We have all heard the saying, “You are what you eat” – what you put on the inside reflects the way you look and feel on the outside. This saying is not only true when it comes to weight, but from the way your skin feels to the health of your hair and even to the look of your nails. In fact, your nails can tell you a lot more about your health than many of the “obvious” physical factors that we often turn to when judging our wellbeing. They can inform you of malnutrition, infection, and even serious disease.
The nails are made up of layers of keratin, a protein that is also found in our skin and hair. There are 6 separate components that make up nails including: the nail plate (the hard protective coating that is most visible), nail folds (the skin around the nail plate), the nail bed (the skin underneath the nail plate), the lunula (the whitish crescent moon at the bottom of the nail), the cuticle (the tissue overlapping the nail plate), and the matrix (an area under the cuticle where the nail grows from). Typically, fingernails grow 2 – 3 millimeters every month and toenails grow 1 millimeter, although growth is faster in the summer months, as well as on your dominant hand.
Here are several signs of ill-health that your nails may try to be warning you of:
1. Discoloration: The color of your nails can be a clue to certain diseases
a. White – may suggest liver disease
b. Whitish nail beds – (along with thin, concaves) could be signs of anemia (iron-deficiency)
c. ½ White, ½ Pink – may mean kidney disease
d. Red – may signal heart disease
e. Yellow – lung disease (if also associated with think, slow-growing nails that may detach from the bed and/or “Clubbing,” a painless increase in tissue around the ends of the fingers); may be a sign of other respiratory diseases as well
f. Yellowish with a slight blush at the base – this may be a sign of diabetes
g. Irregular red lines (blood vessels) – if found around the nail base may be signs of lupus
h. Dark lines – if found underneath the nail may suggest melanoma
2. Pitting: Tiny dents in the nails, along with splitting and peeling are common in psoriasis and inflammatory arthritis
3. Dry, brittle nails that crack easily: This could be a signal towards thyroid disease
4. Spoon nails (koilonychia): Soft nails that look scooped out, with the depression usually large enough to hold a drop of liquid, may be [another] sign of iron deficiency anemia
While none of these signs are a guarantee that you have a certain health condition, it is better to be precautious and to get them checked out. Furthermore, making healthy changes to your diet in order to combat some of these illnesses/diseases is always a welcomed choice and will not only insure that your nails look in tip-top shape, but that your overall wellbeing is right up there too.