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It has been a while since I studied the fingernails, and what they can tell us about the internal workings of our bodies. A question that came up a couple of days ago made me decide to revisit the subject. That is what happens when you keep learning; eventually you have to re-do your research.

Many of us think of our fingernails as a nuisance. Others think of them as fashion accessories. They cover them in lacquer, or even synthetic fingernails to make them look prettier. Both of these can cause problems. You see, the fingernails are meant to be a window into the physical health of the body. Through watching the fingernails you can see a nutritional deficiency long before it causes other symptoms. You can also see evidence of serious diseases before the symptoms become obvious. These include thyroid, lung, liver, and heart problems, as well as cancer. By constantly hiding our nails we are hiding the evidence of possible serious problems until they become truly serious.

Healthy nails are strong and smooth. The color that shows through the nail should be a warm pink. The half moon at the base of the nail should be a strong white. There should be no hangnails around the nail.

Nails that are soft and scoop upwards forming a spoon are logically called spoon nails. These are typically a sign that you are low on iron. Iron can be found in most animal proteins as well as some vegetables. The highest iron foods include dulse, kelp, rice bran, greens such as spinach, dried fruits, and black cherries. Supplements to consider taking include liquid chlorophyll, and a multi that includes iron. Iron supplements taken on their own should be taken with extreme caution.

White bands across the nails indicate a protein deficiency. Sometimes this is caused by an inability to digest proteins, which suggests a benefit from enzymes to help with that digestion as well as possible supplementation with amino acids.

Many of us think of hang nails as just dry skin around the nails, when it fact it can be a sign of a combination of deficiencies that include protein, folic acid and Vitamin C. Folic acid can be found in deep green leafy vegetables, organ meats, oysters, salmon, milk, carrots, egg yolks, cantaloupe, apricots, pumpkins, avocados, beans, rye and wheat. Vitamin C can be found in citrus fruits, rose hips, tomatoes, green peppers, cabbage, parsley, green peas, rutabagas, turnip greens, watercress, cantaloupe, green mint, raspberries, strawberries and watermelon. Herbs that contain vitamin C include chickweed, celery, burdock, blue vervain, blackberry, bee pollen, bayberry barberry, capsicum, catnip, chicory, comfrey, Echinacea, eyebright, garlic, ginger, golden seal, hawthorn and many more.

Dry and brittle nails can indicate a lack of Vitamin A and calcium. Taking calcium with a Vitamin D supplement can help in the calcium absorption. Vitamin A can be found in colored fruits and vegetables, carrots, green leafy vegetables, liver, eggs, milk, and fish liver oil. Calcium can be found in milk, cheese, most raw vegetables but especially: endive, lettuce, watercress, kale, cabbage, dandelion greens, and Brussels sprouts. Other good sources include sesame seeds, oats, almonds walnuts, millet and sunflower seeds. Herbs that contain calcium include alfalfa, aloe vera, angelica, anise, basil, birch, blackberry, black cohosh, black walnut, blessed thistle, blue cohosh, blue vervain, cayenne, caraway, cascara sagrada, celery, chamomile, cloves, comfrey, couch grass, dandelion, flaxseed, garlic, ginger, and many others.

Another cause of dry nails that includes rounded and curved nail ends and sometimes darkened nails is a lack of Vitamin B12. Foods that contain B12 include milk, eggs, liver, fortified brewer’s yeast, peanuts, bananas, sunflower seeds, comfrey leaves, kelp, concord grapes, raw wheat germ and bee pollen.

Other B vitamin deficiencies cause fragile nails that have either horizontal or vertical ridges. Sometimes getting these through supplementation is easier than eating the variety of foods needed to ensure you are getting each one in balance. Herbs that contain a balance of B vitamins include bee pollen, royal jelly, blue cohosh, cascara sagrada, catnip, celery eyebright, ginger, golden seal, hawthorn berries, kelp, parsley, rose hips, sarsaparilla, lady’s slipper, licorice, anise, blessed thistle, burdock, caraway, hops, jojoba, strawberry, thyme, wormwood and yucca.

White spots in the nails can be a sign of a zinc deficiency. Besides supplementing with zinc plus some copper to balance it out you can get zinc through your foods. Alcohol consumption flushes zinc out of the body. Zinc can be found in cow’s milk, goat’s milk, brewer’s yeast, whole grains, high protein foods, wheat bran, wheat germ and pumpkin seeds. Unrefined and unprocessed foods contain more zinc than those that have been processed. Herbs that contain zinc include aloe vera, burdock, chamomile, chickweed, comfrey, dandelion, eyebright, garlic, gentian, goldenseal, hos, hawthorn, jojoba, kelp, licorice, marshmallow, nettle, rosemary, sarsaparilla, skullcap, shepherd’s purse, slippery elm, valerian, and witch hazel.

Nails that are separating from the nail bed are usually caused by a fungus. Nails that are in water several times throughout the day are more prone to this fungus. Making sure you have plenty of the good bacteria called pro-biotics in your system is one step you can take. Another is to utilize some of nature’s antifungal agents. These include colloidal silver, tea tree oil, garlic, damiana, and dill oil.

Splitting nails can also be an indication of nutritional deficiencies caused by a lack of hydrochloric acid in the stomach. You can supplement with hydrochloric acid in capsule form. You can also supplement with plant enzymes with help digestion, which in turn helps balance the hydrochloric acid in your system.

Another cause of ridges on the fingernails is a lack of silicon in the system. Oats and barley are the foods highest in silicon. Other good sources include nuts, grains and seeds that include the outer coverings. Foods that contain silica include young green plants, flaxseed, apples, strawberries, grapes, beets, onions, parsnips, almonds, peanuts, lettuce, mustard greens, asparagus, dandelion greens, cabbage, cucumbers and radishes. Herbs to look for include birch, black cohosh, black walnut, burdock, caraway, celery, chaparral, cornsilk, couch grass, eyebright, gentian, ginseng, hawthorn berries, jojoba, oatstraw, parslen\y, peppermint, thyme, horsetail, alfalfa, dandelion, nettles, kelp and bamboo.

Diseases that show up in the nails.

Black bands from the cuticle outward to the end of the nail can sometimes be an early sign of melanoma. Crumbly white nails near the cuticle are sometimes an indication of AIDS. Deep blue nail beds can show a lung disorder such as asthma or emphysema. Downward curved nail ends may denote heart, liver or respiratory problems. A half-white nail with dark spots at the tip points to possible kidney disease. An isolated dark blue band in the nail bed, especially in light skinned people can be a sign of skin cancer. Nails separated from the nail bed may signify a thyroid disorder or a local infection. Nails that broaden toward the tip and curve downward are a sign of lung damage. Tick nails may indicate that the vascular system is weakening and the blood is not circulating properly. This may also be a sign of thyroid disease. Thick toenails can be a result of fungal infection. White lines show possible heart disease, high fever, or arsenic poisoning. If the white lines go across the nail it may indicate liver disease. If the white moon area of the nail turns red it may indicate heart problems. If it turns blue it may indicate heavy metal poisoning or lung problems. Yellow nails, or an elevation of the nail tips can indicate lymphatic problems, respiratory disorders, diabetes and/or liver disorders. If you have any of these indicators it would be a good idea to get checked out and eliminate these possibilities.

Overall good health shows in our hands, our skin and our hair. Living a healthy lifestyle with plenty of fresh air, organic fruits and vegetables and appropriate exercise are good ways to keep your body healthy and looking that way.

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