Case Specific Solutions: Weak Fingernails

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You did it! After months of snapping your wrists, moisturizing, filing, and clipping your way through a vice only surpassed in addictive tendency by smoking, it’s done. You have stopped biting your nails! You are so excited you want to show off your beautiful… wait, why do my nails look so brittle?

Brittle, weak nails are a very common problem experienced by a large segment of the population. What people don’t realize is the underlying problem is likely related to an imbalanced diet. Your fingernails are made of keratin, a structural protein also found as a main component in the skin and hair. If you have ever gone to a store that sells supplements, you will often find a product that claims to help ‘Hair, Skin, and Nails’. These products usually contain a blend of numerous amino acids, vitamins and minerals, without which keratin production is compromised.

There are different types of nail abnormalities, all of which can be narrowed down to a list of potential nutrient deficiencies.

  • Dry Nails that peel or break easily can be a deficiency in calcium, vitamin C, D and/or biotin.
  • Weak/Fragile nails (thin and brittle)may need additional protein, B vitamins, zinc or iron.
  • White moon shape at nail base lack of iron and/or zinc.
  • Frequent hang nails increase intake of vitamin C, folic acid, protein.
  • Nails with vertical or horizontal ridges lack of B vitamins or iron.
  • Vitamin D Deficiency reduces body’s ability to absorb calcium, a necessary mineral involved in many processes in the body. Recent studies are suggesting we need more vitamin D than originally thought. In fact, most people living 200 miles or farther north of the equator have less than ideal serum vitamin D levels. This deficiency can ultimately affect the quantity of calcium present for nail formation.

Balancing out your diet can easily solve all of these problems. Addition of dark green vegetables such as asparagus, spinach, kale, brussel sprouts, and broccoli, can account for most of the vitamin and mineral deficiencies. Replacing processed wheat products with whole grains can also be an easy addition to increase intake of folate and B-vitamins. Finally, increased consumption of High-Biologic Value protein sources ensures your body has enough amino acids to spare for nail production. HBV sources include meats, eggs, dairy, nuts and nut butters, seeds, and legumes.

If the dietary additions above seem major, it may benefit you to purchase either a multivitamin or a Hair, Skin and Nails formula. These items can be taken with 12oz of water before a meal. The only vitamin that may need added is vitamin D. If you do not get consistent exposure to sunlight, a 2,000IU daily supplement can have numerous benefits beyond your nails. The key nutrients to look for in a Hair, Skin and Nails formula are: L-Cysteine, L-Methionine, Calcium, Magnesium, Iron, Zinc, Phosphorus, Biotin, Folic Acid, Thiamin, Riboflavin, Niacin, Pantothenic Acid, and Vitamins A, C, D, and E.

Andrew Wade, RDN, LDN

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