Here’s how to really nail your health

The Good Life Letter 

13th November 2015

  • Hidden health problem? What could your body be trying to tell you?
  • An unlikely window on your well being should not be ignored
  • Sock it to them Mum!
‘The eyes are the window of the soul’ goes the popular saying, usually when someone is clearly in pain, anguish or gleefully happy.

I’m not going to offer any doubt on the subject, other than to say that science has proven that our eyes do indeed portray your characteristics through a series of lines, dots and pigments which are as unique as your fingerprints are.

However, today I want you to think of your nails as the indicators of good health.

Not quite so often quoted amongst friends, but nevertheless probably more true than the practice of staring someone in the face to discover whether they are in a good or bad mood...

...usually evident if in a strop they head butt you!

So, what can you learn about your health and life from the nails, cuticles and skin at the end of your fingers and toes...

...prepare to be surprised.

The health giveaways your nails are desperate for you to know

OK, so first a disclaimer – don’t take one of these bits of information and extrapolate it to the worst health state you can imagine. All of these factors are true and medically verified, but you would need a battery of other tests to find out if you truly have the problem.

Everyone will have some variation in colour, shape and size of their nails but the following descriptions might help you spot early signs of some pretty significant problems:

  1. Weak, brittle or splitting nails; these can be a sign that you’re overdoing the nail varnish or using too many harsh chemicals to clean them. Perhaps more common is that this can be an indication of vitamin A, B or C deficiency, with biotin (one of the B vitamins) being chiefly responsible for nail and hair strength.
  2. White dots; seeing white patches in your nails that slowly grow out is commonly a sign of trauma – shutting fingers in doors/drawers etc. They can develop as a result of zinc or calcium deficiency, or iron deficiency leading to anaemia. More significantly they can arise due to kidney or liver disease.

  3. Spoon nails; are when the nail bed curves upwards so that a drop of water would remain on them rather than running off. This presentation is known as koilonychia and is common in anaemia, but also can show an increased likelihood of heart problems or an underactive thyroid gland (hypothyroidism.)

  4. Vertical dark lines; are very common in those with dark skins and may also indicate safe and benign moles on the nail bed. However, a single new or changing stripe may be a sign of a malignant skin melanoma.

  5. Yellow nails; could be a sign you are a heavy smoker or that you typically choose to wear dark nail polishes, but they can also occur due to fungal infections or psoriasis.

  6. Horizontal dips/depressions/waves; can again be due to some form of traumatic injury, but are very common in uncontrolled diabetes and common circulatory conditions such as Reynauds Disease.

  7. Nail clubbing; where the nails are raised and the ends of the fingers look slightly swollen and is a sign of potential lung disease, heart disease, liver problems or inflammatory bowel disease.

Who would have thought that your nails could offer so much information!

Battered and grubby...but are they attractive?

Poor quality nails are yet another of those less desirable signs of ageing I was talking about last week, with yellowing and splitting more commonly seen.

Great, one more thing to look forward to!

Of course keeping your nails in good condition isn’t that hard to do. As long as you eat well, clean regularly and trim them, they’ll stay in as good a shape as possible.

Which may come as a surprise to my teenage son.

Why is it that when they are little they tolerate the post Sunday night bath time ritual of getting their nails clipped, having the dirt scraped out and a drop of vitamin E cream rubbed in to their hands.

But once the teenage years hit and they are responsible for their own hygiene they end up with feet looking like werewolves.

Talons that shred socks poke out from under their towels as they shuffle past on the way back from the bathroom – and any mention of clipping them falls on increasingly deaf ears (or ones plugged with ear buds for their music players!).

Lara had reached the end of her tether over the whole business the other day and the entire family, including the dog, had to present themselves to her for a foot inspection.

Modesty forbids me from saying who had the best manicured and most clean toes and fingers, but embarrassment reigns to tell you that the dog beat all three of the kids.

The shame!

They are all now under a tightly controlled regime of clipping and scrubbing that for once sees yours truly and my faithful companion curled up on the sofa in front of the fire smiling smugly.

I hope today’s letter has made you check your own nails and spruce them up where necessary.

Treat them well or they might have tales to tell on you.

Yours, as always


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