Monday, June 19, 2006

Iron or Vitamin Deficiency and Fingernail Health

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Q: Lately I've noticed that my fingernails are much paler in color than normal, plus they've started curving up on the sides. I've heard that nutritional deficiencies can show up in your nails: Could there be something missing in my diet?

A: Just as the eyes are said to be the window to the soul, the fingernails may be a window to certain nutritional deficiencies. But don't read too much into your self-diagnoses. Spoon-shaped nails, as you've described, may be a clue to a thyroid deficiency or iron deficiency anemia, or just an inherited trait. Pallor is consistent with iron deficiency, a very common problem in menstruating women, especially if they have heavy periods (e.g. with fibroids). Thin, brittle nails without a white crescent (moon) at the base may also indicate hypothyroidism.

Many women report that their nails were never as strong or healthy as when they were pregnant and this is probably because most pregnant women in the US take prenatal vitamins. While eating a well-balanced healthy diet is optimal, most American women benefit from taking a daily multivitamin even when they're not pregnant! Menstruating women should consider a supplement that includes iron, unless their physicians have instructed them otherwise. Most daily multivitamins will contain vitamins, A, C, B6, niacin and iron, but women should be aware that most daily multivitamins do not contain an adequate amount of calcium. Adequate calcium supplementation requires taking a separate pill or liquid. Calcium supplementation is essential for optimal bone health, but can also benefit fingernail strength.

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