Your fingernails and hair can give a good indication of your overall health. According to the Mayo Clinic, your nails are made of protein, and poor nutritional habits or illness that impairs nutrient absorption can cause nails to look unhealthy and become brittle. Hair, too, responds to a lack of nutrition by becoming brittle and sometimes falling out completely. Vitamin supplements may help strengthen your fingernails and hair by providing missing nutrients. Check with your doctor before using any dietary supplement.
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Vitamin H (Biotin)
Biotin or vitamin H is actually a member of the B-complex family, which your body cannot store, but it can be manufactured by bacteria that live in your intestines. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, a deficiency of biotin is rare but can occur if your nutrient absorption is impaired by illness or medication. Biotin is needed to keep your skin, fingernails and hair healthy and a deficiency is characterized by thinning and splitting of your hair. Biotin deficiency can also cause poor nail growth and brittle nails. You can get biotin supplements at your local health food store. The University of Maryland Medical Center recommends that adults 19 and older take 30 mcg of biotin daily.
Vitamin C is an essential nutrient that your body can't manufacture and must be obtained from food. This vitamin is necessary for the production of a substance known as collagen, which is used to make fingernails and hair as well as other parts of your body. Without enough vitamin C, you may experience symptoms such as dry, thin, hair that splits easily and slowed growth of hair and fingernails. Vitamin C also plays an important role in the integrity of your immune system and the healing of cuts and bruises. The University of Maryland Medical Center explains that a mild deficiency of vitamin C may be common and can be addressed by taking a supplement, available at your local health food store.
Iron is a mineral that is necessary for the production of cells throughout your body. More than half the iron in your body is found in your blood, attached to oxygen molecules to carry through the vascular system. An iron deficiency can occur as a result of nutrient absorption impairment, illnesses, nutritional deficiencies or medications. According to the National Institutes of Health, symptoms of iron deficiency, also known as anemia, include fatigue and impaired immunity. Skin Care Physicians explains that this deficiency can lead to a relatively sudden loss of hair that can't be attributed to heredity. Additionally, the Nutritional Supplement Educational Centre explains that fingernails will develop a concave shape and become brittle if you have an iron deficiency.
Zinc is a mineral that is essential for the health of your immune system, growth and development, and your senses of taste and smell. The National Institutes of Health explains that a deficiency of zinc can occur in vegetarians, pregnant women, infants and alcoholics. Characteristics of a zinc deficiency include impaired healing and growth, including that of your fingernails and hair. MedlinePlus explains that a zinc deficiency can also lead to hair loss. Zinc supplements can help reverse a deficiency; however, you may want to take a smaller amount initially because this mineral can cause an upset stomach and diarrhea. The recommended daily amount, according to MedlinePlus, is 8 mg for females over the age of 19 and 11 mg for males over the age of 14.
REFERENCES & RESOURCES
- Mayo Clinic: Nails: How To Keep Your Fingernails Healthy and Strong
- Nutritional Supplement Educational Centre: Vitamins for Hair and Nail Growth
- National Institutes of Health: Zinc
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Vitamin C (Ascorbic Acid)
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Vitamin H (Biotin)
- Skin Care Physicians: What Causes Hair Loss?
- National Institutes of Health: Iron
- MedlinePlus: Zinc in Diet