Identifying Nutritional Deficiencies through Nails Skin and Hair

author avatar Dr. Eric Berg 08/31/2023

Your body is always speaking to you. It’s telling you what it needs, what it doesn’t, and where things are going right and wrong with your health. But that doesn’t mean that you can always understand it, and you may misinterpret some of signals or signs of illness. We don’t want that to happen. That’s why we’re breaking down what symptoms mean and how to evaluate your body’s health based on what your body is trying to tell you.

Why is there confusion to begin with? Well, healthcare today focuses primarily on the management of symptoms with no real understanding of what symptoms mean. If you have bad night vision, for example, the current system simply gives you glasses without helping you understand why your vision might be failing.

This strategy simply doesn’t work if you want to improve your health and resolve systems. Here’s everything you need to know and what to do.

Overall, there are three main deficiencies that people tend to have:

  1. Fat-soluble vitamin deficiency
  2. Deficiency in trace minerals
  3. Deficiency in B vitamins


Horizontal Ridges

If you look at a nail and see horizontal ridges, you’re dealing with a B1 deficiency. B1 issues create a series of big problems in the body. Specifically, they can lead to things like:

  • Cyanosis: Poor circulation, including circulation of the nail. This can lead to white or blue nail beds.
  • An enlarged heart, particularly on the right side of the heart: When you’re deficient in B1, the heart gets weaker and it begins to atrophy. This shows up on an X-ray as an enlarged heart, but it’s important to understand that B1 problems are often the source.
  • Problems with the eye muscles: If you have wandering or crossed eyes, it's usually a weakness in the nerves to the eye (primarily the sixth cranial nerve). That’s also influenced by B1.
  • Edema: B1 deficiency can also cause edema in the ankles. This is intense swelling in the ankles that will lead to indentations with pressure.

You’ll also have subjective symptoms like nervous tension, anxiety, worry, and low tolerance to stress.

So how does this come about? By consuming too many refined foods and grains, including waffles, biscuits, crackers, white sugar, etc. The history of this started with polished rice or refined rice. The manufacturers took all of the nutrition out of the whole rice to create this refined, white rice, and this stripped it of essential B vitamins.

The same thing later happened (and continues to happen) with grains. Whole grains have all kinds of B vitamins until they’re stripped down and turned into white flour and bleached. This whole process - and someone consuming only these refined carbs - once again, creates a problem with B1 and the other B vitamins.

That’s why a lot of flour today is enriched with synthetic vitamins. That said, keep in mind that these synthetics are not the same and they may not be as beneficial to your health.

Brittle Nails

Brittle nails generally signal a biotin deficiency.

A lot of women get their nails done and they keep applying surface shellac and nail polish to try to strengthen their nails. This stuff doesn’t work because, once again, it’s not addressing the root of the problem.

Brittle nails are usually another B vitamin deficiency - specifically a biotin deficiency. Biotin deficiency will create brittle nails because biotin is involved in the strengthening of proteins, amino acids, and collagen. That’s why it’s really good for hair.

This deficiency is common, which is why you’ll see a lot of biotin supplements on the market. The problem, though, is that if you take too much biotin, it can cause deficiencies of other vitamins over time and lead to acne.

That’s why it’s important to look at the whole picture rather than try to fix one vitamin. You have to find out why you’re deficient in certain vitamin and deal with that.

So how do you become deficient in biotin? Well, this can happen if you:

  • Eat a lot of raw egg whites
  • Eat a lot of fried foods
  • Have a bacterial imbalance in your gut. A lot of friendly bacteria in the gut make biotin. If your bacterial flora is out of whack, will not happen.

So what’s the solution? Well, besides the probiotics, one good source of biotin is nutritional yeast. I personally recommend non-fortified nutritional yeast since it’s free of synthetics.

White Spots

A zinc deficiency will create little white specks on the nail.

The size and location of the speck can tell you a lot. See, the nail grows every 6 months. If you see a white speck in the middle of the nail, then, it signifies that three months ago you created that white speck (aka the zinc deficiency). How? By eating a lot of refined carbohydrates and sugars.

So, back to our example, that speck may show that three months ago you had a birthday party and you ate the entire cake.

To fix this zinc problem, you need to cut back on those refined carb binges and up your zinc intake. This can be done by supplementing with trace minerals or simply be eating more vegetables.

Vertical Ridges

A thyroid problem will create vertical ridges up and down the nail. The thyroid, of course, will also create a lot of other things like:

  • Loss of collagen in the back of the arm
  • Hair loss
  • Bags underneath the eyes
  • Loss of the eyebrow on the outer part

You can learn more about what causes thyroid problems and what you can do about them here.



Alopecia - or spots of hair loss - can be a biotin deficiency. It could also be adrenal problems, but the biotin is usually the culprit.

Now, if your diet is fairly good, then this issue is probably coming from your gut or from some digestive problem. Maybe you took some antibiotics or had some leaky gut issues - but the point is that your microbiome is likely out of balance.

Again, just taking biotin here is not the answer. The answer is to get your whole diet corrected and perhaps to supplement with probiotics or nutritional yeast.

Male Pattern Baldness

there’s an estrogen excess that’s converted to a powerful estrogen called DHT. If you have the right ratio of estrogen to testosterone, you won’t have this problem.

If you have a problem with this or if you’re getting loss of hair or prostate problems, a really good remedy to help correct the ratios of estrogen to testosterone is stinging nettle root.

So get some of that - it’s really good for prostate issues and male pattern baldness in males and females.



Vitamin B3 deficiency is called pellagra. This can manifest as a condition called glove and stocking lesions where you have severe, scaly, red, irritated skin on the hands and feet. That’s a very severe B3 deficiency.

In general, pellagra is caused by consuming too much corn or consuming too much alcohol.

Corn is not very nutrient-dense, which means that relying on it as a primary food source can create a deficiency. This is particularly true with the corn that people eat nowadays, which is genetically modified.

The solution, as always, is a more varied diet of nutrient-rich vegetables.

Cracked Heels

Cracked heels vitamin b2 b3 deficiency

If your heels get really cracked and dry, that’s generally a B2 or B3 deficiency.

If you put lotion on there, of course, you’re just treating the symptom - and, unfortunately, that’s what most doctors do. Dermatologists, for example, give you cortisone creams for all kinds of skin problems without getting to the root cause.

Instead, increase your B2 through nutritional yeast and by reducing your consumption of refined carbs.


Redness on Nose and Mouth

Vitamin B6 deficiency can create redness around the nose, the cheeks, and the top of the forehead. This includes rosacea, psoriasis, and any other red pigmentation that may appear around the nose area.

Now, you may be noticing a pattern here: in general, B vitamin deficiencies create a lot of dermatologic and digestive problems.

So where do you get B6 to solve the problem?

B6 is actually easy to get from most foods. It’s in eggs, vegetables, and other healthy foods. That said, junk foods - like refined carbohydrates, bread, and pasta - pull it out. So you must cut out the junk to stop the deficiency.

Inflammation, Ulcers, or Cracks in the Mouth and Lips

All of these issues are a vitamin B2 deficiency, also known as riboflavin deficiency.

Again, you can correct this by consuming B2 through nutritional yeast. To avoid a deficiency, you also have to avoid the sugars and refined carbohydrates.

Trouble With Skin or Night Vision

Anything to do with skin or acne is also usually related to vitamin A.

So what foods can you eat that are high in Vitamin A?

Vegetables, yes. All vegetables - especially things like kale - have tremendous amounts of Vitamin A (up to 30,000 IUs). However, that’s a pre-vitamin A. It’s not the actual active form of retinol, which is Vitamin A that you can use.

Why does that matter? This pre-vitamin version has to be converted in the body. Some people can’t convert it that well. That’s why a more efficient source of vitamin A is fats, butter, oil, and cod liver oil.

Now, you may consume these foods and fail to see any changes in your vision or skin. If this happens, it’s likely that your gallbladder and liver are congested. Why? If you have congestion, you won’t have the bile to break down vitamin A. This malabsorption will cause a deficiency no matter what you eat

Overall, then, the solution is to start eating healthier to clean out the liver and support the gallbladder. This will allow your body to absorb enough vitamin A overall.

Poor Night Vision

Night vision problems and trouble with the skin can also generally be linked to a vitamin A deficiency.

Vitamin A, like vitamin D, is almost like a hormone. It’s a fat-soluble vitamin. It can go into the DNA of your cells and determine what cells turn into.

If there’s a problem with Vitamin A, you can start to see weird growths on your skin - particularly on the pigment right over the colored part (or the iris) of your eyes. They can also appear on the whites of the eye as well.

You’ll also likely develop poor night vision. This will be especially apparent when there’s bright oncoming traffic.

As you age and the liver gets more congested, you can even lose just your vision. You’ll notice when you get into your 40s and 50s, it’ll seem like your vision is just so bad. That could be a vitamin A deficiency as well (which, again, is usually really a liver problem).

Bleeding Gums or Red and Swollen Gums

This is a vitamin C deficiency or a form of scurvy.

Vitamin C works to strengthen the capillary beds. Anything like micro-hemorrhaging, varicose veins, spider veins, or red cheeks is likely a problem with vitamin C.

What’s happening at the cellular level when you have a deficiency is that, even in your arteries, you’re getting little lesions and bleeding. This may even lead to an accumulation of cholesterol as a band-aid.

To fix it, increase your vitamin C intake by eating things like:

  • Orange
  • Cantaloupe
  • Kale
  • Kiwis
  • Cauliflower
  • Papaya


Enlarged Thyroid

Enlarged thyroid iodine deficiency

Iodine deficiency creates a large thyroid in your neck, along with goiters or nodules in the thyroid.

All these little cysts on the thyroid, breast, or ovaries come from excessive estrogen. Iodine comes into play because it protects against the excess of estrogen. So if you’re deficient in iodine, estrogen can create a lot of damage to your body - especially if you have a female body.

Add a good amount of iodine to your diet - from organic sea kelp, I recommend - to address this problem. Iodine is also a good cancer preventer, and it will also handle:

  • Cysts
  • Nodules of the thyroid and of the breast
  • Nodules of the ovary


A neuroma is a little nerve bundle on the bottom of the foot that can be very painful (some people even require surgery to get it fixed).

Neuromas happen because of viruses. The problem? Weak adrenals.

See, viruses are very interesting because they get activated and deactivated by your own tissues. When you become tired, stressed out, burned out, older, etc., the viruses can come out of remission and create all sorts of damage like neuromas, shingles, herpes, and all these other issues. Then, when you’re healthy, they go back into remission.

The adrenals control if a virus is going out or into remission. You can’t kill a virus - the only solution is to get healthy and manage periods of stress.


Anemia - a condition in which the body does not have enough healthy red blood cells - can be caused by a folate deficiency.

Unfortunately, folate deficiency can happen quite quickly. The body does not store folate in large amounts, so you have to consistently eat things like leafy greens, vegetables, and liver to maintain healthy folate levels.

Try Our Advanced Evaluation

Now, this is a lot of inflammation, and if you have a few of these symptoms you may not know where to start. I spent a lot of time creating an advanced evaluation questionnaire. It’s a free, lengthy test that you can take to see what’s going on with your body. Again, the goal here is not just to understand your symptoms, but also the root cause of all your symptoms and how you can correct them.

So taking this test is kind of a training course to understand your body and it’s a great place to get started.

Questions? Let us know below!

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Disclaimer: Our educational content is not meant or intended for medical advice or treatment.

Editor’s Note: This post has been updated for quality and relevancy.

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