Friday, 5 February 2010

Onychophagia, ADHD, restless leg syndrome and diet?

One thing I observed when going Paleo was that I completely lost the desire to bite my fingernails. Now I can confess, I have had this disgusting habit since my teenage years. No more temptation and even revulsion on the thought of it! What happened? Medical science is limited: no publications with onychophagia AND diet in Pubmed. The one study that is found only addresses the speed of growth of fingernails and toenails (puzzling, nowadays nails are growing much faster than decades ago! Is it IGF-1 and/or insulin?). Google search has not been very useful either: biting fingernails has to do wih nerves, which actually might be the case, whether associated with some micronutrient deficiency or not.

I actually suspected micronutrients since the white spots (leuconychia) also stopped appearing on my fingernals; in my vegetarian days I used to have them a few times a year.

But other symptoms also improved: no restless leg syndrome. It was not severe and actually I did not self-diagnose it until a few years ago, but it was something beyond my control and I like to be in control. Which I am now, at least when it comes to restelss leg. So it had to do with nerves, after all.

Probably the biggest improvement after I changed to Paleo involved what I had also self-diagnosed as adult ADHD. It was a very mild case and would have gone unnoticed, but my wife, who is a psychologist, was working with a patient who matched my profile quite well. I did some reading on adult ADHD and: Bingo! Then I had to learn to live with it. Until I gave up gluten, that is. Now everything is in focus, much better organised (except this blog), probably a bit less manic. And no fingernail biting! Gluten has been linked to ADHD in children and gluten-free diet can do wonders, but many adults never realise they might have symptoms of ADHD as well and that for them the Paleo could be the answer.

And the wight has been staying solid rock constant, though perhaps another half an inch of abdominal fat is gone (now probably only half an inch is left). This means more fat in the diet. I am experimenting with coconuts and also with cocoa butter. In a couple of weeks I will have my blood tests done and will report extensively.


  1. Hi, I have a bad habit(?) of biting my gums, not grinding my teeth or biting lips, but the skin on the inside of my mouth.

    I've done this so long I actually have wrinkles on my cheeks where I contort to chew the skin.

    If I make a concerted effort I can sometimes stop long enough for the skin to smoothly reform, but since going zero carb I've noticed this getting worse (more chewing & biting, more often).

    As I consume no grains, gluten, carbs etc. do you think increasing saturated fat could help?

    Did you notice your change when dropping grains or upping fats? I wonder which had the underlying control?



  2. Hi WP,

    There probably is no way to find a single cause of yoir problem. I would probably look at some micronurient deficiency. Try to eat more green leafy vefetables, ideally raw and see what happens. Other than that think about increasing your serotonin naturally:

  3. I have found that I get restless legs when my iron stores are depleted (~10gm/dl.