flat nails can denote Raynaud’s disease.
  5. Yellow nails can indicate internal disorders long before other symptoms appear. Some of these are problems with the lymphatic system, respiratory disorders, diabetes, and liver disorders.
  6. White nails indicate possible liver or kidney disorders and/or anemia.
  7. Dark nails and/or thin, flat, spoon-shaped nails are a sign of vitamin B12 deficiency or anemia.
  8. Deep blue nail beds show pulmonary obstruction such as asthma or emphysema.
  9. Nail beading is a sign of rheumatoid arthritis.
  10. Pitted red-brown spots and frayed and split ends indicate psoriasis; vitamin C, folic acid, and protein are needed.
  11. Nails that chip, peel, crack, or break easily show a nutritional deficiency and insufficient hydrochloric acid, minerals, and protein.
  12. Brittle, soft, shiny nails without a moon may indicate an overactive thyroid.
  13. White lines across the nail may indicate a liver disease.
  14. Thinning nails may signal an itchy skin disease (lichen planus).
  15. Nails separated from the nail bed may signify a thyroid disorder.
  16. A half-white nail with dark spots on the tip points our a possible kidney disease.
  17. Raised nails at the base with small white ends show a respiratory disorder such as emphysema or chronic bronchitis. This nail condition may also be hereditary.
  18. Red skin at the bottom of the nail may indicate a connective tissue disorder.
  19. Ridges can signify a possible infection such as the flu.
  20. Downward curved nail ends may denote heart, liver or respiratory problems.
  21. White lines show possible heart disease, high feer, or arsenic poisoning.
  22. Ridges running up and down the nails indicate a tendency to develop arthritis.
  23. Nails that resemble hammered brass indicate a tendency toward partial or total hair loss.
  24. Unusually wide, square nails can suggest a hormonal disorder.
  25. White nails with pink near the tips are a sign of cirrhosis.

These are some of the signs that the nails reveal. If any one of these symptoms appear, see the doctor for diagnosis. It could give prewarning of an illness not yet detected.

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Suggestions

Wheat germ oil fingernail treatment for weak nails:
Place fingernails in warmed oil for 3-4 minutes. Wipe off oil and massage nails. Strengthens weak and brittle nails. Peanut oil may be substituted.

Peanut oil is said to increase the blood circulation after this treatment, the skin will feel warm and have a reddish glow.

Dry splitting nails with rough or ragged cuticles, try almond oil heated in a small bowl and soak the fingertips on each hand for about 15 minutes. Rub the remaining oil into cuticles, hands, and on the soles of the feet for a smooth, satiny feeling.
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Bibliography

Buy It! Planetary Herbology, by Michael Tierra, C.A., N.D., O.M.D., Lotus Press, PO Box 325, Twin Lakes. WI 53181., Copyright 1988, published 1992

Buy It! The Herb Book, by John Lust, Bantam Books, 666 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY. copyright 1974.

Buy It! Prescription for Nutritional Healing, Fifth Edition: A Practical A-to-Z Reference to Drug-Free Remedies Using Vitamins, Minerals, Herbs & Food Supplements, by James F. Balch, M.D. and Phyllis A. Balch, C.N.C., Avery Publishing Group, Inc., Garden City Park, NY

Buy It! Taber’s Cyclopedic Medical Dictionary, 15th Edition, F. A. Davis Company, 1915 Arch Street, Philadelphia, PA 19103

Buy It! The Yoga of Herbs: An Ayurvedic Guide to Herbal Medicine, by Dr. David Frawley & Dr. Vasant Lad, Lotus Press, Twin Lakes, Wisconsin, Second edition, 1988.

Buy It! Indian Herbalogy of North America, by Alma R. Hutchens, Shambala Publications, Inc., Horticultural Hall, 300 Massachusetts Avenue, Boston, Massachusetts 02115, 1973

Buy It!The Magic of Herbs, by David Conway, published by Jonathan Cape, Thirty Bedford Square, London, England. (Out of print)

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