Making Strong Nails -- And Hair, and Bones

Raw egg seems to produce strong nails, hair, and bones. But other factors may play a role as well, including

Eric Armstrong

Fingernails are made of protein. So if your fingernails are strong, by extension your hair and bones are likely to be strong as well. But it seems to take 6 or 8 weeks, or possibly longer, for a diet change to show up in the ends of the fingernails. That delay makes it difficult to figure out what it is in the diet that makes a really big difference in the strength of the nails, but one or more of the following is definitely implicated:

I've found myself with strong fingernails only a few times in my life. And I pay a lot of attention to the affects of my diet. But unlike nasal congestion I get from milk products (which shows up in a day or two), it took an exeedingly long time before I realized I had to look back 6 or 8 weeks to see what affected the nails.

Most all of my life, they've been brittle and thin, so they break easily. I thought I just had a bad habit of picking at them. On the rare occasions when they happened to be strong, I thought it was because I had acquired the discipline to stop picking. So I felt proud for a week or two, and was then chagrined to find that I had somehow reverted to my old habits as my nails got shorter and shorter, eventually disappearing altogether once again.

But recently I found myself recently with extremely strong, practically unbreakable nails. Several weeks early, I had been on a health kick where I had been eating a raw egg every day (mixed with tomato juice, for palatability).

Luckily, these days they sell healthy, organic free range eggs, so salmonella poisoning isn't the worry it once was. But I used to do this every once in a while before, too. Perhaps I was lucky, but I never had a problem even then. (The reason I take raw eggs is that as I child it appears that I once got sick on cooked eggs, which makes it very difficult to eat them. I can manage them when a small amount is scrambled into rice with vegetables, in the oriental fashion, but other than that I find it hard to eat cooked eggs.)

I had been doing having a raw egg routinely for about 3 weeks, and then feeling guilty for about 3 weeks when I went off the egg-and-vitamin routine.

I know it wasn't the vitamins by themselves, because I've taken them religously for months at a time, with no visible effect on the nails. It's possible of course, that the vitamins played a role in conjunction with the eggs. But eggs are so complete, nutritionally, that I tend to doubt it.

Several weeks later, I had very strong nails. They lasted for about 3 weeks -- about the length of time I had been having a raw egg most every day.

About the same time, though I had cut way down on coffee, although I seem to remember having green tea around that time. And I know I've gone through "raw egg periods" at other times in my life -- I'm just not totally sure if the correspond with the rare "strong nails periods" that I've experienced.

I feel sure that the eggs played a role, but I'm curious to know whether it took a combination of the factors, or whether
one facor by itself (most likely the raw egg) played a dominant role. As mentioned, the possible candidates have narrowed down to:

Cooked eggs are included in the list because I wonder if someone who eats cooked egg would notice the same effect as someone who eats raw egg. It may be that the they would. Or not. (If not, it could either be due to the bits of shell that sometimes drop in when breaking the egg, or to the quality of the proteins which, as I understand it, get all mangled up by cooking. It could even be due to the quality of lecithin and essential fatty acids in the egg yolk, which are only present when the egg is raw.)

The major questions are: Which precise combination of factors has the nail-strengthening effect? Is raw egg by itself sufficient? Or does it require limiting caffeine at the same time? Or does it require including small amounts of the shell, for the calcium and magesium they contain? Or is cooked egg effective, as well? And, if not, why not?

Stay tuned... It may take another 10 years, but with observation and experiment (and with the contributions of the many readers who have so far kindly shared their insights with me) I'm sure we'll find the answer!

Follow up notes:

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