by: Dr. Craig A. Maxwell
Brittle nails can be frustrating. No matter how much you polish, buff, and moisturize, you still don’t have beautiful nails. Why are perfect nails so hard for some woman (and men) to have? Breaking nails are often a sign of something else going wrong in the body. In this article, we’ll explore the common causes of brittle nails and explore some nutritional cures.
Common Causes of Brittle Nails
- Low Thyroid (Hypothyroidism) – Brittle nails are sometimes a sign of a more serious illness. One of the most common causes of brittle and breaking nails is low thyroid, also called hypothyroidism. In hypothyroidism, your body does not produce enough of the thyroid hormone, leading to symptoms such as weakness, fatigue, dry skin, brittle nails, depression, constipation, memory trouble, and irregular periods. People with under-active thyroid often notice soft nail beds, nail ridges, and a lightening or disappearance of the white, crescent-shaped area of the nail base.
- Iron and Vitamin Deficiencies – The Standard American Diet and increasingly poor soil quality has resulted in an epidemic of nutritional deficiencies. Iron is an essential mineral and lack of it can result in brittle nails, breaking nails, unusual nail ridging, and sometimes a bluish color to the nail bed. Other nutritional deficiencies that may lead to less-than-perfect nails are vitamin C, D, E, and B.
- Acid Body pH – For the body to function at its best, your pH needs to stay in the alkaline range. A diet filled with processed carbohydrates, sugars, and grains as well as a high alcohol and soda intake can all contribute to a high acid pH. When your body pH is highly acidic, it can lead to serious health problems ranging from gastritis to weak, brittle nails and more. Other symptoms of high acidity include mouth ulcers, acid reflux, gastritis, ulcers, loose teeth, dull hair, chronic fatigue, and headaches. If these symptoms sound familiar, I recommend a comprehensive test panel from Direct Labs to analyze your body chemistry and accurately diagnose nutritional deficiencies. These test panels come in special formulas for both men and women. You may order the lab test online in the privacy of your home and have the test drawn at any Quest location you prefer. The results are sent directly to you, and forwarded to your physician only at your request. Once you know the cause of your brittle nails and other symptoms, they will be much easier to address.
- Inadequate Protein Intake – Your nails are made up of a fibrous protein called keratin and if you’re not consuming enough protein, you’re more likely to experience breaking nails, chronic fatigue, hair loss, inability to quickly recover from injury, and loss of muscle tone. The amount of protein you need to consume each day depends on your age, weight, and activity level. The standard method used by nutritionists to calculate this need is to multiply your weight by .37. For example, a 125-pound person would need to eat about 46 grams of protein per day to stay healthy.
- Dehydration – You may think you drink enough water per day but if you’re experiencing brittle nails, excessive thirst, dry mouth, loss of appetite, dark urine, skin flushing, and chills, you’re dehydrated. Even if you drink a bunch of soda, fruit juice, and coffee each day, you can still be dehydrated. Your body needs plenty of fresh, pure water to keep your joints lubricated, your hair and nails strong, and your body running smoothly.
- Overuse of Fingernails – Everyday activities such as typing, opening things, cashiering, cooking, and playing an instrument can also contribute to breaking nails. If your job or lifestyle requires you to continually use your nails, file them short and even, moisturize regularly, and protect them with gloves when you’re able.
- Too Much Nail Polish – Most commercial nail polishes contain harmful chemical additives that can weaken your fingernails over time. If you paint your fingernails more than once per week, you’re overdoing it. Your nails should be allowed at least a couple of days to breathe and grow naturally so they have a chance to be healthy.
Beautiful Nails with Nutritional Cures
Your diet affects your entire health and well-being. If you’re not eating well, you’re not going to feel or look good. Your hair, nails, skin, and eyes all show when you’re not eating well. A diet rich in whole foods is best when addressing any type of chronic health problem, even something as seemingly-minor as brittle or breaking nails.
Get rid of the junk in your diet and load up on lots of nutrient-rich organic vegetables and fruit, whole grains, protein-rich lean meats, beans, and legumes to stay healthy and feel great.
- What Are The Best Supplements To Take For Brittle Nails?
1.) When you’re dealing with brittle nails, there are specific nutrients your body is crying out for. For my patients with brittle or breaking fingernails, I recommend Diamond Nutritionals’ Skin, Hair, and Nail Formula. It contains a synergistic blend of natural nutrients designed to heal your nails from the inside out. You’ll also be nourishing your skin and hair at the same time! This popular formula is made in America, as are all of our products. It has helped many since I began using it in my practice 10 years ago, and is now shipped throughout the world. I believe you will find it very effective!
These ingredients include:
- MSM – Methylsulfonylmethane or MSM decreases the pressure inside a cell and removes toxins and excess fluids. This process results in smoother skin and stronger hair and nails. It is also a source of bioavailable sulfur, which has an integral role in regeneration of collagen in skin and hair.
- Horsetail Grass – Your nails, skin, and hair naturally contain silica, and too little of this nutrient can result in brittle nails, weak hair, and dry skin. Horsetail grass is high in silica and can reverse nail damage and help regrow healthy nails.
- Stinging Nettle Leaf – Stinging nettle contains antioxidants and silica. It is healthy for skin, hair, and nails.
- Fo-Ti Root – Fo-Ti root is a natural herb commonly used in Eastern anti-aging prescriptions. It can help smooth skin, reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, and repair broken or brittle nails.
- PABA – Para-aminobenzoic acid (PABA) is a B-complex vitamin known for its natural anti-aging benefits and ability to alleviate chronic inflammation.
- Biotin – Biotin is a dietary supplement that is known to strengthen hair and grow stronger nails.
- Selenium – This trace mineral can help improve fingernail strength and health. Since too much selenium can actually lead to brittle nails, this formula contains 25 mcg. of selenium, just the right amount to strengthen brittle nails.
- Betaine HCL – Betaine HCL is a natural digestive aid that improves the way your body processes and assimilates nutrients. It does this by supporting optimal protein breakdown, thus allowing more efficient collagen production.
- Saw Palmetto – Saw Palmetto is added to support normal levels of dihydrotestosterone (DHT). This is known to promote health and thickness of hair.
2.) A very important part of a nail (and skin and hair) rejuvenation plan is a balanced, professional grade vitamin and mineral formula. I recommend Diamond Nutritionals’ Foundation Vitamin Formula. Three Foundation Vitamin tablets and three Skin, Hair, and Nails Formula capsules once daily have helped many of my patients over the years. These may be taken together, preferably with food.
Using natural oils on your dry, brittle nails can help nourish them from the outside.
- Coconut Oil – Coconut oil is one of the healthiest oils on the planet. It is loaded with antioxidants that fight free radicals and prevent premature aging. The next time you do an at-home manicure, file your nails, push your cuticles back gently, and massage in some coconut oil. Forget the polish and let the nutrients sink in!
- Argan Oil – To moisturize, protect, and strengthen your nails, argan oil is the way to go. For stronger nails, mix equal parts argan oil and fresh-squeezed lemon juice and soak for 15 minutes.
- Vitamin E – Pure vitamin E oil can help rejuvenate breaking nails. For best results, buy a bottle of pure vitamin E capsules, prick the gelatin capsule with a pin, and rub the oil directly on your nails. You can also take vitamin E orally to strengthen nails from the inside out!
For some, perfect nails just aren’t an option. If you’re on a job where you have to use your fingers a lot, it might be best to keep them short and well-groomed. To heal brittle nails, address underlying health problems, focus on good nutrition, and use correct, natural supplementation. It’s the fastest way to heal your body and from the inside out!