The Connection Between Iron Deficiency and Nail Brittleness

There are many different symptoms that result from an iron deficiency in the body, but one of the lesser known ones is brittle nails.

Split nails and weak nails are particularly common among women who have low iron levels. Not only are brittle nails unsightly, but they can also be very painful and get in the way of daily activities.

The purpose of this article is to explain why brittle nails occur as a result of iron deficiency and tips on how to strengthen weak nails with improved nutrition. Oftentimes, treating one’s iron deficiency will result in healthy, beautiful, and fully functional fingernails and toenails.

What Causes Brittle Nails?

Research has revealed that about 20 percent of people experience brittle nails and that the percentage is even higher among women. Nails can become brittle for a variety of reasons, including exposure to chemicals, poor diet, work that involves submerging the hands in water, and iron deficiency. Brittle nails that are caused by low iron are usually accompanied by other iron deficiency-type symptoms, such as pale skin and fatigue.

Why Nails Require Iron

Nails are made up of a substance called keratin, which includes layers of protein that protect the soft tissues of the nail beds. The nails require oxygen to remain healthy, and oxygen transport is hindered when the body isn’t producing enough hemoglobin.

Iron is an essential nutrient for healthy nails and preventing concave-shaped weak nails. A condition called koilonychia is marked by an abnormality of the fingernail shape with raised ridges and an inward curve. Koilonychia is a disorder associated with iron deficiency.

Vitamins for Fingernails Splitting

Vitamins and supplements may be recommended for individuals who are experiencing split nails and who are not receiving adequate nutrients through food alone. The best vitamins for fingernails splitting are iron, zinc, vitamin C, and biotin. Iron supplements, like Fergon, are often recommended the iron deficiency symptom of brittle nails, and other vitamins come in convenient capsule form as well.

Foods for Healthy Nails

Fortunately, there are many delicious and nutritious foods that help maintain healthy nails. These foods are rich in iron, as well as other key vitamins and nutrients. Dried fruits, beans, liver, eggs, lean red meats, fish, and iron-fortified cereals are all great options to boost iron levels and strengthen weak nails. Seafood and lean meats are also great sources of zinc. Individuals with brittle nails can get vitamin C from berries and citrus fruits, while biotin levels can get a boost from cauliflower and carrots.

Lifestyle Tips for Healthy Nails

In addition to diet and supplementation, certain lifestyle habits may help promote healthy nails when practiced regularly. It may help to apply a clear, protective layer of nail hardener to the nails to prevent splitting and cracking. Throughout the day and at night, try rubbing lotion into the nails and cuticles to prevent them from drying out. And while doing cleaning chores with water or chemicals, make sure to wear cotton-lined rubber gloves to protect and strengthen weak nails.