Health Clues in the Fingernails

By Bek Walker, star naturopath

We may not pay that much attention to them, however the fingernails can give some very clear indications as to the state of our health. The most significant things to look for include the colour, texture, shape and pliability of the nails, any visible sign of infection, as well as the health of the cuticles and finger tissue, and the lunulae or ‘moons’. So let’s look at these things one by one in a bit more detail, and you might just discover something you didn’t know about your health!
Nail Colour

Healthy nails should be pink. They should turn white when you press them, and then return to pink within about a second. This is what is called good capillary refill, and indicates that there’s good circulation to the nail bed. Any other colours, such as red, pale/whitish, yellow or even blue, indicate various conditions that are related to our blood and circulatory health, for example anaemia, or diseases that affect the heart and lungs.


Nail Pliability & Weakness

Soft or thin nails that flake easily can be a sign of poor nutrition, a lack of vitamin C, protein deficiency, lack of silica or a poor ability to digest and absorb needed nutrients.
Brittle or cracked nails can also be associated with these issues of poor nutrition and absorption, however they are more specifically linked with a lack of calcium, essential fatty acids, silica and vitamins A and D, as well as things like thyroid and kidney issues.


Nail Texture and Markings

Vertical ridges are a common nail sign that is associated with a lack of silica, as well as possibly low iron and B-vitamin levels. Low stomach acid can be the underlying issue here, that prevents the efficient uptake of these vitamins. So using things like diatomaceous earth (great source of silica), along with apple cider vinegar and ginger to stimulate better digestion, can help to alleviate this sign.

Nail Pitting are tiny holes in the nail surface and occurs in 25-50% of people who suffer with psoriasis.

Spoon Nails  is a common indication of iron deficiency, or of the body’s inability to properly utilise iron, as in the case of haemochromatosis. Having this sign is a prompt to get your iron levels checked with a blood test.

Horizontal Dips or ‘Beau’s Lines’  occur when growth at the nail root is interrupted by any severe acute illness, stress or local trauma. They indicate when someone was sick and will eventually grow out.

White spots on the nails are fairly common and mostly due to trauma to the nail, or mineral deficiencies, such as zinc, calcium and silica.


Lunulae or Moons

According to Eastern Medicine philosophy, there should be 8 lunulae visible, with the ones in the little fingers missing. The one on the thumb nail should be 25% or less the total length of the nail. If it exceeds this, it can indicate that the heart and circulation is having to work overtime, and can result in high blood pressure. Fewer than 8 lunulae showing, can indicate poor circulation or oxygenation, not enough exercise, low life-force, or an imbalanced nervous system.


Nail Fungus

This is a common one that I see and that people who have it seem to struggle greatly to get rid of. The nail yellows and starts to grow thicker and thicker, making it very hard to trim. The best treatment that I have found is using Vick’s vapour rub twice daily until the nail grows out, which can take two and a half to three months. Nail fungus, however, can also be a sign of an internal yeast problem and a weakened immune system, and this may also need to be addressed with naturopathic treatment before full resolution is made.


General Nutrition for healthy Nails

Include good quality protein in your meals and snacks – as protein provides your body with the building blocks to make connective tissue and is essential for good nail health. Great protein sources include organic eggs and poultry, organic and/or grass-fed meats, fish, raw nuts and seeds, & legumes.

Eat mineral rich foods to support extra cellular matrix health and connective tissue formation – stew up some delicious and nutritious veggie and bone broths to extract a heap of minerals including calcium, potassium, and iron, and include dark green leafy veggies in your diet every day to get plenty of magnesium and B-vitamins.

Hydrate your nails (and skin) with adequate water and essential fatty acids – any symptoms of dryness, cracking and inflammation are a pretty strong indication that your body is lacking water and good fats. Without these nutrients, your cells and extra cellular matrix becomes dry and rigid and cannot function properly.
Increase your intake of raw nuts and seeds, especially linseeds and chia seeds (freshly ground), fish and avocados, and make sure you are drinking enough clean fresh water every day.