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6 Subtle Clues Your Nails May Be Giving About Your Health

July 29, 2020

6 Subtle Clues Your Nails May Be Giving About Your Health

Our bodies are always communicating with us.  When we’re hungry, our stomach growls. When we’re sleepy, our eyelids get heavy. These are obvious signs and we know how to respond. When it comes to health, of course, there are many factors that come into play and each person is different. But when it comes to nutrition, our bodies give us many subtle clues as to what might be going on inside. Our nails are no exception. The health and strength of our nails is dependent on a constant formation and regeneration of cells from beneath the surface. Without proper nutrition, this cycle can be disrupted, changing the look and texture of our nails. Here are 6 clues to look out for and what they might be telling you:

Brittle nails:

One of the most common nail issues and we have all been there - when our nails crack, peel and split. Often brittle nails are a byproduct of wear and tear. Acrylics and gel manicures, frequently washing hands (and dishes) and exposure to household cleaners can lead to brittle nails. Nutritionally speaking, brittle nails can signal inadequate levels of B-vitamins (especially biotin, B12 and folate), protein or iron. These nutrients play a role in boosting the amino acids needed for healthy nail growth.


Ridges are very common and can extend from the cuticle to the tip of the nail.  These tend to become more prominent with age and usually not a cause for concern. As we get older, oil production slows down and the lack of moisture can cause our nails to become thinner, more brittle and cause ridging. Healthy fats, especially omega-3 fatty acids, can help support anti-inflammatory and moisture-promoting properties of healthy nails.
Koilonychia (spoon nails):
Spoon nails are thin, soft nails with the outer edges pointed upward (as in the name, similar to a spoon). From a nutritional standpoint, the most common cause is iron deficiency. This can be simply a result of not getting enough iron, but also often a result of conditions that may impair absorption or lead to excess iron loss.
Beau’s Lines:
These are deep indentations that run horizontally across the nail. Beau’s lines form when there is a disruption in the body’s ability to produce nail cells. Generally, this is caused by underlying health conditions, infection or injury.
Nail pitting:
These are small pinpoint depressions in the nail. This has been seen in people with inflammatory skin conditions (such as psoriasis, alopecia and eczema).
Muehrcke Lines:
These are horizontal white lines that go across the nail. These lines are within the nail bed and could indicate a low level of albumin (protein found in the blood). Low albumin can be associated with underlying health conditions, infections or malnutrition.

Among healthy adults, issues like brittle nails or ridges may be relatively common and addressed with proper nutrition and a healthy lifestyle. Other conditions may be a signal (or a response to) underlying medical conditions or treatments. When in doubt, it is always best to check with a healthcare practitioner. Any questions or comments? Drop us a message below!


Ava & Samantha 


Braswell MA, Daniel CR 3rd, Brodell RT. Beau lines, onychomadesis, and retronychia: A unifying hypothesis. J Am Acad Dermatol. 2015;73(5):849-855. doi:10.1016/j.jaad.2015.08.003

Chang X, Zhen P, Zeng J. Fingernails changes associated with chemotherapy in breast cancer: Muehrcke's lines. Clin Case Rep. 2018;6(8):1653-1654. Published 2018 Jul 3. doi:10.1002/ccr3.1642

Hochman, L.G. Scher R.K. and Meyerson M.S. (1993), Brittle nails: response to daily biotin supplementation. Cutis, 51(4), 303 – 305

Rao S, Banerjee S, Ghosh SK, Gangopadhyay DN, Jana S, Mridha K. Nail changes and nail disorders in the elderly [retracted in: Indian J Dermatol. 2012 Jan;57(1):I]. Indian J Dermatol. 2010;55(3):301-304. doi:10.4103/0019-5154.70695

Sobolewski P, Walecka I, Dopytalska K. Nail involvement in psoriatic arthritis. Reumatologia. 2017;55(3):131-135. doi:10.5114/reum.2017.68912

DiBaise M. Hair, Nails and Skin: Differentiating Cutaneous Manifestations of Micronutrient Deficiency. Nutr Clin Pract. 2019;34(4):490-503. doi:10.1002/ncp.10321

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