Beneath the Lacquer: The Link Between Nails and Overall Vitality

While everyday demands take centre stage, there’s a subtle aspect often overlooked—one that silently offers insights into our overall well-being. Our nails—seemingly ordinary—tell a quiet yet meaningful story about our internal health. We explore the intriguing relationship between nail health and our body’s well-being with insights from a trusted GP and expert in women and child health, Dr. Carmen Briner, also known as the beloved @momdoc. Together, we explore the role of our nails as messengers.

By Celeste Strydom

Nails are made of a tough protein called keratin, the same substance in our skin and hair. They serve as protective layers, safeguarding our fingertips and toe tips. Healthy nails should have a smooth surface, even colouring, and a strong structure. They mirror proper hydration, sufficient nutrition, and overall good health. The condition of our nails reflects the intricate balance of our body’s different systems. Dr Briner notes, “Our nails can tell us a lot about our health. Sudden nail colour, texture, or shape changes can indicate underlying issues. While they’re not definitive tools for diagnosis, these changes can prompt us to consider our well-being and seek professional guidance if needed.”
When your nails exhibit changes, it’s worth considering the bigger picture. Dr. Briner suggests paying attention to accompanying symptoms that might provide additional insights into your health. For instance, if your nails show signs of discolouration, along with breathlessness or persistent coughing, it could be a signal to investigate potential respiratory concerns.
Similarly, if nail changes coincide with fatigue and dizziness, it might prompt a closer examination of your cardiovascular health.

Peeling: If your nails are prone to peeling, it could signal a lack of moisture. Consider your exposure to water and chemicals and whether you use adequate moisturisers.

Weak: Nails that easily bend or break might indicate a nutritional deficiency, possibly lacking vitamins like biotin or minerals like calcium and iron. These nutrients are essential for maintaining nail strength.

Ridges: Horizontal ridges, often called Beau’s lines, can be associated with illness or stress episodes interrupting nail growth. Vertical ridges, on the other hand, are usually harmless and can come with age. They can also hint at nutritional imbalances.

Discolouration: Yellow or green nails might point towards fungal infections or underlying lung issues. If your nails appear blueish or purplish, it could indicate poor circulation or oxygenation, possibly related to respiratory or cardiovascular problems.

White Spots: Those small white spots on your nails are usually harmless and are often a result of minor trauma; however,they could also indicate a zinc deficiency.Half-and-Half: If your nails have a white portion near the base and a pink or brownish portion near the tip, known as half-and-half nails, it’s wise to consult a healthcare professional. These nails could be a sign of underlying kidney disease.

Dark Streaks or Bands: Dark streaks or bands on your nails could cause concern. It’s essential to have them checked out by a healthcare professional as they can be related to melanoma, a type of skin cancer.

A pivotal aspect of healthy nails lies in the sustenance we provide from within. Dr. Briner underscores that a balanced diet rich in vitamins and minerals, such as biotin, zinc, and iron, can significantly influence nail health. Taking appropriate supplements can further bolster your nutritional intake, but caring for your nails extends beyond diet. Enter Jacintha Marais, Skincare Therapist and Founder of Earth Body&Skin in Claremont, Cape Town. Jacintha shares tips for those who seek to maintain robust nail health.
While professional nail treatments and salon visits can certainly aid, it’s crucial to be mindful of potential
drawbacks. Jacintha notes that enhancements and certain salon treatments may compromise nail
health. She encourages awareness when choosing salons, advocating for cleaned and sterilised tools, and
minimising exposure to harmful chemicals and toxins.
Jacintha empowers patrons to ask questions and hold salons accountable for safe practices. Opt for salons using products with minimal harmful substances. If you’re inclined to enhance your nails, consider the impact on their already brittle state and opt for simpler alternatives like a manicure and polish. Furthermore, if an infection arises, a reputable technician will prioritise your health by declining treatment and urging a consultation with a doctor.

Maintain proper nail hygiene, keep nails dry and well-trimmed, and use moisturisers to prevent drying. Protect your hands with gloves during household chores and minimise prolonged exposure to water and
harsh chemicals. Your nails hold stories worth listening to. You can nurture them and your overall well-being with simple care and attention.

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