Things Your Nails Can Tell You About Your Health

Nowadays, people dedicate much time to trimming, shaping, buffing, and painting the nails (black and white nail designs are popular), but not everyone examines the nails bare. It is extremely important as nails may indicate the current condition of your health.

According to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD), nails often reflect the general state of health. Changes in the nails may point out problems in the liver, heart, kidneys, and lungs. Keep reading and get to know what health issues your nails can reveal.

1- Pale Nail Beds

Pale nail beds may indicate several diseases, among which are: anemia, liver disease, congestive heart failure.

According to Shilpi Agarwal, M.D., board-certified family medicine and integrative and holistic medicine physician in Los Angeles, “Anemia resulting from low levels of iron can lead to inadequate oxygen in the blood, which causes the skin and tissues to become pale, particularly the tissues under the nails.”

Iron is used by the body to make hemoglobin in red blood cells, which carry oxygen throughout the body. In order to eliminate and prevent this condition, make sure you consume enough iron. There are two major types of iron: heme iron from animal sources and non-heme iron from plant sources. Generally, heme iron is absorbed by the body more easily than iron from plant sources, but it is important to have two types of iron in your diet.

The main sources of heme iron are eggs, red meat, giblets, mussels, oysters. The main sources of non-heme iron are pumpkin seeds, soybeans, black beans, lentils, spinach, sesame seeds.

On top of that, sometimes pale nails are connected with diabetes. At the early stage, this disease may be controlled with dietary changes. Don’t eat food with refined sugars and carbs. Instead of it, try to eat more vegetables and foods, rich in fiber (apples, avocado, Chia seeds, oatmeal, broccoli, raspberries, cabbage).

2- White Nail Beds

If the nails are mostly white, there may be major underlying reasons for this condition. Firstly, Terry’s nails may be the result of a fungal infection. Secondly, the nails may detach from the nail bed due to the interrupted blood supply. Thirdly, white nails may indicate hepatitis, kidney failure, diabetes, anemia, congestive heart failure (it means that the heart’s pumping power is weaker than normal, that is why the heart doesn’t pump enough oxygen and nutrients to the organs and tissues). Also, white nail beds may be a sign of arsenic poisoning. In this case, the nails react to toxins within the body.

You should undergo a medical examination in order to determine the reason and to choose the appropriate treatment.

3- Yellow Nails

In most cases, yellow nails indicate a fungal infection, smoking, aging. However, in rare cases, they can be the symptoms of other conditions such as diabetes and psoriasis. Usually, the nails have a yellow color, but this is not the only symptom. The surface changes and there can be grooves or small holes. Also, they become thick, get brittle, and break.

To avoid such problems as nail fungus and psoriasis, keep your nails trimmed short, keep the nail edges smooth, moisturize your nails and cuticles every day to avoid dryness, and wear comfortable shoes with wide toe boxes so that your toes can move freely.

In order to keep diabetes at bay, stick to a balanced diet: don’t drink sugary drinks, don’t eat bakery products, and foods with a high level of sugars. Instead of it, go for fruit (apples, raspberries) and vegetables (cabbage, avocado, broccoli).

4- Bluish Nails

It means that the nails have a bluish tint. It can signify heart issues (congenital heart disease, which means the abnormal structure of the heart and vessels), lung problems (emphysema, the progressive disease, which causes shortness of breath), and the lack of oxygen in the tissues. It means that you have poor blood circulation in feet and hands or the blood isn’t properly oxygenated due to heart or lung diseases.

Besides, cold temperatures also may cause your nails to turn blue. It happens because the cold makes the blood vessels constrict so that they become narrow and that is why it is hard for oxygen-rich blood to get to the nails.

To avoid this problem, keep your hands warm and undergo a medical examination in order to find out whether you have any heart or lung problems or not.

5- Ripped Nails

The surface of the nails is rippled or pitted, the skin under the nail is reddish-brown and the nails are discolored. It may indicate psoriasis or inflammatory arthritis.

It is known that those people, who suffer from psoriasis, develop clusters of cells along the nail bed that disrupt the smooth and linear growth of the normal nail. These cells are sloughed off and that is why there are grooves on the surface of the nail.

As for arthritis, there are nail abnormalities, associated with it. According to the studies, there is longitudinal ridging on the fingernails and the swelling of the toes, observed in patients with arthritis.

This condition should be diagnosed by the doctor, who prescribes topical, oral, injected medications or therapy.

6- Cracked Nails

They are dry and fragile, that is why they crack easily. Usually, this problem is connected to dehydration and thyroid disease. Thyroid disease is a medical condition that affects the function of the thyroid gland (the endocrine organ found at the front of the neck that produces thyroid hormones).

There are four types of this disease: 1) hypothyroidism (low function) means that there are not enough thyroid hormones; 2) hyperthyroidism (high function) means that there is an excessive amount of thyroid hormones; 3) structural abnormalities (the enlargement of the thyroid gland); 4) tumors (benign or cancerous).

For hypothyroidism, such symptoms as fatigue, slow heart rate, weight gain, dry skin are common. For hyperthyroidism, fast heartbeat, diarrhea, weight loss, and irritability are common. The diagnosis is made through laboratory tests and the treatment is based on the type of disorder.

However, if you suffer from the problem of brittle nails and it isn’t connected with the disease, you may improve their condition by good moistening, consuming gelatin (improves weak nails according to the studies), and biotin. A 2.5-mg dose of biotin daily is able to ease the brittle nail syndrome.

7- Puffy Nail Fold

The skin around the nail is puffy and red, it indicates the inflammation of the nail fold. This condition appears as the result of lupus (the disease, which implies that the immune system mistakes the body’s own tissues as aliens and attacks them). The disease appears due to genetic, hormonal, environmental factors). Also, another connective tissue disorder may trigger puffy nail fold. If you have this problem, see the doctor immediately.

8- Gnawed Nails

Nail-biting is linked to obsessive-compulsive disorder. It is a mental disorder, which is observed in 2.3 percent of people at some point in their life. This condition is characterized by a person’s inability to control activities or thoughts for more than a short period of time. They need to perform certain actions repeatedly (handwashing, checking to see if the door is locked, etc.) or have certain thoughts repeatedly (in most cases, these are anxious thoughts). The treatment of this disease may be different: medications or cognitive behavioral therapy.

Aside from the therapy, you should moisten the nails regularly and control the desire to bite nails.

9- Dark Nail Beds

Dark nail beds or dark discolorations are the most serious issue, which should be examined by the doctor as it may indicate melanoma – the form of skin cancer. However, it can also be a natural, genetic pigmentary change or the result of fungus infection.

10- Beau’s Lines

These lines run across the nail beds and may indicate the interrupted growth under the cuticle area. The growth may have been interrupted by the injury or illness.

For instance, uncontrolled diabetes, high fever, scarlet fever, mumps, and pneumonia may trigger the onset of these lines. Also, sometimes, these lines as associated with zinc deficiency.

If you suffer from a lack of zinc, you may include zinc-rich foods into your diet to eliminate this problem. Thus, try to eat pumpkin seeds, chickpeas, cashews, yogurt, spinach, mushrooms, chicken.

11- Spoon Nails

The shape of the nail resembles the spoon as the nail is curved upward at the edges. It may be the reason for heart disease, anemia, or excess iron absorption. You should be examined by the specialist to determine the reason. If you have anemia, you should change your diet and consume iron-rich foods (spirulina, liver, grass-fed beef, lentils, dark chocolate). If there are heart problems, then have the necessary treatment.

Nail Care Tips

Your nails are the reflection of your health, so it is important to take care of your body inside and out. Here are simple tips to follow in order to have beautiful and healthy nails:

  • Incorporate fruits and vegetables into your diet. They have the necessary vitamins and minerals, which eliminate dryness and help nails to be strong and shiny. Besides, make sure you eat foods, rich in protein (beans, quinoa, grass-fed beef) and foods, rich in zinc (pumpkin seeds, wheat germ) and Biotin, vitamin B as they strengthen the nails.
  • Keep nails clean and dry.
  • Protect your nails from excessive exposure to water or chemicals (wear rubber gloves when washing dishes and cleaning). Also, don’t use nail polish and artificial nails as they worsen the condition of your nails.
  • Use buffing to make your nails glossy and soften sharp edges. If you do so, you won’t need nail polish for extra shine.
  • Have your nails trimmed regularly? According to the AAD, you should trim your nails straight across and rounded slightly in at the center because then your nails will be strong.
  • Moisten nails and cuticle regularly. It can be a moisturizer or coconut oil, jojoba oil or grapeseed oil. They moisturize the skin and strengthen the nails.
  • If you found out some unusual nail symptoms, see the doctor, who will help you to figure out the problem.
  • Pick appropriate shoes – they shouldn’t be too snug or loose.
  • Don’t bite nails as it damages the skin around the nails and you transfer bacteria from the fingers to the mouth.


Thus, the nails are the reflection of the lifestyle, habits, and overall health. In order to have strong, healthy, and shiny nails, you should stick to a proper diet, lead an active lifestyle, don’t expose nails to chemicals, and check them regularly.

One Comment

  1. This is good to know. Fruits and vegetables should be included in our diet to maintain good health and good nails.

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