Nails are important for many reasons, including aesthetic appeal. They can also serve as important barometers offering clues to a person’s overall health. Indeed, conditions as seemingly benign as increased nail thickness, horizontal white lines in the nails, or nail concavity (spooning) may be an indication of a variety of problems, ranging from anemia to endocarditis to connective tissue disorders (Fawcett RS et al 2004). Common nail complaints include brittle, dry nails and infection with a variety of pathogens.
Natural remedies for nail treatment face the same obstacles as prescription agents: it is difficult to deliver healing agents to the site of the infection. However, a few nutrients stand out for their ability to support strong, healthy nails.
Silicon is an essential trace mineral that is vital to the health of bone and skin. It helps facilitate the formation of collagen, which is necessary for the strength and healthy development of epithelial and skeletal connective tissue. In a recent study, silicon was examined for its ability to improve skin and nail health in women who had sun-damaged skin. Chronic exposure to sunlight has been shown to damage connective tissue, which causes loss of elasticity in skin. In this randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study, women were given 10 mg daily of either a bioavailable silicon or placebo. Measurements of skin and nail health were taken throughout the study. At the end of 20 weeks, the women taking silicon had decreased skin roughness and less-brittle nails and hair, showing that silicon had a significantly positive effect on nails, skin, and hair (Barel A et al 2005). This study used a stabilized orthosilicic acid, which is the form of silicon with the greatest bioavailability.
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