Nail Ridges

Our entire outward appearance is a good indication of our inner state of health.   The hair, skin and nails are like the flowers produced by the body. If you have a poor internal “growing” environment then you will only produce poor quality flowers. Ridges on the nails shows that there is an internal deficiency which needs to be addressed for health to bloom.

Changes or abnormalities to the nails such as ridges on the nails can be signs of deeper imbalances. These can often be detected before they manifest as signs and symptoms in other parts of the body. Signs on the nails may assist in indicating possible ailments, deficiencies and weakness but should not be considered a definitive diagnosis without also looking at many other aspects of an individuals health in order to get the most informed view.

Many Naturopaths often consider the appearance of the hair, skin and nails as well as facial signs as diagnostic tools when taking a consultation. The condition of the nails are a helpful tool for Naturopath’s when determining areas of ill health in the body.

Common causes of ridges on nails

Nails are comprised of Keratin (protein) a tough substance that protects the end of each finger and toe. The following is a list of possible causes as to why vertical ridges may appear on the nails:

  • It is traditionally believed that ridge formation on the nails relates to a possible weakness in the digestive tract that results in compromised assimilation of nutrients (leaky gut, allergies, food sensitivities, maldigestion)
  • Malabsorption in the small intestines (Crohns Disease, Coeliac Disease, Giardia, Ulcerative colitis), this is the area of the digestive tract which absorbs nutrition from the food we eat. If there is inflammation or degeneration present then a mineral or protein deficiency can be the result. With no building blocks (minerals) to strengthen the nails they weaken and form ridges
  • Insufficient production of Hydrochloric Acid (Hypochlorhydria) in the stomach and a sluggish metabolism
  • A deficiency of the mineral Silica or Iron is also a likely contributing factor
  • B Vitamin deficiency may cause nails to become fragile with horizontal or vertical ridges

Nail signs and what they mean

  • Brittle nails that split easily may indicate an fatty acid, protein, Vitamin A deficiency, Iron or Calcium deficiency.
  • Nails with white flecks or lines may result due to a Zinc or Vitamin B6 deficiency.
  • Nails that tend to broaden and curve downwards at the tip may be a symptom of lung damage.
  • Excessively dry nails may be due to a Vitamin B12 deficiency
  • Nails which split easily may be caused by a hydrochloric acid deficiency in the stomach
  • White bands across the nails or hang nails may be caused by a dietary protein, Vitamin C or Folic acid deficiency
  • Nails that grow slowly or are dry may be indicative of a Vitamin A or Iron deficiency
  • Discoloration of the nails may be due to prolonged illnesses or stress, smoking or allergies
  • Pale nail colour may occur due to Iron or protein deficiencies as seen in anemia, kidney or liver disorders. It may also be linked with circulatory or cardiovascular conditions or poor oxygen intake

Nutrients to improve the health of the nails

  • B Vitamins, Choline, Inositol and Biotin
  • The minerals Zinc, Calcium, Silica and Iron
  • Vitamin A
  • Essential fatty acids
  • Amino acids (proteins) – Cysteine, Methioning and Taurine

Foods and herbs to help improve nail health

  • Silica rich foods – onions, celery, cucumbers, barley, oats, root vegetables, slippery elm powder, green leafy vegetables and cereals
  • Essential fatty acids – fish oil, flaxseed oil, nuts and seeds, fish, avocados, evening primrose oil, walnuts, sunflowers, seaweed, wheatgerm oil and tofu
  • Take slippery elm powder before meals to help improve mineral absorption in the small intestines
  • Consume more digestive and enzymatic foods to ensure better mineral absorption such as Apple cider vinger, lemon juice, bitter lettuces (rocket, endive, raddichio, kale)
  • Herbs which may assist in improving the appearance of the nails are: Gotu Kola, Horestail and Oats
  • Consume more green leafy vegeatables (spinach, bok choy, broccoli, kale, slippery elm powder) as these contain B Vitamins, Silica and folic acid
  • Ensure that you consume quality proteins (organic chicken, eggs, tempeh, tofu, red meat, fish, nuts and seeds)
Quick fact – Nails grow at the rate of 0.05 – 1.2 millimeters per week.Nail diagnosis is only one modality used in Naturopathy to form a clear picture of a patients health. Naturopathy takes into account many different diagnosis signs and symptoms (plus lifestyle, diet, family history, medical history, living environment, pharmaceutical medications etc.) in order to devise a holistic treatment plan.

Beau’s lines

Beau’s lines or deep groves which typically run across the fingernail (horizontally) rather than vertically. They are ridges which can be easily seen on the surface of the fingernail and are caused by temporary halt in the growth of the nail. This may be due to nutritional deficiencies, infection, injury, trauma, malnutrition, poor Calcium intake in the diet, exposure to cold temperatures (circulatory insufficiency, Raynauds disease), psoriasis, diabetes, side effect of pharmaceutical medications or other chronic underlying illness which are placing a strain on the body.

Due to the slow growth of the nails it is possible to determine when the problem occured because the nails grow at a rate of approximately 0.1mm each day. The nails are therefore a time line and by analysing the position of the Beau line on the nail gives you the approximate time when the injury/ problem occured. For example trauma or hypocalcamia (calcium deficiency) may have occured about 2 months ago if the lines appear in the centre of your fingernail and may have been rectified if the nail continues to grow smoothly after that area on the nail.