Oh, No! Nail Fungus…

Shortened oldie-but-goodie by Debra.  Full version available as a handout in the store. 

What is nail fungus?

Typically caused by microscopic organisms with the sweet name of “dermatophytes,” nail fungus manifests as discoloration and thickening of the nail, most commonly the toe nails. When you’ve got it, sandals are out because the nails are unsightly, and as they thicken, nails also become deformed. Wearing shoes can be an exercise in torture, and the nails can separate from the nail bed.

What causes nail fungus? Dermatophytes (such as candida) love dark and damp locations. Experts say we can pick up fungus in places like locker rooms or in puddles around pools, by wearing shoes that are too tight so the nails can’t breathe, or wearing the same shoes every day. Nail polish doesn’t let the nails breathe either. Wearing socks that aren’t clean may invite fungi. Trauma to the nails may lead to nail fungus. But for the most part, the trick to prevention is just “Keep your nails clean and dry!”

Can what we eat make a difference too?

Yes, and we’ll talk about that in a bit…

If you have nail fungus, how can you get rid of it?

There are prescription creams and prescription oral medications, but these are expensive and come with side effects. If they do work (often they don’t), these meds take from 9-12 months to affect change. Natural treatments also take 9-12 months, cost much less and don’t have side effects.

For starters, file your nails straight and keep them short. Smooth any rough edges. Yes, “file” as opposed to cut, because it’s virtually impossible to cut a thickened nail infected with fungus.

Treatment protocol: While there are choices, I’ve found it most effective to mix and match solutions in order to keep the fungi, which are smart living organisms, guessing. For the quickest and best results, soak your feet as described below. If you don’t have time to soak, dry your feet and then apply any of the strong-smelling oils (singly or mixed together) such as tea tree, neem, rosemary, oregano or thuja. Another topical option is liquid grapefruit seed extract.  All these are powerful fungicides. They each have antiseptic, antibacterial, antiparasitical, antiviral, analgesic and antifungal properties.

Another oil you might include in your mixture is essential oil of lavender because it smells good, helps fight the infection and prevents skin irritation.

Do you need to use all these oils? No. But I like to mix a few in a bottle and apply with a brush (such as the kind you get with nail polish). My brush came with a ready-made tea-tree solution I originally purchased years ago – we still sell it and it’s made by Thursday Plantation. The brush is easier to work with than a Q-tip or cotton ball (these also two absorb the solution, which means you waste a fair amount). If I didn’t have my brush, I’d use my finger to apply.

Topical solutions should be applied twice daily, morning and before bed.

I always add some 12% hydrogen peroxide, which we sell, to my mixture too, because it bleaches out the yellow within a week or so. This gives me hope while the other stuff is slowly working. (FYI: hydrogen peroxide bubbles around the nail and may turn the skin white for about 10 minutes. This is normal and no cause for alarm.) Hydrogen peroxide also helps kill fungus, so brush under the nail bed and over the top of the nail.

Yes, you can speed up the process by soaking toenails for 15-20 minutes in basin full of warm water and raw apple cider vinegar mixed in equal proportion. Or make a boric acid powder solution, which was my grandmother’s favorite remedy. To make a boric acid powder solution: In a pot large enough to hold your foot, bring water to a boil and then stir in a few tablespoons of boric acid powder.

Cool mixture (optional: add a few capfuls of hydrogen peroxide). Soak feet for 15-20 minutes. When done with either soak, dry your toenails thoroughly.  Apply your favorite topical mixture. (Save the soaking solution and use several times, even though it will look yucky.)

What you eat is important. Yes, take probiotics because the good bugs will help fight the fungus. Eat yogurt and kefir, but eat those unsweetened, because the bad bugs and fungus feed on sugar (every time you indulge in sugar or white pasta that turns into sugar, the dermatophytes throw a party). And fungus loves it when our systems are acidic. So alkalize. If you want to know more about this, talk to me.

If you’ve spent years developing a good case of nail fungus, you’ll need a good year to get rid of it. If you stop treatment before the fungus is completely gone, chances are survivor bugs will infect the nail all over again. Eat sugar? Winning the war will also take longer. I still treat my nails each morning by brushing them with my solution of the moment. Today my little bottle happens to have hydrogen peroxide with some grapefruit seed extract and a little lavender.

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