Natural health: Nutrition and hormones affect nail health

Age could be more of a key to the root cause of nail troubles rather than diet and garlic can be used to treat or prevent ear infections
Natural health: Nutrition and hormones affect nail health

B-vitamins are wonderful when it comes to strengthening brittle nails, with biotin having a particularly impressive effect. Picture: iStock 

My nails have become brittle in the past few months. My diet hasn’t changed — if anything it improved during lockdown as I’d more time to prepare meals. I’m a woman in my early 50s. Do I need to take a supplement?

A. Your age might be more of a key to the root cause of your nail troubles rather than your diet. Poor nail health, as you are aware, is typically associated with nutrient deficiencies. What is less well known is how significant a role hormones play in the strength and appearance of our nails (along with hair and skin).

As frustrating as it is, the hormonal changes associated with peri-menopause and menopause can have a dehydrating effect on the nails, causing them to split, peel and become brittle, dull and/or discoloured. It is a good idea to monitor the status of your adrenals and thyroid as well since these three systems are interdependent.

Brittle nails, in particular, are linked with hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid) and menopausal changes (particularly in progesterone and oestrogen levels). The B-vitamins are wonderful when it comes to strengthening brittle nails, with biotin having a particularly impressive effect. To improve the strength and thickness of your nails, you will need to take between 2,500-5,000ug (micrograms) of biotin daily for around four to six months to notice a significant improvement. Solgar makes a 5,000ug biotin supplement available from health stores where 50 capsules cost €14.30. Take once daily with food. The bonus with taking any supplements for your nails is that they tend to improve the quality of your hair and skin as well.

This is also true for organic sulphur (MSM or Methyl Sulphonyl Methane), which not only improves the health and appearance of your hair, skin, and nails — it’s also an effective supplemental remedy to relieve musculoskeletal pain.

Naturally present in small amounts in many foods, MSM is present in keratin (responsible for making nails hard) and is a crucial component of collagen production.

The best way to get MSM is in a powdered/crystalline form since you need to take around ½-1 teaspoon daily for optimal results. MSM is even more bioavailable when taken in conjunction with vitamin C, so for best results stir it in a glass of freshly squeezed orange juice. Capsules are typically 1,000mg strength, which means that you end up taking three to five daily which is less cost effective than the powder.

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