Stop Drinking Soda…And Other Things Your Hair and Nails may be Telling You About Your Health

manicured-hands-on-white-towelWhen “measuring” our health, we often think of numbers – such as our weight, body mass index and blood pressure. While these numbers offer important information about our physical state, you can also learn a lot about your health by paying attention to what your hair and nails are telling you.

1. The direction of nail ridges matter.

Vertical ridges in a fingernail are most likely the result of aging; horizontal ridges mean you probably need to schedule a visit with your physician.

“As people age, they often note small, vertical ridges on their fingernails. This is normal as long as it’s not accompanied by any sort of discoloration in the nail,” said Andrea Sheley, a certified nurse practitioner at Memorial Physician Services – Lincoln.

If you do notice unusual colors (with or without ridges), consult your doctor. Bluish nails can indicate lung issues; red or black streaks can be a sign of infection or disease.

Horizontal ridges on the nail, however, can indicate a more serious health issue. These ridges are called Beau’s lines and may indicate illness, injury or poor nutrition, added Sheley.

2. Nail “clouds” mean you aren’t eating enough nutrients.

White spots and brittle nails are telling you to add more nutrients to your diet. For example, small white spots that look like clouds could indicate you are not getting enough zinc. Dry, thinning, brittle nails could be the result of too little protein, iron or folate.

The internet is full of advice on what to eat for healthy nails. According to Gayle Jennings, a registered dietitian at Memorial Medical Center, the easiest tip for healthy eating is variety.

“Go for variety and moderation,” she said. “Choose fruits, vegetables, lean protein, low-fat dairy and whole grains more often than solid fats and added sugars.”

3. Thinning, brittle hair may be telling you to cut down on soda and other high-acidic foods.

It’s natural for hair to thin as we age – in both men and women, particularly with changes in hormones.

However, there are things that can be done to keep hair as strong and healthy as possible and to avoid hair loss. Reduce your stress and eat a balanced diet full of fresh, nutrient-dense foods.

A diet that is high in acidic foods – soda, coffee, pasta, bread – poses many health risks and causes your hair to be brittle, thin and unhealthy. Curb the high-acidic foods and incorporate more fresh vegetables, nuts and water into your diet.

“The type of foods you eat is important for healthy hair and a healthy body,” Jennings said. “Your hair is made of protein and fed by the nutrients in your body. If you are lacking important vitamins and minerals, it’s going to show.”

While our hair and nails can contribute to a good appearance, they’re also strong indicators of our physical health. As we age, it’s normal to experience some thinning of hair and nails, but you can keep them strong with good diet choices and maintaining an overall healthy lifestyle. But if you notice any sudden changes to hair and nails, contact your physician.