What Are the Causes of Brittle Nails and Hair?

Eating disorders come with a variety of physical side effects, and the most visible changes often occur in the health of the skin, hair and nails.

The longer an eating disorder persists, the harder it may be to restore natural hair growth patterns – while hair loss may occur on the head, hair growth is often seen on the face, neck or other areas of the body.

Weak and brittle nails may also take time to regrow, which may be helped by certain supplements or following particular nutritional guidelines.

General malnourishment

What causes brittle nails and hair in individuals with eating disorders is generally the lack of important vitamins and nutrients that support hair, skin and nail health.

Over time, this lack of nutrients leads to malnourishment: the body can’t sustain healthy nails and hair growth when all its energy must be used to keep vital organs working and critical bodily processes in tact.

Brittle nails and hair may result from a lack of food in general or, in other cases, a lack of the right nutrients needed to sustain growth.

Sometimes nail and hair health can be affected by thyroid disorders or autoimmune conditions, too, which may be worsened by disordered eating habits.

Regaining nail and hair growth

Before attempting to repair damaged nails and hair with supplements or dietary changes, it’s best to speak with your physician to make sure it’s safe for you to take certain vitamins, minerals or medications.

Dietary changes to help strengthen nails and hair may include the addition of omega-3 fatty acids (which are found in foods like salmon and flaxseeds) or gamma-linolenic acid (GLA) in the form of black-currant oil.

Vitamin B5, called pantothentic acid, is also crucial for supporting healthy skin, hair and nails, and biotin is also commonly recommended, too.

The easiest way to start reversing damage to hair and nails right away is to eat a healthy, nutritionally rich diet. However, speaking with your physician is the best place to start, as there may be underlying health issues causing these symptoms that need to be addressed.

Source: Dr. Weil

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