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Nails breaking, hair graying? It may be more than simply aging

WOMAN LOOKING IN MIRROR
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The first step is looking at your diet ...

When we were first married, my husband suffered from a bleeding disorder that left him severely anemic. His complexion was growing paler by the day but he kept brushing off my concerns. “It’s December,” he said. “Of course my skin is getting paler!”

It wasn’t until we went to visit his parents that I learned the real way to detect iron deficiency. His mom took one look at his face and crossed the room in two seconds to examine the color of the skin under his nails and on the inside of his eyelids.

“Hospital, now,” she ordered. Like a good son, he obeyed and received several blood transfusions and iron infusions, and soon his skin returned to its normal color. And because I’d learned the secret of detecting iron deficiency anemia, he was never again able to brush off my concerns when the skin beneath his nails lost its rosy hue.

That’s not the only secret to detecting nutrient deficiency, as it turns out. Livestrong featured a slideshow of many symptoms (like pale mucus membranes) that can unfortunately be easily overlooked until the problems become serious, sometimes even leading to systemic damage.

Need the occasional swipe of lip balm? Not an issue. But seriously cracked and sore lips might indicate you have a riboflavin deficiency. “A riboflavin deficiency can cause cracking at the corners of the mouth and dryness around the outside of the lips,” says McMordie. “It will usually be accompanied by a swollen, dark-red tongue and swollen mouth.” Riboflavin deficiency can turn more serious if it’s left untreated. It can sometimes cause nerve damage that can lead to tingling in your fingers or toes. Have these symptoms checked out as soon as possible to address the deficiency in its earliest stages. And, in the meantime, include more riboflavin in your diet by consuming almonds, salmon, broccoli, cheddar cheese and eggs.

This is a good reminder for me to include broccoli and eggs in my kids’ diets, particularly the ones who have personalized chapstick that they wield like a talisman. It’s probably just the cold and wind, but extra broccoli won’t hurt them in any case.

Other symptoms of nutrient deficiency include wounds that won’t heal because of low protein and Vitamin C, brittle nails caused by lack of biotin, and prematurely graying hair brought on by low copper and Vitamin D levels. Fortunately, all these deficiencies can be corrected by eating eggs, hazelnuts, fish, peanut butter, strawberries, red peppers, and almonds, and drinking milk.

In fact, the best way to prevent most health problems — from nutrient deficiencies to heart disease — is to focus on widening your diet rather than restricting it. Limiting calories isn’t a great way to reach optimum health unless you’re also considering what your caloric intake consists of. Making sure your diet includes a variety of nutrient-rich plant and animal food rather than restricting it to nutrient-deficient processed food will help you look and feel your best, and save you from the horrors of painful nail breakage and surprise gray hairs before you’re 30.

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