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Fingernail Health

Rita Putatunda
The condition of your fingernails can provide a fairly accurate clue about your general health. Any abnormalities or changes in your nails may be indicative of particular health conditions or may be a result of nutritional deficiencies.
Examine your nails and check whether they are a healthy pink in color, and if the surface is smooth and curved impeccably.
Do your nails have ridges, lines, white spots, dents, discolorations or are they irregularly shaped? While some can be ignored, others may be indicative of various conditions like diabetes, anemia, heart disease, fungal infections and so on.
In fact, Hippocrates, who is regarded as the father of medicine, had taught that fingernails reflected the condition of the internal health of people.

Conditions that Damage Fingernails

Nails that are irregularly shaped, or brittle, cracked, or dry, are often indicative of mineral or vitamin deficiency. Here are a few conditions caused due to the lack of essential minerals and vitamins:
Brittle and Dry Nails: This is usually caused due to inadequate calcium intake in the diet.
Ridges: Ridges on fingernails are often caused because of inadequate B-complex vitamins in the diet, particularly biotin.
Cracked Nails: This is generally caused because of the diet being deficient in essential oils, such as omega-3.
Hangnails: Hangnails can be caused due to a lack of vitamin C and folic acid.
The best way of getting all these minerals and vitamins is to follow a diet that is balanced and full of nutritionally rich foods, such as vegetables and fruits. Here are a few dietary guidelines that will help keep your nails healthy:
Calcium: Some of the foods that are rich in calcium are: dairy foods, particularly yogurt, sardines, green leafy vegetables, beans, and almonds.

: This is found in organ meats, such as kidneys and liver, fish, eggs, yogurt, milk, cheese, mushrooms, nuts, beans (particularly chickpeas), whole grains, seeds, bananas, and avocados.
Folic Acid: This is abundantly found in green vegetables, whole grains, beans, and oranges.

Vitamin C: This is found in citrus fruits, strawberries, kiwis, dark green leafy vegetables, broccoli, and red peppers.
Essential Oils: These are available in fatty fish like herring, mackerel, trout, salmon, and tuna, and also in tofu, seeds, nuts, flaxseeds, evening primrose oil, and flaxseed oil.

A multivitamin tablet taken regularly can also supply all these nutrients.

Nail Care Tips

While incorporating a balanced and nutritionally rich diet will help in maintaining fingernail health by keeping them nourished from within, they also need to be maintained externally to keep them in good condition.
  • Hangnails should never be pulled off, because, this usually causes living tissue to be ripped off. Instead, they should be clipped off.
  • Damage to fingernails should be avoided by not using them to pry, poke, or pick things.
  • Nail biting or cuticle picking should be avoided, as these habits can result in nail damage.
  • Nails need to be moisturized just like the skin, hence, make sure to moisturize them frequently, especially after washing your hands.
  • Maintain your nails regularly by trimming them regularly and cleaning under them.
  • Use a good pair of clippers or scissors along with an emery board to smoothen their edges.
  • Gloves should be worn while doing activity that involves exposing the nails to soap and water for extended periods, or if harsh chemicals are handled.
  • Avoid using nail polish removers that have acetone, because it causes the nails to dry out.