We hear the word, “fungus,” and we immediately cringe with worry, but what exactly is it? Technically speaking, it’s an organism that feeds on organic matter such as molds, mushrooms, and yeast. It can sometimes be very helpful for the body; however, fungus can also wreak havoc on certain systems. Both fingernail fungus and toenail fungus are typical occurrences. Below are the most common questions asked about nail fungus.
What is nail fungus?
Nail fungus, or onychomycosis, is an infection, usually starting underneath the nail as a white or yellow spot.
What are the symptoms of nail fungus?
As there are many different kinds of fungi, symptoms may vary depending on the type of fungus that manifests. Generally speaking, you may have a fungus infection if one or more of your nails show:
- Crumbly or brittle edges
- Distorted shape
- Thickened and dark in color
- Dullness in color, loss of natural nail shine
- Separation from the nail bed
- Pain in the affected fingertips or toes
- A slight foul odor from the nail
What causes nail fungus?
Fungi are microscopic organisms that develop and live off organic matter. It doesn’t need sunlight to survive, but thrives in warm, moist environments such as water tanks, pools, and showers/bathrooms. Fungi can get into your nail through tiny cuts near the nail bed or if there’s a separation of the nail from the nail bed. It becomes a problem if your nails are continually exposed to the fungi or the environment where it thrives. This is why these infections are more common in toenails than fingernails.
Who is most at risk?
Aging is one of the most common risk factors, and one completely out of our control. As we age, our blood circulation diminishes, nails may become more thickened with age and grow more slowly, and there are more years of exposure to fungi.
Nail fungus also tends to affect more men than women, especially if there is a family history of nail fungus. Other risk factors include:
- Athlete’s foot
- Minor nail injuries that damage the nail
- Diabetes, compromised immune system diseases, or circulation problems
- Heavy sweating
- Humid work environments
- Walking barefoot in damp, moist environments
- Wearing shoes and socks that don’t absorb moisture
Can you cure nail fungus?
Although it is sometimes difficult to treat, especially if the infection becomes extensive, it is a curable condition. You can use home remedies, change your diet, use over-the-counter products, or ask your doctor for a prescription. If you have a history of nail infections or any of the above risk factors, then there is also the possibility of recurrence. This is why you’ll want to pay close attention to your nails if you have one or more of the above risk factors.
Best Treatment for Nail Fungus
If you are someone who would rather take a more natural and alternative route for curing your nail fungus, then the below will be a good place to start. There are some foods that you will need to avoid because they provide natural sugars that fungi thrives on. Changing your diet for the long-term can help prevent the fungus from recurring in the future as well.
It’s important to note here that fungus can take quite a long time to go away, so patience will be a virtue. Some people have actually battled it for more than a year before seeing any results or having to go to the doctor. If you go three to six months without seeing any improvement at all in symptoms or if symptoms get worse, it will be time to seek out medical attention and prescription therapies. Use your judgment and decide if the symptoms are mild enough to treat yourself or severe enough to be treated by a professional.
Best foods to avoid if you have nail fungus:
It would be easier to list the foods you should avoid than give a list of foods that are helpful for fungal infections. You should avoid the following foods while fighting nail fungus:
- High-sugar fruits like melons and mango. These are high in natural sugars which feeds the fungus to help it grow. You should still eat fruit regularly, but while fighting this infection, limit your intake to 1-2 daily.
- Gluten products. This will be a tough one because nearly everything has gluten. Avoid wheat pastas, breads, and other gluten products by simply shopping for gluten-free substitutes for a while instead. Gluten breaks down into sugar, which fungi can use to grow big and strong.
In essence, for the next several months, aim for a gluten-free diet with less added fruits. Keep in mind that it’s the sugar the fungus will feed off of. Eat more wholesome, natural, and organic foods to avoid intake of sugar and refined carbohydrates.
Natural Remedies and Creams:
Here are some good home remedies if you don’t want to buy over-the-counter creams or get prescriptions. Whenever using these options, apply them liberally to the whole tip of the toe/finger and nail. Get under the nail as much as you can.
- Tea tree oil foot with vitamin E oil: Tea tree oil is a natural antibiotic found in most drug stores. Mix these oils in equal parts and apply to the infected nail twice a day.
- Vinegar, water and vitamin E: Soak your infected hand or foot in equal parts warm water and vinegar for about 15-30 minutes. Dry and apply vitamin E oil to the infected nail. Do this twice a day.
- Vicks Vapor Rub, if caught early: Apply this to the infected nail and wrap a Band-Aid around it or let it air dry. You can remove the Band-Aid once the rub is dried. Do this twice a day.
- Apple cider vinegar and baking soda: Soak the infected area in ACV for 10-15 minutes. Make a paste with baking soda and warm water and apply liberally to the nail.
Yahoo Contributor J Marie Lowry on Home Remedies for Nail Fungus
Dr. Weil’s Guide to Nail Fungus