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What Your Nails Say About Your Health

"You want to make sure that what you are seeing in your nails does not signal something bigger going on inside your body."

They say the eyes are the window to your soul, but it’s your nails that may be the window to your overall health. Today’s video with Dr. Nancy Lin, PhD is all about nail health. Dr. Nancy takes you through how to examine your nails to see if they may be telling you about a serious health concern you need to address. Plus she’ll go through her top tips for younger looking, healthier nails.

Video Highlights.

  • 3:20: Fingernail Facts
  • 18:34: How to read your nails
  • 18:24: Tiny White Spots
  • 19:60: A yellowish tint to the nails
  • 20:52: Black streaks on your nails
  • 22:13: Brittle Nails
  • 23:05: Pits and ridges
  • 24:53: Terry’s Nails
  • 26:09: Spoons and Clubs
  • 27:02: Puffy cuticles and skin folds
  • 27:47: Lowering Inflammation
  • 33:06: Chia Pudding Recipe/Chia Breakfast Bowl
  • 38:28: Wrap Up

Fingernail Facts

  1. The one main characteristic that separates primates from mammals is the nails. Most mammals have claws or hooves but primates have fingernails.
  2. Both nails and hair are made up of the same protein, called Keratin.
  3. Nails need blood along with oxygen and nutrients to survive.
  4. Etching is kind of a lazy way to get the nail polish to adhere to the nail better. During a manicure, many salon technicians will take a file or a drill and file down the top of the nail so it becomes really rigid and brittle. They then put a sealer on it and follow that up with polish so that it will fuse better to the original nail bed. However, this is not good for your nails.
  5. Nails do not continue to grow after death, but it can appear that way. This is because the skin dehydrates and tightens after you die, making the hair and nails appear longer.
  6. When getting a pedicure, make sure that you have no cuts on your feet, and make sure you put your feet in a jet-free basin. Otherwise, the warm water in the jet of the tub that you soak your feet in, can actually push all of the bacteria in the water into your feet, especially if you have cuts on your feet. You need about 15 minutes of good, hospital-grade sanitation to run every single time in between clients to actually clean that basin out. Always look for a jet-free basin.
  7. Fingernails grow an average of 3.5 millimeters per month. This is almost double the time that it takes your toenails to grow.
  8. According to the Guinness Book of World Records, a man from India has the longest fingernails in the world. He let them grow out for 66 years, starting when he was 14 years old. When he cut them off in 2018, the longest nail was six and a half feet long.
  9. Between women and men, men’s nails grow faster.
  10. Toenails are approximately twice as thick as fingernails.
  11. The fastest growing fingernail is your middle finger and the slowest growing one is the thumb.
  12. Fingernails do not have any feeling and they do not sweat.
  13. Fingernails grow faster in the summer than they do in the winter.
  14. The hardness of your nails is mostly genetic.
  15. Stress can take a toll on your nails. In addition to stress-related habits like picking and biting, chronic stress can inhibit nail growth. Chronic stress and fatigue divert the body’s energy and nutrients away from growing healthy nails and hair. The majority of people who do bite their nails are between 10 and 19 years old. If you are a habitual nail biter when you’re younger you’re probably going to grow out of it by the time you’re 30 years old.
  16. The cuticle actually has a purpose. It is there to seal in the moisture and keep environmental germs out of the body. It really protects the nails and that’s why many experts recommend pushing them and not removing them entirely for aesthetic purposes. Treat your cuticles gently and leave them in place as much as you can.
  17. The nail salon industry in the United States racked in a staggering $4.4 billion last year alone.

How to Read Your Nails


Healthy nails should be all one color without any spots or discoloration. If you look at your nails and you notice some tiny white spots on them, these are called leukonychia. While they are relatively harmless, they could signal a bigger issue going on in the body. This could possibly be a zinc deficiency.

A yellowish tint to the nails could just mean you’re getting too many manicures. A good rule of thumb is to get only one manicure per month to allow your nails some breathing space. Otherwise, you’re not going to have healthy nails if you get manicures too frequently.

Try spreading a little tea tree oil, olive oil or coconut oil on your cuticles. You can also use peppermint organic lip balm and rub it on your cuticles. This will really help to hydrate your nails. If you are trying to get your discolored yellow nails a little bit whiter, you can try to use a little bit of tea tree oil or vitamin E oil on your nails to see if it clears up. If it doesn’t, this could be a sign of something little bit more serious like a respiratory disease or lymphedema, which is the swelling of the feet, hands, arms, or legs, caused typically by damage to the lymph nodes.

Black Streaks

If you see black streaks on your nails that are especially painful, you need to schedule an appointment with your doctor as soon as possible, because this could be an early sign of melanoma, or skin cancer. However, this is not the black discoloration caused by nail trauma when you bang your nails on something and the nail subsequently turns black.

Brittle Nails

If your nails are really soft, brittle or pealing, this may be an indicator of iron deficiency, hypothyroidism, or another autoimmune disorder.

Pits and ridges

If you have vertical ridges on your nails, do not panic. This is a common sign of aging. If your nails are pitted however, this could be a symptom of nail psoriasis that presents itself as an itchy rash. It can also be a sign of eczema, which is an inflammatory skin disease that also causes a dry itchy rash. Horizontal ridges are another thing to watch out for. These are also called Beau's lines and they could signify a zinc deficiency. They can also be psoriasis, diabetes, a circulation issue, or other issues caused by inflammation in the body.

Mees Lines

There is another type of horizontal lines that are accompanied by discoloration, and these are called Mees lines. They can indicate that you have arsenic or carbon monoxide poisoning. They’re also an indicator for Hodgkin's disease.

Terry’s nails

If you look at your nails and you notice that they are white in the center, almost like polished glands, that’s known as Terry’s nails. This could be a sign of liver disease, kidney failure, congestive heart disease, or diabetes. So you might need to see your healthcare provider or your doctor to get it checked out.

Spoons and clubs

If your nails curl at the edges, resembling a spoon rather than a nail, this is another issue that could signal an iron deficiency, hypothyroidism or heart disease. If your nails suddenly change shape and take on the appearance of a club, meaning they become swollen around the nails and tips of the fingers, this can be a sign of low oxygen in the blood and this could be a bigger issue like lung disease, heart disease, liver disease or inflammatory bowel disease.

Puffy cuticles and skin folds

If the skin around your nail is near your cuticle and if it appears puffy and red, this is known as inflammation of the nail fold. It may be the result of lupus or another connective tissue disorder. Infection can also cause redness and inflammation of the nail fold.

Lowering Inflammation

If you notice anything that raises a red flag, contact your health provider or your doctor. You want to make sure that what you are seeing in your nails does not signal something bigger going on inside your body. Aside from getting in touch with your healthcare provider or your doctor, there is something that you can do to minimize symptoms associated with things like eczema, IBS, and thyroid disorders, and there is also something that you can do to prevent things like heart disease, autoimmune disorders, metabolic syndrome, and diabetes. The key here is to lower inflammation.

When you reduce inflammation, your organs are going to function better, your immune system will grow stronger and as a result your body is going to be better able to heal itself and fend off conditions and diseases. As an extra bonus, you’re going to be stronger and have more beautiful and healthier looking nails. Remember theequation of health which is: Less Inflammation In + More Inflammation Out = Happier Healthier you. 

Anti-Inflammatory Diet

To keep inflammation at bay, eat a diet that is rich in dark leafy greens, fiber-rich fruits like blueberries, blackberries and lots of lean, healthy organic grass fed proteins, nuts, and healthy fats like ghee, olive oil, coconut oil and avocados. Avoid processed foods like refined sugars and anything fried. Also make sure to take Smarter Curcumin. This contains the most active form of curcumin available, and it’s considerably more potent than regular curcumin. It includes the formula of AstraGin, a patented herbal complex that has been clinically shown to boost absorption of curcumin. It also contains ginger extract, which is a traditional bioenhancer that works synergistically with curcumin to enhance its effects. Thousands of studies have shown that turmeric and curcumin have significant benefits for joint, heart, brain, digestive, and immune health, as well as supporting normal inflammation responses, aging, and especially the health of your skin and nails.

Get plenty of rest

Give your body an opportunity to rest and heal. We need relaxation, and time for our bodies to restore. You can do this by getting a good night's sleep — seven to nine hours. Take a restorative yoga class, sit and do some deep breathing, sigh and relax with some essential oils. All of this is going to help your body and mind unwind which will in turn reduce inflammation and help ward off disease.

Get enough zinc and Iron

Make sure that you’re getting enough zinc and iron in your diet. You can add zinc through a top-quality multivitamin. You do not need a supplement for iron as getting too much iron from a supplement could be a problem. Just make sure you’re getting enough of this essential nutrient through whole food sources like pumpkin seeds, almonds, walnuts, quinoa, chia seeds, hemp seeds, beans, lentils, and chickpeas.

Chia Pudding Recipe/Chia Breakfast Bowl

If you don’t care for chia, you can make the same thing but use quinoa instead. Put two cups of coconut milk into a glass and add four spoonfuls of chia seeds. Place in the refrigerator for at least four hours or overnight, for them to become plump and sprouted. Put the mixture in a bowl once you take it out of the refrigerator. Add the really rich zinc and iron foods like gluten free oats and pumpkin seeds, almonds and hemp granola, or Brazil nuts. Add blueberries, blackberries, and strawberries. If you like, you can add a little bit of coconut with a dash of cinnamon. This looks amazing and you can enjoy it cold or warm for quinoa.

Wrap Up

Your nails could reveal a deeper issue going on inside your body. Things to look out for are: discoloration, pitting or ridges, nails that are brittle or cracked, nails that start to take on a spoon shape, clubbing in the nails, puffy cuticles, skin folds, and redness. Don’t panic because nine times out of 10, if you experience any of the things that we talked about, it’s usually from something minor like a fungal infection, over-processing due to too many manicures, or a minor nutritional deficiency. However, there is a chance that your nails could be telling you something major that is going on like diabetes, liver, heart, or lung disease, hypothyroidism, IBS, or an inflammatory skin disorder like psoriasis and eczema. For this reason, it is better to be safe and check with your doctor.

Make sure you pay close attention to the health of your nails. Make sure that you’re eating lots and lots of anti-inflammatory food, make sure that you’re getting enough zinc and iron and plenty of rest. You need your rest so your body has an opportunity to heal itself.

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