Your physical appearance, such as your hair, skin and nails, can tell you a lot about your internal health.
So 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.
Therefore, 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:
Health Signal: Hair
Healthy hair is soft, elastic and should also be in a continuous cycle of regrowth. Above all, 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, such as dryness or brittleness, can result from:
- Thyroid hormone imbalance, resulting in hypo or hyperthyroidism
Be sure and have your blood levels checked regularly.
- Not enough protein — the main building block of new hair growth
Therefore, 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 — the healthy fats that help keep hair and scalp conditioned with the production of natural oils
Also, 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 and minerals
Be sure to get enough iron, zinc and B vitamins.
Health Signal: 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 and your liver) are processing and detoxifying everything, including foods, drinks, supplements and medicines — pretty much everything you take in from the outside world.
In addition, 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.” (Click on the title to read my post, Do You Have a Leaky Gut?)
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. Be sure to try out our easy trail mix recipe below 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.
Health Signal: Nails (Finger and Toe)
Healthy nails are clear, smooth and flexible. Like hair, healthy nails should be in a continuous cycle of regrowth.
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 the following:
- pumpkin seeds
- dark chocolate
- red meat
- leafy green vegetables
Horizontal ridges: These ridges along your nails may indicate either a zinc or iron deficiency.
The list below provides some good sources of iron:
- red meat
- beans and legumes
- leafy green vegetables
- dried fruit
And to enhance your body’s absorption of iron, pair iron-rich foods with a good source of vitamin C, such as citrus fruits, strawberries or bell peppers.
DIY Trail Mix
A DIY trail mix (see below) 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 can punch up the flavor and fun of your mix, too. Be creative. Incorporate more whole and healthy snack-type foods into your diet and get to “mixing” — for the sake of your hair, skin and nails!
1 cup raw walnuts
1 cup raw almonds
½ cup raisins
¼ cup raw pumpkin seeds called pepitas, which have no shell and are found in oil seed pumpkins. You can purchase them in grocery stores or online through Amazon.
¼ cup dark chocolate chips
Combine all ingredients in a medium bowl, and transfer to an airtight container. Store at room temperature or in refrigerator.
A serving size is ¼ cup trail mix.
Now I’m curious to know how closely you pay attention to the state of your hair, skin and nails. Have you ever noticed white spots on your nails, for example? When you go for your annual physical, does your doctor ask you about the appearance and condition of your hair, skin and nails? Please comment below, we’d love to hear from you!