Having problems with your hair, nails or skin? It could be a sign of health problems

By YOU
22 July 2017

Do your fingernails break easily? Is your hair dull and lifeless?

The condition of your nails, hair and skin provides a good indication of your overall health, so these little niggles could be your body’s way of telling you that you need to take better care of yourself.

Perhaps you’re not getting all the nutrients you need from your diet or you’re not drinking enough water – or drinking too much of a different kind of beverage. Here are some signs your body might give you that something’s up with your health, and what to do about it.

SKIN

Your skin is your largest organ, and its condition is a good indication of what’s going on inside your body.

Problem: Dry skin worst-case scenario Dry patches of skin that itch like crazy could indicate eczema or an allergy. Speak to your doctor. Most likely explanation your skin isn’t getting the nourishment it needs because you aren’t eating enough essential fatty acids or drinking enough water. Dry patches around the nostrils could indicate a riboflavin (vitamin B2) deficiency.

Solution: Eat more oily fish, avocados, nuts and green leafy vegetables to ensure you get enough fatty acids. If you aren’t drinking enough water because you don’t like it, try upping your hydration by drinking herbal teas such as camomile or peppermint rather than coffee, juice or fizzy drinks. Drink a glass of milk every day and eat cheese, meat and eggs to boost your riboflavin levels.

Problem: Oily skin and/or pimples worst-case scenario if you’re getting regular acne outbreaks it’s best to consult a dermatologist. Most likely explanation an unhealthy diet is probably to blame. If you’re eating too much sugar, fried foods and refined carbs, you’re not only taking in substances your body struggles to process, you’re probably not getting the essential amino acids and antioxidants you need.

Solution: Limit added sugar, salty snacks, refined carbohydrates and junk food. Eat more fibre-rich foods such as oats and whole wheat bread, drink more water to flush out toxins and eat more foods rich in zinc – such as red meat and nuts – as this mineral is vital for skin renewal. You can also take a daily zinc supplement but keep in mind that experts recommend no more than 30 mg a day. NAILS If your nails break easily and are discoloured it could signal underlying health problems.

Problem: White/milk spots Worst-case scenario this could signal heart problems or kidney disease but wouldn’t be the only symptom so if you also feel run-down, consult your doctor.

Most likely explanation these spots on the fingernail bed are usually the result of an insignificant injury, a bacterial or fungal infection or a zinc deficiency. Zinc is vital for cell renewal and the immune system but it’s the mineral most frequently lacking in our diet. You could also have a selenium deficiency.

Solution: Get more zinc and selenium by eating seafood, red meat, wholegrains and Brazil nuts.

Problem: Cracked/brittle nails worst-case scenario if you’ve also recently lost a lot of weight and constantly feel tired, ask your doctor to do a blood test to see if you have an overactive thyroid gland.

Most likely explanation it’s probably because you’re not getting enough vitaminB12 and essential fatty acids, both of which are vital for healthy nails.

Solution: Increase your vitamin B12intake by eating more meat, fish and eggs. If you’re vegetarian, consider taking a daily multivitamin supplement. Boost your intake of fatty acids by eating oily fish such as sardines and pilchards a few times a week. You can also include a handful of walnuts, Brazil nuts or almonds in your daily diet or sprinkle a tablespoon of crushed linseed over your breakfast cereal every morning. Most likely explanation a lack of folic acid and vitamin C are the most likely causes of those annoying little tears in the skin around your finger- or toenails. It could also mean your body is crying out for water.

Solution: The best way to take in more folic acid and vitamin C is to eat more citrus fruit. Make sure you drink enough water by filling a litre bottle and keeping it on hand. That way you can keep tabs on your intake – going through two bottles means you’re getting the recommended eight glasses a day.

HAIR

This is among the fastest growing tissue – second only to bone marrow. If your locks aren’t in good condition it could be a sign you need to overhaul your diet.

Problem: Dandruff, dry hair worst-case scenario if your scalp is really itchy, consult a dermatologist to rule out conditions such as psoriasis, eczema and dermatitis. Most likely explanation a dry, flaky scalp could suggest you aren’t taking in enough essential fatty acids. Split ends could indicate insufficient protein, while dry, brittle hair could be caused by a lack of iron or zinc.

Solution: Boost your essential fatty acid intake with fish oil or an evening primrose oil supplement daily. If you’re worried about the condition of your hair, try a good multivitamin with plenty of the B vitamins, iron and zinc.

Problem: Hair loss Worst-case scenario if you’re losing hair and it’s not due to chemical hair products, you could be anaemic. Ask your doctor to do a blood test to check. Most likely explanation Hair falling out usually indicates you have a biotin (vitaminB7) deficiency but it could also be due to high stress levels.

Solution: Take a multivitamin supplement that contains the B vitamins as well as vitamin C and iron. You should also eat more oily fish, lean red meat, green leafy vegetables and pulses such as lentils.

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