Nail Tales: what Your nails say about your health

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Our nails are not just decorative; they have their uses, giving us more reasons to make sure that they are healthy and not just pretty to look at.

Nails. Everyone has them, but not all of us take proper care of them. I certainly don’t. I bite them, and slather on nail polish to stop biting them, and when they are long enough for my liking, I stop with the nail polish only to bite them into little stubs, starting the whole cycle again.
Like the color of our eyes or the shape of our nose, well, all have different type of nails. Each type of nail is unique and has to be taken care of differently. There are five different types of nails; dry, brittle, damaged, soft, and normal.

Dry nails
If you have dry nails, then your nail looks dull with no shine or luster. Such nails can also have flaking edges and superficial ridges and peel easily. A common cause for dry nails is exposure to harsh environmental conditions or frequent use of nail polish remover that dehydrates your nails. Since your nail plate becomes thinner and weaker, your nails start flaking. The best way to treat dry nails is to rehydrate them; applying vitamin E oil helps. By moisturizing your nail, you will prevent your nails from flaking.

Brittle nails
Brittle nails are really hard and are easily broken or cracked. These types of nails are not very flexible, so if you press the sides of your nail together, these nails do not bend. Brittle nails usually have a thick nail plate and curve as they grow longer. One of the main causes for brittle nails is frequent hand washing and drying as well as exposure to household cleaning products. Applying moisturizing cream every time you wash your hands helps prevent your nails from becoming brittle, so does wearing gloves when doing something that is rough on your nails.

Damaged nails
You have damaged nails if your nails flake or split easily and they are very thin and weak. Your nails also have a very slow growth rate so that it appears that they are not growing at all. Because such nails are very weak, when you try and file them, they seem to disintegrate. Severe dehydration and constant nail biting or some kinds of medication or underlying disease could be the cause of your damaged nails. Try and moisturize your nails at the beginning of a manicure so that they are hydrated and will not flake when filed later. Using cuticle oil regularly and using gloves while doing household chores also help.

Soft nails
If your nails bend easily even at the slightest touch or they split and peel easily and rarely grow past your fingertips, then you have soft nails. Exposure to water is one of the most common causes of soft nails. So is excess use of detergents and other chemical products. You can rub essential oils on your nails, or wear gloves while washing, and try not to soak your hands in strong detergents. Applying hand cream after you have washed your hands also helps your soft nails.

Normal nails
Normal nails are the nails that look pink and shiny; they are also strong. Theses healthy nails will have a normal growth rate, and when pressed, will bend slightly. To maintain these healthy nails, moisturize them regularly and avoid excess exposure to water and other harsh detergents.

Your nails are not just there for show, they are also useful to indicate your health status. If your nails are pale and whitish in color, then it could be a sign that you have anemia. If your nails bend and have pits in them, then it could be either iron deficiency or an overload of iron in your diet. Blue nails, especially if your lips are also blue, could be a sign of oxygen-related health problems like asthma, emphysema, or pneumonia. Blue nails can also be indicative of heart condition, and if your nails have turned blue, it is usually a sign that the illness you have has become severe. Yellow nails can mean that you have painted your finger nail too much and too frequently, but it could also mean that you have diabetes, fungal infection, thyroid disease, or lung disease. Heart valve infection can cause thin red or reddish brown lines to appear under the nails. Another symptom that all is not well with your body are concaved nails that look as if they are scooped away from your finger. It can be a symptom of hypothyroidism; and the separating of fingernail and the nail bed could be because of hyperthyroidism.

Taking care of your nails is easy, and like any part of your body, eating right plays a huge part in it. To strengthen weak nails, take vitamin H. You can get vitamin H from foods like bananas, beans, cauliflower, eggs, lentils, peanuts, and salmon. Protein also helps you to get stronger nails; eat chicken, eggs, lean red meat, nuts, seafood, soybeans, and whole grains. Omega-3 fats provide the fatty acids that your nails need to stay strong and prevent them from splitting. You can get Omega-3 fats from walnuts, almonds, flaxseeds, etc. Lack of vitamin B can cause your nails to be dry and dark, so load up on carrots, liver, peanut butter, nuts, peas, beans meat, eggs, and dairy products to make sure you have enough vitamin B in your diet. Eat pumpkin seeds, pork, hard-boiled eggs, and dairy products to give you the zinc that you need so that you will not have any white areas on the nails. To prevent ridges from appearing in your nails, make sure you have enough iron in your diet. Eat leafy greens, prunes, grains, red meat, broccoli, and tofu. Brittle and dry nails can be caused due to calcium deficiency, so milk, yogurt, cheese, and kale are your best friends if you want to make sure you have sufficient calcium. Calcium benefits the body most when it is absorbed along with vitamin D. Those irritating hangnails could be a cause of vitamin C deficiency. To make sure you have enough vitamin C, foods like mangoes, watermelons, bell peppers, oranges, kiwi, and strawberries are great.
Even if you do eat right, you still have to take care of them if you want healthy nails. You do not really have to go to a parlor or a nail spa to take care of your nails properly, nor are there two completely different nail care regiments for men and women. You just have to remember to do certain things.?Shree Krishna Shrestha, owner and technician at Spark & Shine Nail Spa, says, “People put lemon, garlic, and other homemade remedies in the hope of making their nails healthy. But all they need to do is just keep their nails clean.”

Nail problems
Psoriasis of the nail
When psoriasis, a skin condition, attacks the nail, it causes the nail to be dry and pitted and it will often crumble. The fingernail itself may separate from the nail bed and can also be stained red, orange, or brown.

Koilonychia
This will cause your nail to become thin, have raised ridges, and also be concave, so that it resembles the curved-in part of a spoon. This is caused by iron deficiency.

Onychatophia
If you have onychatophia, your nails will atrophy. Your nail will lose its shine and become smaller. In some cases, your nail might shed completely. This could be caused by injury or disease.

Tinea Unguis
This is a type of fungal infection that is also referred to as ringworm of the nails. This infection causes the nail to thicken and deform, then eventually you lose the fingernail.

Paronychia
This is an infection of the lateral nail fold and can be caused by bacteria, fungi, and some virus. A tear or a break in the area where the nail and skin meet can cause the bacteria to easily enter. This may cause redness, swelling, and pain in the area.


Expert Opinion
Neha Rana, Proprietor, Sparsh Spa

Nails tend to get dirty all the time; here are some quick tips to clean them when you’re out.
Always carry antibacterial wet tissues in your bag while going out. You can quickly wipe your hands with them, especially nails; that will keep them clean. Also, carry a hand sanitizer with you whenever going out, just rub two drops on your hands and they will be clean as well as germ free. Wear gloves while you are cleaning. If you are eating out, ask for a lemon wedge and rub it on your nails properly, that will clean your nails and help remove odor.


Tips to keep nails clean and healthy

While shaping your nails, try to keep the natural shape so that there is less breakage.
Try and shape your nails directly after cutting your nails.

Men and women both: try not to bite your nails.

Clean your nails frequently, use a soft brush and shampoo to clean your nails after dipping it in warm water for some time
Always putting nail polish on your nails is not a good habit. Do try and avoid painting your nails for a few days after you have taken the nail polish out.

When you do paint your nails, apply base coat first and do not keep your nails painted for a long time. This may cause your nails to turn yellow.

More Do and Donts
Moisturize nails?so that you can prevent cracking and peeling.
Don›t use fingernails to pry things open, this can damage your fingernails.
Don’t pull or tear at hangnails; instead, gently cut them away, so that the cuticles are intact and as untampered as possible.
Trim and file your fingernails regularly; it might be easier to trim and file your fingernails when they›re soft, like after getting them wet.
Always keep your fingernails dry. Wet fingernails allow bacteria and fungi to grow under them.

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