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Hair, Skin, & Nails – Why are they considered beacons of health?

Your physical appearance can tell you a lot about your internal health.

Most natural health practitioners include a physical examination since the condition of your hair, skin, and nails can be indicators of underlying health issues, like nutrient deficiencies, hormonal imbalances, and the health of your digestive system.

The growth and maintenance of healthy hair, skin, and nails is dependent on your intake, and absorption of a variety of nutrients, including plenty of vitamins and minerals.  

You should regularly check out the appearance and condition of your hair, skin, and nails for clues as to what foods, and therefore what nutrients your diet may be lacking.

Physical signs that you may be lacking something in your diet 

FINGERNAILS & TOENAILS 

Healthy nails are clear, smooth, and flexible. Like hair, healthy nails should be in a continuous cycle of re-growth. 

The following color or texture changes in your nails are common signs of nutrient deficiencies: 

WHITE SPOTS – If you notice white spots on your nails, you may not be getting enough zinc in your diet.  

Good sources of zinc include:

  • pumpkin seeds
  • dark chocolate
  • Seafood
  • red meat
  • leafy green vegetables

HORIZONTAL RIDGES along your nails may indicate either a zinc or iron deficiency.  

Good sources of iron include: 

  • Red meat
  • Beans & legumes
  • Leafy green vegetables
  • Dried fruit

To enhance your body’s absorption of iron, pair iron-rich foods with a good source of vitamin C, like citrus fruits, strawberries, or bell peppers. 

SKIN 

Did you know that the health of your skin is closely tied to the health of your gut and liver function?

These two rather essential organs (your skin & liver) are processing and detoxifying everything – including foods, drinks, supplements, and medicines – pretty much everything you take in from the outside world. 

Inflammatory skin conditions, like acne, eczema, and skin rashes are common symptoms of leaky gut syndrome – when the walls of the small intestine become thin and too permeable or “leaky”.  

Breakouts and rashes can also be symptoms of a sluggish liver. Your liver’s primary responsibility is detoxification. So a poor diet, medication, and excessive alcohol intake can result in a slow, congested liver that is less efficient at doing its job. 

Inflammatory skin conditions can also result from food intolerance and/or allergies. Many people have intolerances to gluten and dairy products. Additionally, excessive intake of sugar and refined carbohydrates can also disrupt normal gut function that often results in skin irritations.           

Dry or flaky skin can signal a lack of healthy Omega-3 fats in the diet. (psst, be sure to try out our easy trail mix recipe that can boost skin health!) 

Avoiding foods you are intolerant to, adding in more Omega-3-rich foods, and supplementing with probiotics, plus a high quality fish oil may benefit your skin.   

HAIR 

Healthy hair is soft, elastic, and should also be in a continuous cycle of re-growth. Hair should NOT easily break or fall out. 

While no one wants to deal with premature hair loss, that’s exactly what can happen if your diet is lacking certain nutrients and/or you have an undetected health issue. 

If you are noticing you’re shedding a few hairs each day though — RELAX! That’s totally normal as hair follicles move through their growth cycle. 

However, excessive shedding that results in noticeable hair thinning and/or changes in hair texture, like dryness or brittleness, can result from: 

→ Thyroid hormone imbalance, resulting in hypo or hyperthyroidism

  • Have blood levels checked regularly

→ Not enough protein – the main building block of new hair growth

  • Include a good source of protein, such as meat, poultry, seafood, eggs, beans, or nuts, with each meal to meet your daily requirements

→ Not enough omega-3’s – healthy fats help keep hair and scalp conditioned with the production of natural oils

  • Consider taking a fish oil supplement and frequently include good sources of Omega-3’s, like walnuts, chia seeds, and fatty fish, in your diet

→ Lacking vitamins & minerals

  • Iron
  • Zinc
  • B vitamins

A DIY Trail Mix is an easy way to combine essential nutrients that help promote healthy hair, skin, and nails. Raw nuts and seeds are good sources of Omega-3 fats, as well as key minerals like zinc.  

Natural sweet-makers like dark chocolate and raisins are good sources of iron and punch up the flavour & fun of your mix too. Be creative, incorporate more whole and snackable foods into your diet and get to mixing – for your hair, skin & nails’ sake! 

RECIPE: 

Healthy Skin, Hair & Nails Trail Mix 

Ingredients 

1 cup raw walnuts

1 cup raw almonds

½ cup raisins

¼ cup raw pumpkin seeds (pepitas)

¼ cup dark chocolate chips 

To prepare

Combine all ingredients in a medium bowl, then transfer to airtight container and store at room temperature or in refrigerator. 

A serving size is ¼ cup trail mix.

REFERENCES: 

Healthline: 9 Tricks for Healthier, Fuller-Looking Hair

 

CanPrev Blog: What Do My Fingernails Have To Do With My Health?

 

Study: Frontiers in Microbiology, 2018 – The Gut Microbiome as a Major Regulator of the Gut-Skin Axis

 

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