Natural health: Morning sickness and nail biting

Biting of the nails can be related to generalised anxiety and nervous conditions, or even OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder), says Megan Sheppard.

Q. My husband and I are planning for another baby. However, I suffered from such dreadful morning sickness with my previous pregnancy, I am dreading the prospect. 

Is there something I can take before getting pregnant that will help? When I am pregnant I can hardly stomach anything, not to mind a remedy.

A. There is one vitamin that just might be what you are looking for, however, I must warn you that there are no guarantees when it comes to preventing morning sickness. 

Vitamin B6 might be the answer to your problem, since B6 deficiency decreases the production of hydrochloric acid in the stomach, causes improper utilisation of amino acids, and leads to the burning of protein as fuel.

Toxaemia (also known as pre-eclampsia) has been linked with protein intake, so a deficiency in vitamin B6 can also trigger this pregnancy-related condition due to the under-utilisation of available protein. 

Foods rich in vitamin B6 include rice bran, beef liver, sesame seeds, chickpeas, wheat bran, baked potato with skin, banana, rye flour (dark), mackerel, tuna, brewer’s yeast, plantain, refried beans, salmon, coconut, dry sunflower seeds, All-Bran cereal, wheat germ, avocado, hazelnuts, chicken liver, beef round steak (lean), prune juice, chicken, corn flour, dark turkey meat, acorn squash, raisins, spinach, and amaranth.

You can also supplement with B6, however, a B complex might be the better choice since the B vitamins work best when taken together. 

The recommended dosage of B6 is 50mg every morning for six months before you fall pregnant, then reduce the dosage to 25mg for the first 12 weeks, at which point you should take a break from the B6 supplementation.

Q. Is there a remedy to help with nail biting? I have always chewed my nails and now my son is doing the same. We need something to help us stop this.

Natural health: Morning sickness and nail biting

A. Nail biting happens for all sorts of reasons — it can even be a method of self-soothing. While it can calm the nerves, and provide stress relief, it can also be a case of stimulation in situations where you have nothing to do or feel boredom setting in. 

Either way, it tends to be more of an unconscious habit but can have compulsive tendencies.

Biting of the nails can be related to generalised anxiety and nervous conditions, or even OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder) where people who strive for perfection may spend time examining their nails and fingers for imperfections and biting or picking at them to achieve a tidier or more even appearance. 

It is common to pick or chew at the skin surrounding the nail as well.

If stress is a factor for either one of you, then taking steps to reduce your levels of stress and anxiety is the best way to get to the root of the problem. 

Physical relaxation activities such as yoga, tai chi, meditation, or qi gong can be very helpful, along with herbal remedies such as rhodiola (Rhodiola rosea) and ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) to help deal with that overwhelmed feeling.

If you do suspect OCD, then you will need to address this impulse control disorder with a therapist who specialises in working with this issue.

Inositol, closely related to the B vitamins, has been shown to reduce the urge to perform repetitive picking, pulling, or chewing of skin and nails. 

It works by breaking down into two neurotransmitters — both of which help in the release of serotonin, which is thought to play a role in OCD and related disorders. 

Solgar’s Inositol is available from health stores — 50 x 500mg capsules, €12.28. The adult dosage is 500mg, taken one to three times daily.

Topically, gentian tincture can help. It is incredibly bitter tasting, so will act as a deterrent for absent minded chewing or biting of the nails and surrounding skin. 

It can be painted directly onto the nails and left to dry. It is actually a bitter digestive tonic, so will not cause any toxic issues. 

Swiss Herbal Gentian is available from health stores — 50ml, €14.99.

Do you have a question for Megan Sheppard?

Email it to or send a letter to:

Feelgood, Irish Examiner, Linn Dubh, Assumption Road, Blackpool, Cork

NOTE: The information contained in this column is not a subsitute for medical advice. Always consult a doctor.


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