Nutritional deficiencies can cause a multitude of symptoms, including changes in the health and appearance of your fingernails. Although protein plays a major role in your overall state of health, a deficiency of this nutrient does not cause splitting or cracking of your nails. Cracks in your fingernails may occur due to environmental conditions or can appear in response to an inadequate consumption of certain nutrients.
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Eating a balanced diet provides adequate amounts of protein for most people. Women require about 46 g of protein each day, while men need about 56 g per day. Food sources of protein include beans, nuts, dairy products, eggs, meats, fish and poultry. A protein deficiency can cause symptoms that include skin lesions, apathy, edema and tender arms and legs. Although you may not notice any difference in your nails, hair changes are common. If you have a protein deficiency, your hair may look and feel brittle, straight and dry.
Splitting due to nutritional deficiencies tends to affect toenails as well as fingernails. Iron deficiency is a common cause of nail problems. An iron deficiency may lead to nails that crack easily and grow slowly. Niacin and biotin supplements may help reduce nail splitting. Other vitamins that may help improve the health and appearance of your nails include copper, vitamins C, B12 and B6, as well as folic acid.
Nutritional deficiencies are uncommon, and environmental causes are the most likely culprit of nail problems in people who consume varied diets. Repeatedly wetting and drying your nails is the most common reason for developing splits and cracks. Wearing gloves and using lotion may help protect your nails and minimize cracking from environmental conditions.
Let your doctor know if you experience signs of a nutritional deficiency. Blood tests can help reveal nutritional deficiencies and provide valuable information regarding your diet and your state of health. Consuming excess amounts of nutrients may cause various side effects. Talk to your doctor before taking nutritional supplements to treat a medical illness or a suspected deficiency, especially if you take medication or have a chronic health disorder. Some supplements can interact with certain medications.