By Michael A. Smith, MDRidges in your nails are more than just a cosmetic problem; they can also be signs of disease. Nail ridges are actually like front-line indicators for disease development and progression.
According to Dr. Rhett Drugge, editor-in-chief of The Electronic Textbook of Dermatology, low thyroid and B12 deficiency are two big reasons for unsightly nail ridges.1
Low Thyroid Leads to Ugly NailsThyroid hormone is like your metabolic throttle. Without it, your metabolism comes to a screeching halt. Low thyroid can affect everything from your head to your toes … literally.
Think you need your thyroid checked? See your doctor for laboratory testing. We suggest testing for TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone) and the two forms of thyroid hormone – T4 and T3. Make sure your doctor checks the following: total T4, free T4, and free T3.
Some good, thyroid supporting nutrients include: tyrosine, iodine, magnesium, and trace minerals such as copper and manganese. However, some people prefer supplementing with glandular thyroid products. Glandular products are made from raw animal tissue that’s dried and ground into a fine powder.
These glandular thyroid products contain trace amounts of thyroid hormones, and many health care providers believe they can be used safely to support optimal thyroid function.
Warning Signs of a B12 DeficiencyRidges in your nails can also be warning signs of a vitamin B12 problem. Diet, age, and drugs are all common culprits behind a B12 deficiency. Since meat is the primary source of vitamin B12 for most of us, strict vegetarians are at a higher risk for a B12 deficiency.
However, a diet that includes meat doesn't necessarily guarantee that you won't be B12 deficient. Some elderly people, for example, eat large amounts of meat but are still B12 deficient because they don't have enough intrinsic factor — a protein that’s necessary for B12 absorption.
Also, many older Americans are prescribed proton-pump inhibitors, like omeprazole (Prilosec), for heartburn and reflux disease, which inhibit B12 absorption. So, if you’re taking a proton-pump-inhibitor, definitely consult with your doctor about supplementing with vitamin B12.
If you decide to supplement with B12, we suggest using methylcobalamin, which is the active form of the vitamin. The best way to take methylcobalamin is sublingually (under the tongue), and the average dose is usually between 1 and 5 mg a day.
The Do’s and Don’ts of Nail CareWe’ve gone over the common causes and steps for addressing unsightly nail ridges, but what else can you do to help promote strong and healthy nails? Here are 4 simple, yet powerful, tips to keep in mind:
- Don’t share your nail file
- Wear the right shoe size
- Don’t go barefoot
- Hydrate your cuticles with oils, like oil of oregano
Do you have any additional tips or questions? Please share them in the comments!
- Drugge, Rhett MD. The Electronic Textbook of Dermatology. New York: Internet Dermatological Society. Web. Copyright 2005–2010 Internet Dermatological Society. Accessed July 20, 2011.
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