Winter 2012 True Natural Health Magazine – Your Questions Answered
By Roger French
QUESTION: I have been struggling with bad nails (flaking, brittle, splitting, ridged, thin and dry) for longer than I can remember. I have Crohn’s Disease so I guess it may be due to the malabsorption from this codition. I eat healthily because of the Crohn’s and have taken all the usual vitamins, silica, etc, that are prescribed for the general population. I would be very interested to know your thoughts on this very frustrating subject.
The first possibility that strikes me is protein deficiency – especially as there is almost certainly malabsorption due to Crohn’s disease. Nails are basically protein and minerals.
To improve your chances of getting enough protein:
- Consume at least 100 gm of protein food daily, or even up to 150 gm if comfortable to the stomach.
- Have a wide variety of protein foods – nuts, legumes, seeds and perhaps small quantities of eggs and soft cheese. If your diet is not essentially plant-based, ensure a variety of flesh foods, especially including deep-sea cold-water fish. However, plant-based is the Natural Health preference.
- Take digestive enzymes with your protein meal of the day to enhance digestion.
- The easiest protein to absorb is nut milk. Blend 30 gm almonds in a cup of water (plus a touch of honey if desired) and strain off the liquid, which is nut milk. Drink slowly.
- Be relaxed when you eat. Take a couple of deep breaths immediately you sit down at the dining table.
If all else fails, consider taking a daily supplement of amino acids (the building blocks of proteins). I am not a fan of taking amino acids, but if this works, it would be worth it.
There are other possible causes of nail problems.
Brittle Nails tend to show vertical splitting (along the line of the finger) or peeling of the layers of the nail at the free edge. There may also be ridges parallel to the splits.
Nail Splitting and Vertical Ridges are often associated with ageing, due to the nail bed’s natural supply of oils and moisture diminishing. Or it can be the result of having the hands constantly wet with water or soapy solutions or strong solvents, including household cleaning detergents.
Further possible causes are regular use of nail polish, habitual finger-tapping or using the nails as devices, for example to pick between the teeth.
Ridges that run either along or across the nail can be due to:
- trauma to the base from where the nail grows;
- pushing back the cuticle to hard and too frequently;
- rheumatoid arthritis;
- or to Lichen planus infection.
To restore moisture to the nails, as soon as there are signs of splitting or peeling (or in your case, after many years, but still give this a go), re-hydrate the nails with a nail oil that contains jojoba and vitamin E. The jojoba oil molecule is extremely small and can penetrate the nail better than other oils, and draw in the Vitamin E after it. Do this to the nail and the adjacent cuticle a couple of times a day. If your hands are frequently in water, do this more often. If possible, wear gloves whenever the hands are in water or any kind of chemical (or cleaning) solution.
Nails that are thin and concave and have ridges could be indicating anaemia from iron deficiency. Pepitas, those green Mexican pumpkin seeds, contain approximately four times as much iron as red meat.
To reduce the risk of nail problems developing or to prevent progression, here is a list of practical tips:
- Wear protective gloves for washing the dishes and other wet jobs.
- Don’t expose the hands to harsh chemicals, including strong soaps, detergents and hair dyes.
- Be judicious with nail polish.
- Don’t clean under your nails too frequently or aggressively.
- Don’t push back the cuticles at the base of the nails unless overgrown.
- Don’t bite fingernails; always use nail clippers.
- If removing artificial nails, carefully follow manufacturer’s instructions.
- Regularly moisturise the hands, particularly after they have been washed. Moisturise the nails and cuticles too.