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How to have healthy nails

MagazineFebruary 2011 (Vol. 21 Issue 11)How to have healthy nails

In answer to many requests, here's my advice on how to maintain healthy nails, and what to do if a fungal infection has crept in under a nail (the most common cause of which is Trichophyton purpureum)

In answer to many requests, here's my advice on how to maintain healthy nails, and what to do if a fungal infection has crept in under a nail (the most common cause of which is Trichophyton purpureum).

Nail maintenance

o Rub a small amount of petroleum jelly thinly into your cuticle and into the skin surrounding the nails every evening before going to bed, or whenever your nails feel dry, as this will keep them hydrated.
o Always have three pairs of shoes and switch between them, as this will help to prevent fungal foot and toenail infections.
o Wear 100-per-cent cotton socks, which are the best for absorbing damp and prevent-ing fungal infection, too.
o Never share towels with others at gyms and swimming pools, and wear flip-flops in such public areas.
o File your nails correctly: always go in only one direction, and avoid using a back-and-forth motion. Also, never file just after a shower or bath as wet nails are more likely to break. In addition, use emery boards in preference to metal files, as the latter last such a long time that they are more likely to harbour an infective agent.
o If your nails are brittle and dry, increase your intake of foods rich in vitamin A (cheese, apricots, broccoli, carrots) and calcium [yoghurt, cheese, sesame seeds (tahini), almonds], which promotes nail growth, and zinc.
o Every night before going to bed, wash your hands thoroughly, dry them with a towel and apply a non-fragranced hand moisturizer.
o Drink plenty of fresh fruit and vegetable juices. Carrot juice, for instance, is rich in calcium and phosphorus, which will help to strengthen your nails.
o Consume less sugar and little alcohol, as weak nails may be due to an iron deficiency or liver problems, which can be caused by high intakes of alcohol.
o Reduce your intake of saturated fats, but ensure that you eat enough protein. In addition to increasing vitamin A, you should also increase your intakes of vitamins B, C, D and E-through food.
u Trim nails regularly as needed. Use an emery board to smooth rough edges after clipping them, or when a nail breaks.
o Dry your hands for at least two minutes with an absorbent cloth or towel after working in the wet (for instance, dishwashing, or in the moist soil of the garden), and also after taking a bath or shower. You should also dry your toes thoroughly, and between each toe, too, after swimming or showering, as leaving them damp increases the risk of fungal infection.
o Trim toenails straight across, as this helps to avoid ingrown toenails for many (but
not all) people. Avoiding this condition is particularly important if you have diabetes. If fact, diabetics should seek professional advice regarding untoward foot conditions.
o Never use an acetone- or formaldehyde-based nail-polish remover, as this can provoke allergic reactions in some people. Instead, use a remover that contains acetate, as the incidence of allergenicity with this compound is low.

Combatting nail fungus

If you are infected with a fungus, keep the affected nail short and, with the aid of an implement such as a sharp pen-knife, lift out and remove the fungal material regularly from beneath the nail; if you don't, it will grow there and gradually make the nail thicker.

With the aid of a cotton-wool bud, you should dab the affected nail edge and nail bed with tea tree oil (Melaleuca alternifolia) every morning, and with Betadine surgical scrub (povidone-iodine solution) every evening. This needs to be done without interruption for around three months, as the fungus under the nail takes some time to respond to topical treatments.

For this reason, orthodox medicine would have you take terbinafine hydrochloride (sold as Lamisil by Novartis) by mouth, but this drug comes with a long string of adverse reactions, such as abdominal disorders, urticaria (hives), arthritis and muscle pain, taste distortion, liver toxicity, water retention, serious skin reactions such as toxic epidermal necrolysis (with skin blisters that peel off), psychiatric disturbances, psoriasis and lupus erythematosus-like effects.
In my professional experience, the least offensive topical orthodox treatment is with an alcohol- and acid-free lacquer called ClearZal, made by DiaDerm Laboratories in the US. It is distributed here in the UK by Zeon Healthcare Limited in Oxfordshire, and is available on the Internet. This may, on rare occasions, cause a mild skin reaction.

Harald Gaier

WDDTY VOL. 21 NO. 11


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