DEAR DR. GOTT: I have been a chronic nail-biter since grade school. I have tried the bitter stuff to put on my nails, hypnotism and even fake nails. I would love to grow my own nails, but when I get worked up or nervous, I chew until I have stubs. Any help on this matter would be appreciated.
DEAR READER: There are a number of reasons for this habit. It can result from being nervous, depressed, excited, bored, or even for unknown reasons. The stresses in everyday life can be difficult to deal with.
Most nail-biting is simply a bad habit. It is rather common in children and young adults, but typically ceases thereafter. It will not cause permanent damage unless you have warts or an infection around the nail bed. If you suffer from frequent colds or diarrhea, you might attribute it to your nail-biting. Bacteria or viruses from the fingers and nails enter the mouth when you bite, making infection possible.
The first step might be to determine under what circumstances you bite your nails. Keep a journal. Are the episodes related to stress, depression or unhappy experiences? Do you sit alone and idle when the uncontrollable urge strikes, or are you in a room full of people? If you can identify the trigger, you might be on your way to breaking the habit.
Depending on the circumstance, you might speak with your primary care physician, a therapist, counselor or other trained professional. Have you had any recent lab testing to determine if you have a deficiency that can be overcome with specific medication? Do you make good dietary choices or do you prefer junk food? Do you exercise? Sometimes even the most complicated situation can be controlled with a simple modification in lifestyle.
I can offer some initial suggestions for control, but you have likely tried them all. Trim your nails. Cover them with clear nail polish to make them appear more attractive. Get a manicure. Wear gloves to bed at night to prevent unconscious biting in your sleep. Purchase a small rubber ball to hold in the palm of your hand to squeeze, or place a rubber band around your wrist and snap it when you feel the urge to bite. Suck on sugar-free hard candies that will make it difficult to put a finger in your mouth at the same time.
Make an hourly or daily resolution to stop biting – and take it one day at a time.
DEAR DR. GOTT: I am making good use of your “No Flour, No Sugar Cookbook” and am wondering if you will be coming out any time soon with another book of additional recipes. I need all the support I can get.
DEAR DR. GOTT: How about another cookbook to keep up the series?
DEAR READERS: Frankly, another cookbook is not in my immediate plans, but I must admit I have been collecting recipes since my last book went to press, so who knows?
In the interim, use my “No Flour, No Sugar Diet” book, which contains many recipes, including Broiled Portobello Mushroom Steaks With Rosemary Red Wine Reduction, and my “No Flour, No Sugar Cookbook” that you are already familiar with. Branch off from the recipes by modifying them to include other lean cuts of meat or fish and adding fresh fruits and vegetables now available at your local market.
Readers who are interested in keeping their weight down can order my Health Report “A Strategy for Weight Loss: Introduction to the No Flour, No Sugar Diet” by sending a self-addressed, stamped No. 10 envelope and a $2 U.S. check or money order made payable to Dr. Peter Gott, PO Box 433, Lakeville, CT 06039-0433. Be sure to mention the title when writing, or print out an order form from my website’s direct link: www.Ask DrGottMD.com/order_form.pdf.