Not many people know this…but the condition of your nails can reflect the general health of the rest of your body. For years doctors have looked at their patient’s nails to pick up clues to the existence of a wide variety of diseases – some that you would hardly imagine could link up.
The reason is because your nails, like your hair, are constantly growing and depend on you staying healthy to keep their strength. But unlike hair, nails are bigger and slower growing, picking up signs of ill health as they age – a bit like the rings on a tree.
Nails are made up of a strong fibrous protein called keratin. This is laid down by the nail root at the base of your nail – in fact the pale half moon area, called the lunula, is the leading edge of this nail-growing area. Around the edges of the nail is the cuticle. This seals the nail and ensures water can’t get beneath. Lastly there’s the nail plate – the bit you spend so much time looking after. It looks pink, but that’s just the blood vessels you can see on the other side.
So have a look at your nails. Then look at those of the people nearby. First thing you notice is that nails vary tremendously– some take up almost the whole of the end of the finger, others are very small; some are flat and almost concave, others are highly cured.
The colour is very important. If you have very pale nails, that could mean you are anaemic or less commonly suffer from liver disease or heart failure. And if you are starving yourself to stay thin, then this will show up as pale nails as well.
Yellow nails suggest you have a fungal infection, particularly if they are pitted and worn looking. This can also be a sign of thyroid disease, diabetes or psoriasis.
Blue nails –that means you’re not getting enough oxygen and could have lung or heart disease.
Then there are marks on the nails: Rippled nails might mean you have psoriasis or arthritis. Cracked or split nails might mean fungal infection or thyroid disease. Dark lines below the nail should be investigated straight away – it could be you have a melanoma, a very dangerous form of skin cancer. Or maybe you just chew your nails – a sure sign of stress!
So what’s the secret to strong, lustrous nails? Obviously if you have any of the diseases I’ve just listed you need to see your doctor to get them sorted out. But for most of us, healthy nails mean a healthy balanced diet supplemented with one of the now increasingly popular nutriceutical brands such as GOLD COLLAGEN®, rich in protein, collagen, antioxidants, vitamins and minerals.
Dr. Martin Godfrey