Nail Health

What is Nail Health?

While we'm certain you're aware that healthy nails are strong, smooth, and translucent in color, you may be unaware of the variety of physical conditions that can undermine nail health. Severe illness, chemical toxins, prescription medications, fungal infections, heart disease, lung disease, and nutritional deficiencies may change the shape, smoothness, growth rate, and color of your nails. Since this book's focus is on nutrition, let's take a moment to examine what nutrients may lead to healthier nails.

Nail HealthWhat helps Nail Health?

• Deficiency of calcium can cause brittle nails. Recommendation: Take 1000 to 1500 mg calcium per day along with 500 to 750 mg magnesium per day (since the two should be taken together for best results). Continue this level of supplementation of 4 to 6 weeks, then reduce your daily intake to 100 mg calcium and 500 mg magnesium daily.

• Deficiency of iron can also cause brittle nails. You should supplement iron only if your personal physician has examined your blood and found you to be deficient, because overloading on iron can cause problems as well. Recommendation: Take a chelated form of iron if you can find it, such as iron glycinate, 10 to 20 mg per day. If you cannot find a chelated iron supplement, take 90 mg ferrous sulfate 3 times per day along with 500 mg time-release vitamin C at each dose.

■ Deficiency of zinc also can cause brittle nails. Recommendation: Take a chelated zinc supplement, such as zinc aspartate or zinc picolinate, in a dose of 20 to 50 mg per day. Warning: Supplementation of zinc in its ionic form can create deficiencies of other minerals, such as copper, by competing with them for absorption from the intestine. Chelation of the minerals (see pages 30-31, Section 1, on chelation) prevents this competition to get into the body, allowing you to fully absorb each of them. Because the retina also requires copper for good health, it is important that you take the zinc in chelated form.

•  Nail Health: Deficient dietary amounts of the essential fatty acids, linoleic acid (GLA) and its modulating partner, fish oil (EPA), can make your nails brittle and reedy or ridged. Recommendation: To facilitate the best response from essential fatty acids, begin with the proper macronutrient framework. Then to that nutritionally sound base add gamma-linoleic acid (GLA) and EPA fish oil in a ratio of 1:4 (GLA:EPA) 1 to 3 times daily. The EicoPro essential fatty acid product manufactured by Eicotec, Inc., of Marblehead, Massachusetts, contains ultrapure sources of linoleic acid and fish oils already combined in the proper ratio. If you cannot get that product, you can purchase linoleic acid in a product called evening primrose oil at most health and nutrition stores, and EPA fish oil as well. Because it is not as pure a form, the milligram dosing will be different. You can make a reasonable substitute by combining evening primrose oil capsules with fish oil capsules plus vitamin E. Take 500 mg of evening primrose oil (a source of linoleic acid in capsule form), plus 1000 mg EPA fish oil, plus 200IU vitamin E 1 to 3 times a day. (Warning to diabetics: EPA fish oil can cause blood sugar fluctuations in some diabetics. Carefully monitor your blood sugar if you use this supplemental oil and discontinue its use if your blood sugar becomes difficult to control.)

Nail Health Herbal remedies

• Look to herbs rich in minerals and B vitamins, such as alfalfa, black cohosh, burdock root, dandelion, yellow dock, horsetail, and oat straw. Caution: Avoid black cohosh if you are pregnant.

•  Essential fatty acids can be found in borage seed, flaxseed, lemongrass, parsley, primrose, pumpkinseed, and sage. Caution: Do not use sage if you suffer from seizures.

•  Silica is an herb that supplies silicon, which is needed for strong hair, bones, and nails. Recommendation: Visit your local natural foods store and buy silica (or horsetail or oat straw, both of which contain silica). Follow the directions on the label.

• Herbs that improve circulation, thereby nourishing the nails, include butcher's broom, chamomile, ginkgo, rosemary, sassafras, and turmeric..

Dosages may vary, depending on the duration and severity of your symptoms. Follow package directions, or consult a qualified herbal practitioner.

What makes Nail Health worse?

• Taking too much selenium can cause your nails to become thin and brittle. Recommendation: If you are taking a vitamin and mineral supplement containing selenium, stop taking it for a period of at least 3 weeks, then resume with half your previous dose of selenium. If your nails improved off the supplement, but begin to become brittle after 3 or 4 weeks on even this reduced dose, further decrease your intake by half again.

•  Excessive consumption of citrus fruits, kale, and vinegar can result in a protein and calcium imbalance that adversely affects nail health. Recommendation: Eat these foods in moderation.

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