What Are Your Fingernails Saying About You?

by Dr. Thomas K. Lo, Advanced Chiropractic & Nutritional Healing Center

Fingernails and toenails are comprised of a rich complex of micronutrients needed to maintain their health and strength. A protein structure known as keratin makes up nails, along with critical nutrients, including iron, zinc, copper, magnesium, sodium, vitamins A and C, and B-complex vitamins like biotin.

The American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) recognizes that nail problems may often be a sign of a serious disease, including cancer, that should not go untreated. The organization summarizes:

“Nails often reflect our general state of health. Changes in the nail, such as discoloration or thickening, can signal health problems, including liver and kidney diseases, heart and lung conditions, anemia, and diabetes.”

The declining health of your nails is your body’s cue that you may have an underlying disease, nutrient deficiency, or chronic health concern. The following are some examples of what your nails may be telling you about your health.

Dry, Cracked, or Brittle Nails

There are many influences that cause nails to be brittle, dry, and to crack easily. Activities like swimming and washing dishes can cause these symptoms. Also, nails exposed to chemicals from nail polish remover and cleaning products can weaken them. Low humidity can also make your nails dry and brittle.

Related Conditions

Symptoms of dry, cracked, and brittle nails may be a sign of a fungal infection or a more serious endocrine disorder called hypothyroidism.

Nutrient Deficiencies

Brittle nails may be associated with a deficiency in vitamins A, C, or biotin (B vitamin), and iron.

Yellow Nails

Lifestyle factors such as aging, the use of acrylic nails, constant application of nail polish, and smoking can stain your nails a yellow color. However, if they appear thick and crumbly, that is often caused by a fungal infection.

Related Conditions

Health problems associated with yellow nails include smoking, fungal infection, diabetes, thyroid disease, psoriasis, and bronchitis.

Nutrient Deficiencies

Nutritional deficiencies include antioxidants such as vitamins A and C.

Also, be sure to dry your hands very well each time you rinse your hands. Fungus thrives in environments with extra moisture.

White Spots

Typically, white spots are a result of nail trauma, resulting in calcium deposits as the body recovers from the damage. If you see white spots, chances are the damage occurred months ago, given the length of time it takes for nails to grow.

Other causes of white spots include a fungal infection and gut disturbances, which may lead to a deficiency in the critical mineral zinc, which is essential for immune health.

Related Conditions

Fungal infection or possible gastrointestinal disorders that may prevent the absorption of adequate nutrients for nail health.

Nutrient Deficiencies

Boost the concentration of zinc you are taking into your diet to improve your gut health, immunity, and increase nutrient assimilation by the body.

Horizontal Ridges

Horizontal ridges that appear as a white line across the nail may also be a result of nail injury. If the ridges appear on multiple nails, there may be a more serious issue, resulting from the body’s redirection of responsibilities to heal where there is a more critical need.

For instance, a dermatologist with the Cleveland Clinic, Dr. John Anthony, explains that the nail bed pauses its growth during a serious illness, such as pneumonia, high fever, or heart attack. Multiple lines represent a chronic issue, and you should seek medical attention immediately.

Related Conditions

Pneumonia, high fever, arsenic poisoning, carbon monoxide poisoning, leprosy, psoriasis, circulatory disease, uncontrolled diabetes, malaria, Hodgkin’s disease, and also malnutrition present in individuals with IBS (irritable bowel syndrome), Celiac disease, and IBD (inflammatory bowel disease).

Nutrient Deficiencies

What are termed Beau’s lines result from horizontal ridges that appear as indentations into the nail bed and can be associated with a deficiency in zinc.

Vertical Ridges

Vertical ridges are generally a sign of aging, becoming more visible throughout the years, as blood circulation in the body decreases. Cases where these ridges are of concern are if you are experiencing nutrient malabsorption; also a possible result of reduced circulation and, therefore, decreased nutrient delivery in younger years. The deeper the ridges, the more severe the deficiency of nutrients.

Related Conditions

Health complications that may cause malabsorption problems in your body include thyroid issues, heavy metal toxicity, rheumatoid arthritis, possible parasitic infection, and digestive disorders.

Nutrient Deficiencies

May be caused by deficiency in vitamin B12 and magnesium.


Clubbing is characterized by the downward curve at the end of the nail and enlarged fingertips. Clubbed nails are not as common as many of the other nail problems and can be present with heart or lung issues, resulting from inadequate oxygen flow from the blood to tissue.

Related Conditions

Lung disease, lung cancer, and complications such as bronchitis and pneumonia, liver disease, kidney disease, inflammatory bowel disease, congestive heart failure, AIDS, and thyroid cancer, can all present with clubbed nails.

Nutrient Deficiencies

The most common nutrient deficiency associated with clubbing of the nails is iodine.

Spoon Nails

Spoon nails curve upwards at the end of the nail, resembling a spoon in appearance, often flat or dented towards the nail bed at the surface.

Related Conditions

Heart disease, hypothyroidism, autoimmune issues like Lupus, Raynaud’s disease, anemia, and hemochromatosis (excess iron absorption) may be associated with spoon nails.

Nutrient Deficiencies

Iron deficiency is the most common reason for spooned nails, but it can also result from excessive iron.

White Nails with a Strip of Pink

Known as Terry’s nails, the nail appears mostly white with a narrow pink strip at the top of the nail. Although this problem may be a result of aging, it may also be an alarm that a more serious health concern is lurking.

Related Conditions

Kidney failure, liver disease, congestive heart failure, diabetes, and malnutrition.

Nutrient Deficiencies

A general need for increased nutrient intake is especially associated with elderly individuals with symptoms of Terry’s nails.

Dark Discolorations

If you are experiencing painful growth of your nails or the appearance of black, brown, or purple streaks on your nails, visit your health practitioner as soon as possible.

Related Conditions

Skin cancer like melanoma, Bowen’s disease, Addison’s disease, nutritional disorders, and AIDS. Less serious health concerns include nail bed trauma, resulting from carpal tunnel syndrome and nail biting.

Nutrient Deficiencies

Malabsorption of multiple vitamins and minerals can be to blame for the wide range of pigmentation discolorations resulting on the fingernails and toenails.


Pitting is characterized by the multiple dents or pits along the nail. It may be a sign that you are possibly at risk for a serious health problem.

Related Conditions

Psoriasis, eczema, connective tissue disorders such as Reiter’s syndrome or Lupus, syphilis, and alopecia areata.

Nutrient Deficiencies

Inadequate nutrient intake of calcium, minerals, and proteins is associated with pitting and is most susceptible in children under the age of 12. Also, many prescriptions such as antibiotics, oral contraceptives, and chemotherapeutic agents, have been shown to induce nail pitting.

If you are struggling with health issues, call the Advanced Chiropractic & Nutritional Healing Center at 240-651-1650 for a free consultation. Dr. Lo uses Nutritional Response Testing® to analyze the body to determine the underlying causes of ill or non-optimum health. The office is located at 7310 Grove Road #107 in Frederick. Check out the website at www.doctorlo.com.

Share →