Various forms of fungi take up residence within and on our bodies, particularly in warm moist areas such as between the toes and the vagina as well as skin and nails. Fungi are a primitive vegetable, although officially, fungi have been bequeathed their own kingdom. If you’re not a green thumb and can’t grow a vegetable to save yourself, it must be good to know you can grow some kind of vegetation closer to home. Or maybe not. The most common fungal infections include ringworm, athlete’s foot, jock itch, thrush and onychomycosis, the medical term for manky toes and fingernails. Two common fungi are candida albicans and trichophyton rubrum. Fungi are spread by spores, so it is easy for the whole family and the dog to catch. Most fungal conditions are superficial and not a serious threat to your health. They should clear up within days, except manky toenails which tend to take far longer.
Symptoms differ according to the specific fungus and where it is located on the body.
Skin (includes jock itch, ringworm, tinea of the feet)
- Round, red ring with clear patch in centre (ringworm).
- Peeling and cracking.
- Pale white patches, often on the upper arm that don’t tan in the sun.
- Discolouration: white, cream, yellow and even green. Eeuw.
- Cracking and peeling.
- Itchy ears.
- Sometimes a fungal infection can coincide with other conditions including eczema and psoriasis.
What causes it?
- Working in occupations where you are constantly exposed to water such as a dish pig in a restaurant or a bartender (where there is a double whammy of yeasty beer and water).
- Communal showers such as swimming pools, gyms and boarding schools.
- Damp houses are a major health threat. Rising damp and rooms that never see the light of day will promote fungal growth and spores that infiltrate your home and body.
- If your immune system is under par, you are more likely to suffer from all sorts of infections, including fungal.
- If you have recurrent fungal infections, your problem may be more systemic (see Candida page 00).
- A history of taking antibiotics can set you up for fungal infections.
What to do
- Eat lots of garlic for its antifungal properties. Raw is better than cooked.
- Caprylic acid (found in coconut oil) has antifungal properties. This does not mean Iced Vovos and lamingtons are back on the table – cook with coconut oil and enjoy shredded coconut in muesli.
- Avoid the following (see page 00 for more details on the candida albicans diet).
- Sugar (including sugar added to foods eg cakes, soft drink, biscuits, most breakfast cereals, malt, molasses, honey and golden syrup).
- Fruit juice, grapes, dried fruit, melons (papaya, watermelon, rockmelon).
- Yeasted bread, sour dough, pizzas.
- Yeast spreads.
- Beer, wine, fortified wine, liqueurs, sparkling wine, champagne.
- Yellow cheese (camembert, brie etc), blue cheese.
- Garlic is a brilliant antifungal agent. Double up with it in food as well as a supplement. Take 1 or 2 garlic capsules made from freeze-dried whole garlic after dinner each night.
- Other herbs with antifungal properties include golden seal, tea-tree, eucalyptus, cinnamon, clove, thyme, oregano, barberry, olive leaf and calendula. Take in tablet or tincture form.
- A fungal infection is a sign the immune system is not doing its job adequately. Take a combined tablet of echinacea, vitamin C, zinc and the bioflavonoids.
- Restore microbial harmony. Take 1 or 2 capsules of probiotics each morning.
- If skin or nails are involved, apply an essential oil neat or in a cream. Test on a small area of skin first, just in case you have a reaction. The first oil to try is tea tree, and 9 times out of 10 it will work a treat. Depending on the variety, some fungi don’t respond as effectively to tea tree as other oils. The next one to try is the essential oil of thyme. Still no joy? Others to try are clove, eucalyptus, cinnamon and lavender in that order. Keep applying for a week after all symptoms appear to be gone, just to make sure. Nail infections are the most stubborn. Use a pipette or some implement that will get the oil under the nail bed as much as possible.
- After swimming or bathing, dry meticulously between the toes, under the breasts and any hard-to-reach area. Use a small towel or hairdryer.
- Don’t leave soggy speedos or sportswear on for longer than necessary.
- Wear shoes or thongs to local pools and public washing areas.
- Wash clothes, towels and bed linen in hot water to kill the fungus. Add a few drops of tea-tree or thyme oil to the final rinse.
- Fresh air and sunshine work wonders for blankets, doonas and pillows.
- If your house is damp, you can be certain there are fungi. If you are renting, move. If you own your damp house, then your health will benefit from attending to the problem. Maybe a new damp course needs to be put in. At the very least, invest in a heavy-duty dehumidifier for affected rooms.
- Could your pet have a fungal infection? If you have noticed your dog or cat (mouse or ferret) scratching, they may have a fungal infection. Wash them with a tea-tree based pet shampoo. Pet bedding should also be aired in the sunshine as much as possible.
- Paint an iodine solution (available from the chemist) between the toes. Being next to purple toes probably causes the fungus to drop dead from embarrassment as much as from the antifungal effect of iodine.
- Colloidal silver applied directly onto fungal bits also works well.
- Apple cider vinegar contains malic acid, a competent antifungal agent. Make sure it is traditionally made and still contains the ‘mother’ apple! Add 20 mls of apple cider vinegar to a cup of warm water[to what?] and rinse the affected area (scalp, groin, skin) with it.
- Don’t share bed linen or towels.
Mix the following blend into a cup of cornflour and put into a container with a shaker lid. It can be used after a shower directly onto the affected area or alternatively, the powder can be shaken into the sock or sprinkled directly into the shoe. Sprinkle a few drops into a bowl of warm water and soak the feet until the water becomes too cool. (Always make sure to dry feet thoroughly after soaking or bathing.)
- 4 drops of myrrh oil – fungicidal, anti-microbial, antiseptic
- 5 drops of lemongrass oil – deodorant, fungicidal, analgesic
- 6 drops of Cypress oil – deodorant, anti-sudorific
General fungal infections
Use 6 drops of the following blend in a cool compress or blend with 15 g vitamin E cream, adding 5 ml calendula-infused oil and apply as needed.
- 3 drops of lemon eucalyptus oil – fungicidal, deodorant
- 4 drops of tea-tree oil – fungicidal, refreshing, medicinal? What does this mean?, immune-stimulant
- 3 drops of geranium oil – fungicidal, anti-inflammatory, deodorant, tissue repair
At a glance
- Garlic is antifungal. Raw is best. Add to salad dressings or bruschetta.
- Avoid sugars, fruits, alcohol and yeasts that will exacerbate symptoms (see above).
- Take garlic capsules and/or antifungal herbs. Take in tablet or tincture form.
- Take probiotics each morning.
- Tea-tree oil is remarkably antifungal. Add neat to affected areas. Other oils that have an antifungal effect include thyme, clove, eucalyptus, cinnamon and lavender.
- Wash clothes, towels and bed linen in hot water, rinse with a few drops of tea-tree oil added to the water and line dry in the sunshine.
- If your house is damp, move.
- After showering, apply some diluted apple cider vinegar to the affected parts. (Apple cider vinegar contains malic acid, which has antifungal properties.)