Video transcript

In terms of the human body, our hair, skin and nails are sort of like the proverbial canary in the cage.

Hi, I’m Dr Joe.

When our systems are starting to get a little bit run-down or we’re under load then we may see it first in the hair, skin and nails. Why is that? Well, the body prioritises. So if nutrients, things like the minerals, vitamins, your good fats and protein, are starting to be in short supply then the body will prioritise areas like the brain, heart, kidneys, liver, ahead of perhaps the skin, hair and nails. What that really says to us is that the key, (and in this video we’re talking more about nails, but the concepts do apply to the skin and hair as well) the most important thing is to be on an overall healthy diet.

So, in a lot of respects there is no special diet that you need to be on for healthy nails. The most important aspect of diet is that it has a good variety of nutrients so the body has the building blocks to make good nails.

What to eat for healthy nails

Good–quality proteins: so that can come from meat, fish, chicken, eggs or vegetable sources of protein. We need minerals, particularly calcium and zinc. And we need our B-group vitamins and also vitamins A and E. Foods like avocados and eggs are good; sweet potato, green vegetables, fruits, and I’ve mentioned before our protein sources.

For some people a supplement may be helpful if their diet is inadequate but, really, if you can be eating a fairly healthy diet, which has got all the nutrients we’ve been speaking about, then that’s your basics for healthy nails.

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When we talk about healthy nails…what is a healthy nail?

People will have slightly different opinions on that and there is no “one size fits all.” Much like hair colour, skin colour and texture is different from person to person, nails aren’t completely the same either. By and large, it will be a nice pink colour, it may have little white moon crescents through it. It may not. The end of the nail, the white part, is where the nail has died. The nail bed is at the base of the nail and goes underneath the finger.

Now, I’m not a beautician so I’m not going to go into too much detail at how to look after your nails. For finger nails they should generally be cut round and you can use a nail file, don’t play or muck around with the cuticle, don’t (obviously) pick at it, that’s not a good idea, that could end up getting infected and it could be a bit painful too, which is not nice.

Toenails, it is important to cut them straight across, if you do that it reduces the likelihood of getting in-grown toe nails. So, again, straight for the toenails, rounded for the fingernails.

Do you need to take special supplements for nails?

Short answer is no, other than, as I said before, if your diet is inadequate. But really, the best way to deal with a diet that’s low in fruits and vegetables, good proteins and good fats, is to eat more of those sorts of foods. But a supplement is ok for a while. Don’t spend mega-bucks, though, you really don’t need to.

Something else that will affect nails too is stress. If the body is underload or stressed, again we may see that in the hair, skin and nails. So managing your stress is a good tip for your nails as well.

To sum up, nails, skin and hair, a little bit of a pointer to overall perhaps how your body is faring. If they started to crack or go a bit brittle it may be telling you that the body is starting to prioritise and preserve its resources. In turn, it is about making sure you’re having a look at your diet and putting in the good fats, good protein, fruits and vegetables, and if need be a supplement.