You might have heard that you can eat your toenails. After all, they are made of keratin, which is a protein that is also found in nails, hair, and skin. Keratin is non-toxic and keratin supplements are even available for purchase. However, before you start snacking on your toenails, there are a few things you should know.
The short answer is no, you should not eat your toenails. Here’s why: Toenails are made of dead cells. When these dead cells mix with the bacteria on your skin, they can cause an infection. In some cases, this infection can even lead to sepsis, which is a life-threatening condition.
Additionally, toenails are often covered in dirt and other contaminants. These contaminants can contain harmful bacteria that can make you sick if ingested. Eating your toenails can also lead to gastrointestinal problems like constipation or diarrhea.
If you’re still considering eating your toenails, you should know that they don’t provide much in the way of nutrition. Toenails are mostly made of protein and fat, but they don’t contain many essential vitamins and minerals. So, if you’re looking for a way to get more nutrients into your diet, eating your toenails is not the way to go about it.
Why Do Some People Eat Their Toenails?
It may seem gross, but eating toenails is actually a pretty common habit. In fact, research suggests that as many as 18 percent of Americans have eaten their toenails at some point in their lives.
The most common reason people cite for eating toenails is boredom. If you’re stuck at home with nothing to do, it’s not uncommon to start nibbling on your nails out of sheer boredom. This is especially true if you’re a nail biter; when your nails are already shortened, they can be more tempting to nibble on.
Another reason people eat their toenails is stress relief. Chewing on something can help release tension and calm nerves, and toenails are just soft enough to bite into without causing pain. Similarly, some people find the act of eating their toenails satisfying or even soothing.
Lastly, some people may simply enjoy the taste of their toenails. While this may seem gross to some, there’s actually nothing wrong with it from a health perspective if they’re consumed on occassion. Toenails are made up of keratin, which is a protein that’s also found in human hair. So, if you don’t mind the taste, there’s no harm in giving it a try, but once is enough!
How Can I Stop Eating My Toenails?
Understand why you eat toenails. For some people, eating toenails is a way to calm down or relieve stress. Other people may do it because they’re bored or absentminded. Once you understand why you’re eating toenails, you can begin to look for other ways to satisfy that need.
If you’re eating toenails because you’re bored, try finding a hobby or activity that you enjoy and that will keep your hands busy. If you’re eating toenails because you’re stressed out, try taking up yoga or meditation.
Get rid of any and all temptation. Get rid of any nail clippers, files, or other tools that you use to trim your nails. Wash your hands thoroughly after trimming your nails so that there’s no residue left behind.
You should also avoid rooms where you typically eat your nails, such as the bathroom or the kitchen. If necessary, wear gloves when you’re in these rooms so that you won’t be tempted to nibble on your nails.
Replace the bad habit with a good one. Every time you feel the urge to eat your nails, do something else instead. Go for a walk, take a bath, read a book—anything that will take your mind off of nail-eating and help you relax. The more positive associations you have with these activities, the easier it will be to resist the urge to nibble on your nails.
Talk to someone about your problem. Oftentimes, people are embarrassed to admit that they have a problem with eating their nails. But there’s no reason to be ashamed—it’s a perfectly normal thing to want to quit.
Talk to a friend or family member about your struggle and let them know that you’d appreciate their support as you try to break the habit. You may also want to consider talking to a therapist who can help you understand and cope with any underlying issues that may be causing you to eat your nails in the first place.
What’s The Best Way to Stop Biting Your Nails?
First, it’s important to understand why you bite your nails in the first place. Are you anxious or stressed? Bored? Nervous about something specific? Once you know what’s causing you to bite your nails, you can better target your solution.
If anxiety is the root of your problem, there are a number of things you can do to try to reduce your stress levels. Exercise is a great way to relieve stress, and so is meditation or deep breathing exercises. You might also try journaling or talking to a therapist.
If boredom is the issue, again, there are a number of possible solutions. Maybe you need to find a new hobby or interest to occupy your time and attention. Or maybe you need to take a break from whatever it is you’re doing that’s causing you to bite your nails in the first place.
In some cases, simply being aware of your nail biting habit can be enough to help you break it. Every time you catch yourself biting your nails, make a conscious effort to stop and do something else with your hands instead. Clench them into fists, drum them on a table, or rub them together—anything that will distract you from putting them in your mouth.
Another effective solution is painting your nails with a bitter-tasting nail polish. The unpleasant flavor will discourage you from putting your fingers in your mouth, and over time, you’ll train yourself not to bite your nails anymore.
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