What your nails can tell you about your nutrition

The different types of nail deformities can indicate a possible nutritional deficiency in your body, in the absence of a recent trauma or history of skin cancer. I am by no means a nail care professional or want to be, but as a health care practitioner who sees patients with a variety of conditions and of various age groups, I do come across a variety of nail deformities.

Have you recently stubbed your toe? Slammed your finger in a door? Do you have a history of skin cancer? If you said yes to any of these questions you may have a nail deformity that isn’t related to your nutritional health and is a topic for another discussion. Changes in our nails can also occur as we age. By paying attention to your nails on a regular basis you can decide if the changes you see should be assessed by a professional or not.

Some of the most common changes in your nails include the following:

  • white lines
  • vertical ridges
  • horizontal ridges
  • pitting
  • spoon shaped nails
  • discolorations
  • pain, swelling, redness

Dry brittle nails can happen when we are dehydrated, don’t take care of our hands and feet, or are lacking the nutrients to grow healthy nails. Use a good quality moisturizer on a daily basis, especially if you are constantly washing your hands and/or wearing open toe shoes.


Other reasons for dryness and brittleness includes a lack of vitamin A and Calcium.

Do your nails split easily? Have someone evaluate your hydrochloric acidlevels, if your stomach acid levels are low, you will not be producing enough digestive enzymes to break down your foods to absorb essential nutrients. You may have other signs of digestive dysfunction and as you repair your stomach, your nails will also improve.

If your nails are fragile and have either horizontal or vertical ridges, you should evaluate your B vitamins.

For example, insufficient vitamin B12 intake can lead to excessive dryness, very rounded and curved nails, and darkened nails. These signs are often considered signs of normal aging and can easily be overlooked. If you are a vegetarian, are on certain medications, and/or have nerve dysfunctions, you may need a B12 supplement.

In contrast, Iron deficiency (often called Anemia) can give our nails a concave shape also known as “spoon nails” which may or may not also have vertical ridges.

What about white spots? These spots are associated with a zinc deficiency.

Do you notice something growing under you nails? Maybe a discolorationis also present? It may be a fungal infection due to the lack of friendly bacteria and/or a cut in the nail that has become infected.


Horizontal Ridges


Spoon Nails


Vertical Ridges

  • If you have a question about your nails, talk to your health professional. Often your manicurist will notice changes before anyone else (another reason to get regular manicures).
  • It’s amazing at how much insight we can gain by paying attention to our bodies. Our nails can tell us a lot more than we expect, as there are many other conditions that can affect our nails than those listed above.
  • If you have any nutritional questions think that your nails may be affected by a nutritional deficiency, ask your health care provider.

As always, the information provided is in general. For specific questions, please contact me or leave a message.

Dr. Shruti Sharma

This post was originally on my other blog https://drshrutisharma.wordpress.com/

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