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September 29, 2021 3 min read

Brittle or soft nails, dry or dull skin, or thinning hair?  While sometimes written off as part of the aging process, these common concerns should be viewed as important messages from your body that need to be acknowledged and assessed.       

As a Naturopathic Doctor, my goal is to identify and treat the cause(s) of these symptoms or experiences, rather than suppressing or ignoring the signals that the body uses to get our attention.  If you are noticing undesirable hair, skin or nail changes, consider the following:

Nutritional Deficiencies

  • A variety of vitamins and minerals are used to build hair and skin and to support healthy hair follicles and nail beds.  Make sure you are meeting your body’s need for iron, B-vitamins, magnesium, zinc, vitamin D and biotin.  
Older man getting water while crouched at the edge of a lake during a hike

    Cellular Energy Support

    • “Antioxidant” is a somewhat familiar term, but what do antioxidants actually do?  Our cells are responsible for producing enough energy to support the necessary functions of our tissues and organs.  Energy production at the cellular level is a multi-step process in which raw materials go in and both energy and waste products come out.  Some of those waste products, like oxidized cellular molecules, need to be neutralized in order for cells to continue functioning.   Adequate cellular energy production AND waste product neutralization result in healthier, more capable body systems.    
    • Antioxidants are those substances that are capable of neutralizing oxidation.  Many supplements formulated as hair & nail vitamins contain antioxidants as their primary ingredients.  Vitamin C and grape seed extract are excellent examples. 
    • Cells may also be more capable of their energy-producing roles by adding supportive nutrients like Acetyl-L-Carnitine and CoQ10.

    Hormone Dysfunction

    • Thinning hair or dry skin may be brushed off as a “nuisance,” but if these are indicators of a more significant underlying issue, like hypothyroidism, we need to know!  According to the American Thyroid Association, up to 60% of those with thyroid disease are unaware of their condition(1).  In a “Physiology-Before-Pharmacology” approach, we would first consider optimizing levels of nutrients that are needed for thyroid hormone creation, like L-tyrosine, selenium, zinc and iodine.     
    • There are various sex hormone imbalances (involving testosterone, estrogen and/or progesterone) in both men and women that also provoke negative hair, skin and nail changes.  Men and hyperandrogenic women (hyperandrogenism is a hormone imbalance in women that can present with cystic acne, thinning hair and irregular menstrual cycles) may benefit from the addition of herbs like Saw Palmetto and Tribulus Terrestris that support the balance of androgenic hormones in a way that preserves healthy hair follicles, amongst other hormone balancing benefits.

    Business woman with head in hands

    The Effects of Chronic Stress

    • In our world today, where chronic stress is running rampant, it is imperative that we “up our game” when it comes to buffering the effects of these stressors on our physiology.  Every mechanism that I’ve discussed in this writing can be negatively influenced by excessive stress hormones over time.  Some stress is unavoidable, of course, and is necessary in certain situations.  However, the delicate balance between “enough” and “too much” differs from person to person.
    Ask yourself, are you really lacking adequate vitamins for hair growth, or have you been on the path towards burnout for so long that your body is now using physical symptoms to accentuate the need for better stress management?
    • A favorite herb for those running at a fast pace is Ashwagandha which is a classic adaptogenic herb taken to support one’s ability to perform optimally under stressful circumstances.  The amino acid L-theanine helps calm the brain down, allowing for better focus and an improved sense of wellbeing.  

    As always, please consult with your physician before adding supplements to your health and wellness regimen.   

    This blog was written by Dr. Stephanie Nishek, please click here to learn more about the author.