Excerpted from "A Year of Health Hints"
365 Practical Ways to Feel Better and Live Longer
You may see your hands hundreds of times a day, but do you
ever examine them? Probably not. Yet taking a closer
look-especially at your fingernails-may not be a bad idea.
They're a good indicator of overall health.
Spoon-shaped nails, for example, may simply be an inherited
trait-or they can be a clue to a thyroid deficiency or iron
deficiency anemia. Nails that have no 'moon," or white
crescent at the base, and are thin and brittle might indicate an
underactive thyroid. Still other changes-like brittleness or
pitting-may be signs of other nutritional deficiencies or injury
to the nail bed. While no one can diagnose a health problem on
the basis of nail irregularities only, the table on page 42 may
tip you off to possible health problems. (Consult your doctor if
you see any significant changes in your nails.)
Barring any medical explanation for nail problems, the
following tips can help your nails look healthier and more
well-balanced diet that includes plenty of fresh fruits and
vegetables, whole grains, lean meats,
and low-fat dairy
Wear gloves when
you do household chores or hobbies, to avoid contact with
detergents or harsh
chemicals that can dry
or damage nails.
Clean nails with a
nail brush, especially if you garden or work with messy
Clip cuticles and
rough skin, to prevent tears.
File nails in one
direction only, using an emery board, not a metal nail file.
Don't use your
nails as tools, to remove staples and so forth.
If you polish your
nails, use polish remover sparingly,
Nail Symptoms and What
||Frequent immersion in hot
water; generally poor health; impaired circulation;
possible deficiency of vitamins A, C, or B6, niacin,
calcium, or iron; thyroid deficiency
||Chronic lung disease, or lung cancer; congenital
heart disease; congenital or hereditary defect
|Pitting (may be normal)
||Eczema, psoriasis, trauma
||Emphysema, heredity, kidney failure, old age,
rheumatoid arthritis, trauma
|Separation (when nail plate lifts
off nail bed)
|Allergy to nail lacquer and hardeners, fungal
infection, iron deficiency anemia, pregnancy,
|Splitting at top edge
||Immersion in water for long periods, nail polish
||Thyroid deficiency; iron deficiency anemia
SOURCE: HealthyLife® for Women (Southfield, Mich.: American
Institute for Preventive Medicine, 1986).