A few years ago I caught a glimpse of one of my friend’s feet. I couldn’t help but gasp out loud, which was promptly followed by clasping my hand over my mouth and saying, “Sorry!” Although he said it was fine, I couldn’t help but feel bad, but as I thought about it I became less surprised at the state of his nails.
My friend was a lifelong smoker, and I say lifelong because he smoked as soon as he had the choice, and even some before then. His diet was all over the place, often skipping breakfast and lunch and having a late dinner. He drank a ton of soda and barely any water. His favorite beverage was beer. He was pretty young—27 then, and in good shape—with no other physical signs of being ill.
But what I saw made my eyes widen in surprise, then narrow with understanding and appreciation that our bodies speak to us in many ways. This was his body’s way of telling him to switch things up.
A few months later, he quit smoking. He quit drinking alcohol and incorporated more vegetables into his diet, and began to drink water daily. And over time, I watched his body change. His face became brighter, he lost weight, he had more energy and… his toenails returned to normal. All those months later, I looked at his feet again and actually marveled at the change. I was so proud of him and the whole experience made me have a deep appreciation for the human body.
I like to think I’m in tune with my body. As a hyper-sensitive person, so when something disagrees with me—I know it. However, I still consume some things I know I shouldn’t, but constantly look for signs on my body. As for my nails, I’ve always been impressed that they grow long and strong—but as for some of the less obvious signs of vitamin or mineral deficiencies, let’s get into that now. I’m going to spare you guys the horror of seeing the associated pictures, but if you’re interested, a quick Google search will do!
Common Nail Abnormalities & How to Fix Them
1. Chalky Nails
What’s wrong? Nails are chalky and crumbly. It could be dehydration of the keratin on the surface of your nail. This can also happen to people who wash their hands a lot or have their feet in water a lot.
Fix: Take a break from nail polish, stop the use of harsh chemicals like bleach or other cleaning products.
2. No Lunula (white moons at base of nail bed)
What’s wrong? Your nails don’t have the white moons, even when you push your cuticle back. In some cases—not all—missing lunulas are a sign of anemia, malnutrition, and depression according to Healthline.
Fix: Visit your doctor if you’re having weird symptoms, like cravings for dirt or clay or if you feel extremely lethargic. If you feel fine, take a look at your diet and try introducing more dark leafy greens and other sources of iron like lentils and hemp.
3. Raised Ridges
What’s Wrong? Your nails have deep lateral ridges. Slight ridges are a normal sign of aging, but if they’re deep it’s most likely iron deficiency anemia, says LIC Primary Care. Deficiencies in Vitamin A, Vitamin B, Vitamin B12, and keratin could also be a cause.
Fix: Foods high in Vitamin A are carrots, broccoli and squash. If you think you may be anemic, head to your doctor for a blood test.
4. White Spots
What’s Wrong? There are white spots scattered across one or some of your nails. Most likely a zinc deficiency, according to Healthline.
Fix: Foods high in zinc include beans, lentils, tofu, walnuts, chia, hemp and quinoa. So it’s super easy as a vegan to include these items in your diet.
What’s Wrong? There are little indentations all over the tops of your nails, and have a more serious reason for doing so. This can be a sign of hypothyroidism or psoriasis, says Bustle.
Fix: Go see your doctor on this one. They’ll be able to diagnose you properly and will know to to treat these conditions.
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Photo: Christine, Christine, Apho, Schneider, Delp; Unsplash.