6 Aug 2010
Tradition has it that in ancient Egypt it was illegal for a man to see a woman who was a member of another man’s harem. When a harem member fell ill the physician was sent for. His assessment of the woman’s problems had to be done based on what he could learn from her hand as she revealed it between the breaks in the curtains.
While fingernails may not provide the complete and thorough diagnostic base of more modern, scientific and holistic methods, they can certainly point us in the right direction. Medical doctors even learn a few select fingernail symptoms in medical school (as outlined in Bates’ Guide to Physical Examination and History Taking), so we, as people who have a holistic bend, certainly can’t be accused of being archaic or unscientific!Nails are simply a specialized extension of skin.
Fingernails are dead keratinaceous/epithelial material that is firmly attached to richly vascular nail beds. Because they grow rapidly in healthy people – up to .1 mm daily, toenails less quickly – they can provide fairly good recent history of physiological imbalances throughout the body. Also, changes in the vascularity of the nail bed will change the color of the nails and indicate other clinical problems in various areas of the body. Fingernails that grow slowly and/or have deformities indicate potential problems.The white half-moon that should appear at the base of each fingernail is called either a moon or a lunula.
Let’s look at fingernail symptoms in categories of color change, texture change, and combination changes. Obviously, when an organ system or specific disease process is listed below, the way to correct the accompanying fingernail problems is to address the organ system or disease process directly. Where there are less obvious remedies, I will include them.
Color changes can be the result of changes in blood supply to the nail bed, changes in organ chemistry, or toxic infiltration from the surface of the nail. Color changes may be in the nail bed (behind the nail) or in the nail tissue itself.
White nails can indicate liver diseases, kidney diseases, and anemia. Anemia can be caused by iron deficiency in the diet, inadequate digestion of iron bearing foods, or poor absorption of iron in the gastrointestinal tract. Adding digestive enzymes and increasing iron (eg. Combination three, yellow dock) are possible solutions for anemia.
Swelling in the hands, respiratory conditions such as chronic bronchitis, lymphatic problems, diabetes, and liver disorders can all cause nails to appear yellow, especially at the nail bed.
If the white tips of nails appear yellow it can be tinting from using nail polish frequently. Massaging the fingernails with lemon essential oil will help to prevent polish-induced yellow tinting.
Pink and white
When nails appear part pink, part white suspect kidney diseases.
Red nail bed
The nail bed is directly behind the nail. When this appears red heart conditions may be present or building in the body.
Pale nail bed
Pale anything almost always means poor blood supply or poor oxygenation of the blood. The same is true here. Anemia is often the cause of a pale nail bed.
Yellowish nails with a slight blush at the base
This is a potential indicator of diabetes.
Terry’s nails are opaque white nails with a dark band at the end of the finger. This is a somewhat more ominous sign. It often indicates a serious illness is in progress. Possibilities include cancer, cirrhosis, congestive heart failure and diabetes. Aging can also be the cause of this.
Slate blue lunula
This indicates potential lung problems or over exposure to silver.
Deep blue nail beds
Pulmonary obstruction, asthma, and emphysema, all conditions that reduce oxygenation of the blood, can create deep blue nail beds.
Half white with dark spots on tips
This is yet another indicator that the kidneys may be in serious trouble.
White with pink near tips
This color combination can indicate cirrhosis.
Nails pitted with red-brown spots, splitting at tips
This complex set of symptoms can indicate a broad range of potential conditions. Consider psoriasis, nail injuries, dish soap, vitamin C deficiency, folic acid deficiency, and protein deficiency.
These white lines run across the nail following the shape of the lunula. These do not resemble white spots at all. The nail bed appears white and opaque in a band or stripe across the nail. They are a strong indication of arsenic poisoning or acute or serious illness. They will generally grow out when the problem is corrected.
White lines that don’t necessarily follow the shape of the lunula can indicate heart disease, liver disease, or history of a recent high fever. These look like the traditional ‘white spots’ that run together across the nail.
Traditionally, holistic practitioners have recognized white spots on fingernails as being an indication of low zinc. Additionally, white spots can indicate low calcium or injuries to the fingernail.
White, square nails
When the nails are very white and square look towards hormonal disorders as the cause.
Texture and general characteristics
When the nails separate painlessly from the bed it is called onycholysis. This, again, is a broad symptom that can be indicative of any one or more of several potential problems. Injury, psoriasis, drug reactions, fungal infections, reactions to nail hardeners or acrylic nails, and thyroid disorders are on the list.
Fungal infections in the nails respond well to topical applications of tea tree oil. If this is not strong enough, one can add tee tree oil orally – one drop to a glass of water, taken two times per day, and add Olive leaf extract and/or colloidal silver also.
When nailbeds bulge and the nails curve down around the fingertips this is a potential indication of oxygen deprivation, lung disease (including lung cancer), heart disease and liver disease.
Nail growth is susceptible to stress. When a body undergoes severe illness or trauma, including major surgery, general anaesthetic, even a serious flu, the nails may stop growing. The result is a crosswise indentation in the nails. This generally will grow out with time.
When nails create upward spoons as they grow out an iron deficiency can be suspected. Good sources of iron include green leafy vegetables, egg yolk, red meat, and poultry. Combination Three, Green Zone, and I-X are some excellent herbal sources of iron. In the event the problem is assimilation of iron, look to Digestive enzymes, UC3-J, Slippery elm, and CLT-X to enhance absorption.
Raynaud’s disease can cause flat nails. As mentioned in a previous article, Raynaud’s can be controlled/corrected with strong adrenal gland support. AD-C, Stress formula, pantothenic acid, and hawthorn are all excellent adrenal support choices.
Dark, thin, flat, or spoon-shaped
These symptoms can indicate a B12 deficiency. Hawthorn Berries and spirulina are great sources of B12. Of course, B12 can also be found in beef, chicken, and egg yolk.
Thick, discoloring nails
This is often an indication of psoriasis. Doing cleanses, alternating with building programs, and focusing on reducing the acid levels of the blood and body through diet are usually very helpful in correcting psoriasis.
This is a cardiovascular indicator. It indicates a weakening of the vascular system and poor circulation. Using MC (mega-chel), HSII, CoQ10 and other cardiovascular supporting supplements would be wise.
Kidney disorders, aging, and iron deficiency can all contribute to lengthwise grooves. For aging concerns, use IGF-1 or colostrum.
This is a strong indication of arthritis. Beside simply lowering the acid levels in the diet and supporting the kidneys and adrenals, using blood type diets is very helpful in controlling arthritic symptoms.
This is a strong indication of rheumatoid arthritis. Use blood type diets to control this.
Pitted and dented
Nails that resemble hammered brass portend of total or partial hair loss.
Chipping, cracking, peeling, breaking easily
Nails that are this fragile indicate general nutritional deficiency, insufficient hydrochloric acid in the stomach, and deficient minerals and protein in the diet. Some of the best remedies for these problems include Greenzone, TNT, collatrim, and colostrum. Massaging lemon essential oil into nails can help to strenghthen nails and correct these symptoms.
Brittle, soft, shiny, no moons
These symptoms point to an overactive thyroid. Since the thyroid is controlled by the pituitary, working with the pituitary is often helpful. Parsley and alfalfa are good choices here.
Thinning nails accompanied by itching skin
These are symptoms of lichen planus. This is a skin condition with itchy, purple, angular bumps. Medical science reports that causes can include drug reactions, color film developers, polymyositis, malabsorption syndromes and lymphoma. Cleansing and general nutrition support, including HSN-W, are helpful. Liver support is also important.
Raised at base with small white tip
This can simply be hereditary, or it can be an indication of respiratory disorders.
Red skin a base of nail
While this is not really a fingernail symptom, red skin around the base of a nail can indicate connective tissue disorders. Collatrim and colostrum are key therapies here.
Fingernails are more than just jewels or tools. They are indicators of physical well-being.
The information in this website is not meant to diagnose or prescribe. It is meant as information only. For any health concerns you have, please consult with the trained health practitioner of your choice.
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