As an esthetician, I regularly see toe-nail fungus. It can happen to anyone but it’s especially prevelant in the over-65 crowd, smokers and people with circulatory disorders, auto-immune diseases and diabetes.
Nail issues are seldom life-threatening but they are distressing, and they can be symptomatic of more serious health issues.
So, if you have a problem with your nails, you ought to see a doctor and get a proper diagnosis.
That said, it’s also important to take charge of the situation, and do what you can to prevent and treat the problem yourself.
Fungi are Everywhere
There are about 1.5 million different species of fungi in the world and they live everywhere. About 300 of them, known as dermatophytes, cause problems for us.
You probably already know that fungi thrive in warmth and moisture. They also prefer darkness. So, our hot, sweaty feet are their idea of a five-star resort.
How Did I Get Nail Fungus?
Fungal spores float around in the air and water, and they can be picked up from soil, plants and skin.
Spores that dine on keratinocytes, (otherwise known as dead skin cells), cause tineas. Tineas spread from person to person and from animals, through direct contact or through contact with an infected surface. You’ll automatically think gym, shower, swimming pool or spa but they can also be at the beach, in your hotel room carpet, on your dog…all sorts of places!
Usually, your immune system can fend off tineas; however, if it’s weakened, for any reason, you’ll be more susceptible to them.
Onychomycosis, also called tinea unguium, is what your doctor calls nail fungus.
Can Your Diet Help to Prevent Nail Fungus?
There’s no particular diet that will prevent or cure nail fungus. However, a diet rich in colourful vegetables and fruits, protein and healthy fats will help to keep your immune system well, and a healthy immune system will be better able to fight off pathogens, including fungi and yeasts.
Vitamin and mineral supplements are not necessary to improve nail health in otherwise healthy individuals. A well-rounded diet that includes foods rich in vitamins and minerals is sufficient. However, Biotin supplements have been proven to strengthen nails, and strong nails are more disease resistant.
Good skin health is linked to a healthy blood-sugar level, particularly if you’re diabetic. So, if you’re a sugaraholic, read this article to help beat the addiction.
Fermented foods are useful for improving gut health, and a healthy gut is important for a healthy body, including skin and nails.
Garlic can be useful, too. Include it in your diet, providing it agrees with your digestive system, and use it topically. You can rub a cut clove on the fungus and then massage it in with a bit of oil of your choosing. Or you can add Garlic essential oil or smashed cloves to your foot bath.
Exercise and Rest Are Important Too
Regular exercise will also help to prevent and treat nail fungus, because it increases blood flow to your limbs.
As we age, our circulatory system becomes more sluggish, so exercise is vitally important to keep blood moving through our arteries, veins and capillaries. Good circulation enables cells that are designed to wipe out pathogens to get to where they need to be.
Resting and sleeping are also important, because a well-rested body is better able to fight off infections, including fungi and yeast.
An Ounce of Prevention is Worth a Pound of Cure
It’s always better to prevent disease, if possible, and while some of us are more prone to fungi than others, there are things we can all do to lessen the odds of being infected with it:
- Keep your nails short and neatly trimmed. Don’t pick at or tear off nails.
- Wash and brush your pedicure tools with soap and hot water and dry thoroughly with a hot hair dryerafter each use. Don’t share tools with other family members. Store your tools in a closed container.
- Wash and inspect your feet for signs of infection everyday.
- Use a nail brush to clean your nails. Soap and the action of scrubbing helps to break down spores. Always dry between your toes thoroughly.
- Wear sandals or shoes whenever you’re in a place where people might walk barefoot.
- Clean your sandals and shoes regularly.
- Wear socks that wick moisture from your feet. Change your socks at least once a day. Take off your socks as soon as you can if they become wet or dirty. Take off your shoes and socks whenever it’s reasonable to do so, and expose your feet to sunlight whenever possible.
- Wash your hands after handling your pets or other animals. Don’t walk barefoot where animals live.
- Don’t use polish or wear artificial nails if you’re prone to fungal infections or if you think you might have one. Hiding infections under paint just makes them worse, because it prevents air and light from getting at them. Finger-nail fungal infections are much more common in people who wear artificial nails.
- If you visit a nail salon, be sure the technician cleans and disinfects tools and pedicure area according to health regulations.
How To Treat Nail Fungus
Your doctor might prescribe anti-fungal ointments if you have a minor infection. Sometimes, oral medications are prescribed, particularly if a nail fungus is rampant or causing you pain. Before taking oral medications, read about them, because they can cause unpleasant side-effects and it’s always best to be fully informed about your medications.
Lasers are also being used by dermatologists to eradicate funguses. They’re generally used in conjunction with topical prescription ointments. They, like all nail treatments, require months to complete and they are expensive. I’ve heard from some people that they are very effective, while others report less success. That’s how it is with fungal infections: Some of them are tenacious and each of us is different, so it’s hard to say what the outcome of any treatment will be.
In any case, nail fungus treatments take time to be effective, because they require the infected nail to grow from the cuticle to the free edge, which can take anywhere from six to 18 months, depending upon a person’s age and physical condition.
Also, spores are hearty little things. Even when they appear to have been eradicated they can still be lurking in the nail bed. So, when you stop the treatment prematurely they “take-off” again.
Whatever treatment you choose to follow, it’s important to commit to it and complete it, and then continue to be on guard to prevent reinfection. Studies have shown that the most common way for us to get fungus is from family members. So, if someone close to you has fungus, use common sense and take precautions to prevent catching it. Equally, if you have fungus, take precautions to prevent spreading it!
Novel Ways to Prevent and Treat Nail Fungus
Anyone who has visited my esthetics salon, The Woodway, knows that if I suspect you have a fungus, I recommend you keep your feet and nails super clean, and that you spray them lightly before bed with a3% solution of hydrogen peroxide. It almost always kills athlete’s foot and I’ve seen it wipe out infections which cause a jagged yellowing of the nail bed.
Hydrogen peroxide doesn’t do anything for infections that cause the nail to become very thick. In my experience, those conditions are all but impossible to cure, and by that I mean I’ve spoken to lots of people who’ve tried everything, including their doctor’s remedies, and nothing has helped.
That said, impeccable hygiene does seem to improve even the worst nails. Fungi and yeasts feast on debris, so if you scrub it away they suffer instead of you suffering.
Here’s a pleasant evening ritual: Make a foot bath with a mixture of eight cups (2 litres) of hot water and a half cup (125 ml) of 3% hydrogen peroxide and soak your feet for 20 minutes. At the end of your soak, scrub your feet and nails with a soapy brush. Rinse and dry thoroughly then follow with a topical treatment of your choice.
UV Shoe-Lights Are Effective at Killing Yeast and Fungal Spores
While researching this post, I was fascinated to find in this peer-reviewed paper, a recommendation for ultraviolet shoe-lights. Of course! It makes perfect sense: Our shoes harbour the spores that cause foot problems, so, every time we put on our shoes we reintroduce said spores to our feet. The ultraviolet shoe-lights kill the spores just as sunlight does. Brilliant!
Essential Oils Powder Proves Powerful
I also found the ingredients for a foot powder which “completely inhibited both aerobic bacteria and yeast-fungi-mold proliferation for 8-hours in spite of being in an enclosed environment compatible to microbial proliferation.”
The recipe for the foot powder wasn’t included in the paper, but it includes arrowroot, baking soda, basil essential oil, tea tree oil, sage oil and clove oil.
Those of you who know me have probably guessed that I am concocting my own version of this foot powder. To it, I’ve added Thyme, Oregano, Eucalyptus oil, Menthol and Camphor. I will also make an aloe-based ointment and a foot spray using rubbing alcohol as a base, because I believe spraying beneath the nail helps to control and kill infections.
I will also be using it, along with other disinfectants, to clean the floor of The Woodway after each pedicure treatment. If you’d like to know more, please contact me. (Remember, it’s important to check with an aromatherapist and your doctor or pharmacist before using essential oils if you are pregnant, on medication or you have any medical condition.)
Yes! Vicks VapoRub Works
Apple Cider Vinegar – Of course!
Everyone is abuzz about Apple Cider Vinegar these days, and with good reason. It is a probiotic that is useful in maintaining a healthy gut. To use it against your toe-nail fungus, put it in your foot bath. Add a half a cup (125 ml) to approximately eight cups (two litres) hot water and soak for 2o minutes. Dry thoroughly after, and follow with a topical treatment of your choice.
Don’t Let Nail Fungus Prevent You Having Fun
It’s summer, and time to get your toes out. If you’ve got fungus, then see your doctor and start treating it, including using some of the remedies we’ve touched on here.
Please leave a comment below. Let the community know of you’ve found something to successfully combat nail fungus. Thanks for spending time here! 🙂