Skin and fingernails provide convenient visual clues about our overall health. Not only can diseases affect these tissues in unique ways, but nutrient deficiencies can also show up in the skin and nails. Chief among nutrients related to dry skin and ridged nails are iron and vitamins A and C. Here is more about how disorders and altered appearance of the skin and nails may reflect low levels of these nutrients.
Links Between Vitamin C and Skin Health
Vitamin C is essential for production of collagen, a crucial building block of the skin, hair and nails. Because vitamin C is also an important component of skin barrier lipid production, lack of this nutrient can result in the skin drying out because of water loss. The recommended daily intake for vitamin C is 90 milligrams for men and 75 milligrams for women. To get enough vitamin C, consumers can eat plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, drink juices and take vitamin supplements.
The Association Between Vitamin A and Skin Health
Most people think of the eyes when they consider the importance of vitamin A, but this nutrient is also vital for healthy skin. When the diet contains too little vitamin A, the skin may harden in a process known as keratinization. Men require 900 micrograms of vitamin A per day, and women require 700 micrograms. Rich sources of vitamin A, or retinol, include liver, eggs, salmon and cod liver oil. Beta-carotene, which healthy individuals can convert to vitamin A, is most abundant in sweet potatoes, carrots, leafy green vegetables and peppers.
How Iron Deficiency Affects the Nails
Iron deficiency can result in a disorder called koilonychia, which is characterized by curving of the nails inward and raising of the ridges on the nails. Certain individuals, namely children, adolescent girls and adult women, are at higher risk of suffering from iron deficiency. According to the USDA, men and women who are at least 51 years old require 8 milligrams of iron each day. Adolescent girls require 15 milligrams of iron daily, women of childbearing age require 18 milligrams and children need between 7 and 10 milligrams. Excellent sources of iron include liver, beef, fortified cereals and legumes.
All nutrients work together to support health, and this is also true for optimizing the skin and nails. However, focusing on getting plenty of the nutrients listed here can help promote the health of these particular tissues. In addition to these nutrients, individuals concerned with skin and nail health should ensure adequate intake of protein and beneficial fats, such as omega-3 fatty acids. Salmon, sardines and walnuts are three rich sources of both protein and omega-3 fatty acids. Because hydration also supports healthy skin and nails, consumers should be sure to get plenty of liquid from meals and beverages on a daily basis. Electrolytes, including sodium and potassium, help the body maintain proper hydration for the benefit of the skin and nails.