As I discussed in my Nail SOS blogpost, taking a supplement for your nails is an essential ingredient in the rebuilding of any seriously damaged nail. Yet even for everyday troublesome nails, a supplement rich in key nutrients and vitamins can make a vast improvement whatever your nail concern.
But if your budget does not allow for expensive nail supplements, you can choose to take daily dose of nail health by eating well. By taking some of these vitamins and nutrients in food form into your diet, they can be just as, if not more effective in their natural source and more easily absorbed into your body.
There is a lot of talk on the net of the must have supplements and ingredients key for nail health. So I thought I would consolidate the evidence and give you guys a post of all the different vitamins, nutrients and supplements to give your nails overall good health.
KEY VITAMINS & NUTRIENTS
BIOTIN or Vitamin B7
Biotin, the vitamin I have heard raved about the most, is a B vitamin whose function has not been entirely evaluated. It is found in most multivitamins, but usually in minuscule quantity, so in the scheme of things, you do not have enough of a dose to make a serious difference daily.
A recommended dosage of Biotin is 2.5 mg, check your supplements or current multi vits to see the dose you are getting. The vitamin does however improve the keratin infrastructure, a key basic protein that makes up the building blocks of hair, skin and nails. The vitamin is necessary for cell growth and the production of fatty acids. Studies have shown that it improves brittle, flaking or prone-to-breaking nails so if you feel this is you, this supplement might be for you.
Foods which naturally contain Biotin include eggs, proteins, leafy green vegetables such as broccoli, along with cauliflower and mushrooms. So eat a diet rich in these foods if you are planning not to take supplements.
Another B vitamin key for nail health is B 12. If your nails are extremely dry and darkened, you may be not getting enough of the goodness from B12.
This vitamin can be bought in capsules separately or in a multivitamin.
Alternatively B12 can be found in cheese, soya, eggs, whole grains, fortified cereals, shellfish, red meat and crab meat.
In fact, most B vitamins offer good nutrition for nails, so anything high in B vitamins is worth munching on! B vitamins including B6, B9, B12, and B complex/Folic Acid are essential to help create Iron, important for fully functioning cells. Having a Vitamin B deficiency is not a good thing, so eat well and take a supplement if you can.
L-lysine is an essential amino acid that helps build healthy proteins, and in turn, helps maintain healthy, youthful hair, skin and nails.
Also, L-lysine plays an integral role in the formation of collagen, key for skin and nail health. Yet L-lysine cannot be manufactured by the human body and needs to be obtained from food or supplements. Any hair, skin and nail supplement should have an amino acid of some sort, if not L-lysine itself.
Foods high in L-Lysine include fish, chicken, beef, lamb, milk, cheese, beans, brewer’s yeast, mung bean sprouts and most fruits and vegetables.
GLA or Gamma Linolenic Acid
Gamma Linolenic Acid is yet another fatty acid which is essential to health and beauty, but the difference is that it can be hard to obtain through diet alone. Since not getting enough fatty acids is one of the causes of many skin conditions, taking GLA can help clear your skin of rashes, iritation and inflammation. GLA helps prevent moisture loss and is known for its anti ageing properties, good for hands and nails. Try black currant oil, evening primrose oil and borage oil as supplementary sources of GLA.
Brittle nails can be a sign of an Iron deficiency. Iron is necessary in order for your body to produce red blood cells. With over half of your body’s iron supply being found in the blood, a deficiency of iron can cause many health problems, like the development of concave-shaped and brittle nails.
Iron deficiency can be tackled by increasing its absorption through a range of natural sources.
You don’t have to be anemic to have low Iron levels, but boosting the Iron in your diet is easy if you know how.
Try eating turkey, lean red meat, green and leafy vegetables, dried fruits – such as raisins, and legumes like beans and chickpeas. You can also find iron in egg yolks and nuts. All very good natural sources of Iron, or alternatively you could take a iron supplement.
Vitamin E is all rounder for skin and nails and in scientific terms is a fat-soluble antioxidant found in many plant oils. Vitamin E is great for skin repair and internally protects skin and hair from environmental damage, which knowing my own cleaning habits must reek havoc on my poor hands and nails.
Foods which are high in Vitamin E include raw seeds, swiss chard, spinach, turnip greens, kale, hazelnuts and almonds.
Vitamin C is a well known vitamin, and one that cannot be produced by your body; it must be found through food. Vitamin deficiency can result in brittle nails and cause the growth of both your hair and finger nails to slow down.
This is because Vitamin C is essential to the production of collagen, a substance that the body uses to make hair and fingernails.
In the depths of winter I most always end up with hangnails and lack of Vitamin C is the cause!
In order to avoid a deficiency, foods that contain Vitamin C include berries, peppers, citrus fruits and green vegetables.
If you find you get white spots on your nails, along with poor growth and inflammation of the cuticles, you need to add more Zinc to your diet! Zinc is a vital mineral in keeping your body in the best of health.
Zinc contributes towards healing, growth, and an optimal immune system, which directly affects the health of your nails. Gaining an extra dose of Zinc may be key to getting them back in shape.
Try to eat foods such as mushrooms, sunflower seeds, egg yolks, meat, fish, dark chocolate and peanuts. However, take care not to eat too much zinc, because an excessive intake can upset your stomach, so be wary!
Although elasticity from collagen is important for healthy skin, hair and nails, Silicon is what adds bounce to these tissues.
Silicon levels decrease with age, so it’s a good idea to supplement as early as you can to maintain healthy skin, hair and nails. Without the proper amounts of Silicon, nails become brittle very easily.
It’s best to get Silica from food sources, these include leeks, green beans, beans, strawberries, cucumber, mango, celery, asparagus and rhubarb.
Silica is also found in water but, depending on the geographical location, determins the amount of Silica in the water source. Fiji brand bottled water for example has 4 times the average amount of Silica compared to the average bottled brand.
NAIL SUPPLEMENT FAQ
What are the telltale signs from your nails that you are lacking in key vitamins or nutrients or possibly in need of taking a supplement?
Ridges, dents and discoloration or an unusual nail shape can be a telltale sign that something is wrong with your nail health.
Also, If your hands are regularly exposed to water, soap or harsh chemicals, your nails may become soft or brittle and you may also find they break or chip easily.
Try and keep a barrier where possible between your nails and detergents and harsh chemicals, these are the worst offenders for detrimental nail health. Gloves for your housework please!
How long does it take to see the effects of taking vitamins and/or supplements to work?
These supplements will begin to work on your growing nails, not your currently visible nails, so it could take between 2- 3 months to see results. It all depends on how quickly your nails grow. But don’t give up after the first few months, give it a good 6 – 9 months to see lasting results. If you are absorbing vitamin enriched foods you will hopefully feel some of the benefits straight away.
What else can someone do if they feel their nails are weak, brittle or thin?
I mentioned lots of foods within this post, as diet plays a big part in getting nails back to health. Good nutrition is key and supplements and vitamins taken daily top up what you have eaten within your diet.
Also, keeping your body hydrated is extremely important to nail health. If you are dehydrated, your nails can become brittle and ridged, so ensure you are drinking enough water.
TO SUM UP.
Supplements are called supplements for a reason: they supplement the nutrients you should be taking in from your regular diet. If you supplement your vitamin and nutrient intake and have an exemplary diet, you will look and feel stronger, your nails will respond by growing stronger and healthier. These tablets in pill form are there as a fall back and not an excuse to eat badly.
If anything, personally, it gave me the excuse to eat a bit better, be more picky with what food I put on my plate and nourish myself from the inside out.
Eating well is key to good nail health and most of these food items, eaten in moderation, are not too bad for the waist line and encourage good eating habits. Highly rich in protein, fills you up and keeps you going, full of vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds and grains, whats not to like?
I would only suggest taking some of these more specialised supplements, if the nutrients they contain are not easy to come by in your general good diet or you have limited diet i.e. Vegetarian or Vegan diet.
But I am definitely going to try eating right, rather than having an apothecary’s worth of pills to pop each day. I think the health benefits, from the diet alone, would be better than downing all these supplements.
What are your thoughts on supplements for nails? Would you take them? Would you prefer to go for the more natural approach through diet?
Let me know in the comments.