Beauty from the Inside Out
By Jennifer Adler, M.S., C.N.
Have you ever wondered what those little ridges on your fingernails are or why your hair might be dry despite valiant efforts at the salon? Our body is often communicating to us in mysterious signals. Each individual part of our body is a snapshot of the larger picture, with each detail having meaning. Skilled practitioners throughout the ages have known this wisdom. Prior to the relatively recent advent of lab tests, healers relied on bodily wisdom to determine imbalances. Letís practice this ancient wisdom by taking a look at some physical features for nutritional clues.
Are you having a bad hair day? Before spending a lot of money on expensive hair care products, experiment with improving your nutrition. After all our body is made largely of what we eat. If your hair is dry it might indicate an essential fatty acid (EFA) deficiency or if brittle an iodine deficiency. Is your scalp sensitive? It may be a vitamin D or EFA deficiency. Are you noticing premature graying or general hair loss? Once again B vitamins and EFAís could be your new best friend. If your scalp is dry and flaky consider decreasing the refined sugar in your diet and increase your EFAís, selenium and B vitamins. Selenium levels in food are contingent on the amount present in the soil which tends to be low in the Pacific Northwest. So locovores beware.
Do you feel like an alligator? Dry skin can indicate a deficiency of EFAís, vitamin A, E or biotin. Eczema can be a sign of a zinc or EFA deficiency. If your skin is parchment-like meaning that when it is pinched it forms a tent that is slow to drop back, this could be a sign of dehydration or an electrolyte imbalance. Have you been prescribed medication for follicular hyperkeratosis, small red bumps on the back of your arms? This could be helped with vitamin A, B, zinc, or EFAís. Remember doctors are not required to have nutrition courses. Do you have small red spots all over your body? These are called petechiae, which are pinpoint hemorrhages and can be a sign of vitamin C deficiency. If you bruise easily more vitamin K, C or bioflavonoids could be to your benefit.
Got a poker face? Even the best poker face can provide information about your nutrition. There is a lot of money spent on topical skin care products. Working on skin from the inside out often provides effective long term results. For example acne which torments many is often a sign of too much refined sugar, inadequate zinc, EFAís, or vitamin A. Scales & scabbiness in the folds of the nose and behind ears can be an indicator of a B vitamin deficiency. Is your skin greasy and scaly? If so this can be a B2 deficiency. As you can see EFAís are a repeat offender. We can tell part of the reason why through the name essential fatty acids. These types of fats are essential for every cell in our body and it is essential that they come from the diet. So opt for the wild salmon or grass fed meat.
Not only palm readers can get insight about you from your hands. You can observe a lot about your nutritional status as well as your future. Do you have hang nails, inflamed cuticles or cracking at the tips of your fingers? This could be a sign of needing more zinc, vitamin C, folate or protein. Need a DEXA scan? If you want to know about your bone density look at your nails because they are made of minerals like your bones. If your nails have a flat angle or are spooned you might need more iron. If they are soft and donít grow with the vigor you would like it could be due to mineral deficiencies. If your nails have horizontal or vertical ridges consider more B vitamins and minerals. You may notice that B vitamins come up repeatedly. This is partially due to the fact that B vitamins get used up when under stress. Do you have white spots on your nails? This can be a sign of excess sugar or zinc deficiency. If your nails are brittle and split this can be an indication of mineral deficiencies and too much refined sugar.
As with any nutritional deficiencies looking at your digestive function is essential. You could be having the best diet on the planet but if you are not digesting well, you may not be adequately absorbing the nutrients from food. Another issue is that if your digestive system is impaired symptoms may be reactions or sensitivities to certain foods. Work with your health care provider to see what treatment may work best for your particular situation. Remember to listen to your body because if you donít hear the whispers it might need to yell.
Jennifer Adler, M.S., C.N. provides nutrition counseling at The International Eating Disorders Institute, www.iedinstitute.com. She enjoys gossiping about nutrition and hair with her hairdresser.
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