Zinc is a mineral that is necessary for many important functions in the body. The best way to avoid deficiency is to ingest foods rich in this mineral, but many people do not get enough zinc. Among indications of zinc deficiency are imperfections of the nails.
Dips or transverse lines running across the nail are called Beau's lines and usually point to an illness or vitamin deficiency. Diabetes, syphilis, heart disease, measles, mumps and pneumonia are all possibilities, as is zinc deficiency. These horizontal dips in the fingernails disappear when the nail has grown out, as long as the deficiency has been corrected or the illness has been treated.
Zinc deficiency has a long list of symptoms, many of which are found in hundreds of other disease processes. They include but are not limited to dandruff, diarrhea, hair loss, inflammation of the nail cuticles, loss of taste or smell, dry skin and skin rashes. Anemia, inflammatory bowel disease and symptoms of PMS sometimes also accompany zinc deficiency. Zinc deficiency also affects mood, causing behavioral and sleep problems, and a decrease in libido.
The best way to combat or prevent zinc deficiency is to eat foods rich in this vitamin. Oysters, beef shank, Alaskan crab and pork shoulder have very high concentrations of zinc. Other foods to eat include breakfast cereals fortified with zinc, chicken, pork, lobster, baked beans, cashews and yogurt.
Zinc deficiency is reversed by taking an oral supplement, available at any pharmacy. Ask the pharmacist which brands and dosages she recommends. Also, vitamins A, E and B6, as well as minerals such as calcium, phosphorus and magnesium help increase the absorption of zinc. A zinc deficiency takes anywhere from five days to several weeks to correct, but depends on the dosage. It is important to follow your physician's instructions exactly since taking too much zinc results in adverse health problems as well.