Alternatively Speaking: Nail biting stuff

Alternative medicine enthusiast Natalie Marx answers your questions: How can I prevent brittle nails? What can be done to limit inflammation caused by arthritis?

Yellow nails 311 (photo credit: Courtesy)
Yellow nails 311
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Nutrition and health are indeed intricately inter-linked. Slacking on our nutrition will influence significantly on our health and well-being. Unfortunately, as our natural patterns change, our busy lifestyles do not always allow for an ideal diet. Therefore it is important to understand the nutritional requirements our bodies need, especially when there are signs of imbalances or ill health. All of us are curious to find out what we need to eat in order to stay healthy and disease free.
Q. I have really weak and brittle nails. I drink plenty of milk. Is there anything else I should be doing? Thank you.
A. Your diet will most definitely affect the health of your nails. When our nails are not receiving enough of the right vitamins, or when our body cannot absorb them properly, they will begin to become brittle, dry, weak and dull. A 1990 study by V.E. Colombo and colleagues which was published in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology found that the participants who took biotin had nails that were thicker and less likely to break than the participants who did not.
Foods that are rich in biotin are soy, brewer’s yeast and whole grains. Our nails are composed of keratin which is the same protein found in the hair and skin. As well as keratin, it is important to eat foods which are rich in sulfur and silicon, such as broccoli, fish and onions. Another addition to your diet could be royal jelly, spirulina or kelp, which are all rich in silica, zinc and B vitamins and help to strengthen your nails.
Carrots are high in calcium and phosphorus and are excellent for strengthening nails. Try drinking a glass of fresh carrot juice a day.
The following signs will help to indicate which vitamins you may be lacking:
Dry and brittle nails - Lack of vitamin A and calcium
Hang nails - Lack of protein, folic acid and vitamin C
White bands across the nails - Protein deficiency
Splitting nails - A lack of sufficient hydrochloric acid
Dryness and darkening of nails - Insufficient intake or vitamin B12
White spots on the nails - Insufficient zinc
Red skin around your cuticles - Poor absorption of essential fatty acids
A great way to deal with the dry skin around your nails is to simply apply Palm Kernel oil. When unrefined, this high saturation oil is one of the most stable oils providing strength and ultimate saturation to the skin.

Q. Hi Natalie, Please can you help me. I think I am starting to get signs of arthritis. I simply don't want to start taking conventional drugs if I can prevent from doing so. Do you have any suggestions to help with the inflammation.
A. I am pleased to assure you that there are several ways to ease the pain that comes with arthritis and methods which may also help to significantly reduce symptoms. One of the top ways to reduce inflammation is to begin increasing more food containing Omega 3 into your daily diet. Omega 3 has been shown to reduce inflammation by suppressing production of cytokines and enzymes, the two major causes of cartilage erosion.
Omega 3 fatty acids also contain eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). Our bodies need this EPA to make resolvins, which have been shown to reduce inflammation. One of the best sources of Omega 3 fatty acids is salmon. Other foods that are an excellent source of Omega 3 fatty acids are flax seeds, walnuts, cooked soybeans, baked or broiled halibut, baked winter squash and raw tofu. As a snack you can try organic nuts and berries.
The "good" monosaturated fats in olive oil have anti-inflammatory properties. In 2005,  research conducted by biologist Dr. Gary Beauchamp in Pennsylvania show us the anti-inflammatory compound discovered in olive oil. The compound, named "oleocanthal," suppresses the same pain pathway as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory agents, such as ibuprofen. A 50 gram dose (about 4 tablespoons) of extra-virgin olive oil contains enough oleocanthal to produce as much pain relief as a 10 percent dose of ibuprofen.
Foods rich in vitamin C such as broccoli, bell peppers, strawberries and kiwi are also fantastic and make sure to increase selenium-rich foods such as Brazil nuts and cod.
There are also recommended herbs that have been shown to benefit arthritis sufferers:
-Devil's claw is a good anti-inflammatory agent. Take 1,000 milligrams (1 gram) twice daily.
-Rosemary (Rosemarinus officinalis). Drink rosemary tea! The plant's leaves contain four anti-inflammatory substances. Simply place 1/2 ounce of rosemary leaves in a 1-quart canning jar and fill the jar with boiling water. Cover tightly and let steep for thirty minutes. Drink one cup of the hot tea before going to bed and have another cupful in the morning before breakfast. Do this for two to three weeks, and then take a break for seven to ten days before starting the treatment again.
-Turmeric (Curcumin, Curcuma longa) Curcumin, the yellow pigment of turmeric, has been shown to be as effective when treating inflammation. Curcumin also has many beneficial effects on liver functions. The typical dosage of curcumin is 400 to 600 mg, 3 times daily. Curcumin can also be given in combination with an equal dose of bromelain (pineapple plant extract), which too possess anti-inflammatory properties.
Other supplements clinically linked to improved arthritis symptoms:
- Chondroitin
-Vitamin C is essential for the formation of collagen, a protein used to make skin, tendons and ligaments. Vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin therefore the body does not store it.  Excess vitamin C that the body does not use leaves through the urine.  Recommend daily dosage for adult men is 90mg/day and for adult women is 75mg/day.
One final tip for the smokers who suffer from's yet another reason to kick the habit. A German study involving 1,000 individuals, published in June 2008 in Rheumatology, found that heavy smokers with rheumatoid arthritis had the highest pain levels and needed significantly more drugs to manage pain than the non smokers.
Thought for the day:
'Our food should be our medicine and our medicine should be our food'
This column is brought to you as general information only and unless stated otherwise is not medical advice nor is it based on medical experiments. This column is not a substitute for medical advice or treatment for specific medical conditions. For more information about specific problems, please contact a doctor.
Ask Natalie: If you have a health query and would like an alternative answer then email Natalie with your question at