How common is fungus?
Fungus plays an ever-present role in our environment. It is found living in water, air, soil and even on our bodies. There are 100.000 species of fungus. In a recent study done by Dr. Francis Collins, it was discovered that there were over 80 genera of fungus found on the feet alone. Included in this was yeast saccharomyces, which is used to make bread and beer. Within the scientific community it is sometimes referred to as “A Kingdom Unto Its Own” because of its complexity and nature.
What is nail fungus or Onychomycosis?
According to WebMD, “A fungal nail infection occurs when a fungus attacks a fingernail, a toenail, or the skin under the nail, called the nail bed. Fungi (plural of fungus) can attack your nails through small cuts in the skin around your nail or through the opening between your nail and nail bed….If you are healthy, a fungal nail infection probably won’t cause serious problems. But it may look bad, hurt, or damage your nail or nail bed.
A fungal nail infection could lead to more serious problems if you have diabetes or a weak immune system. Talk to your doctor about the best way to treat a nail infection if you have one of these problems.”
Fungal infections occur in toenails more often than in fingernails. Researchers have also discovered that cracked toenails from fungi can serve as a portal for bacteria and fungi to actually enter the body.
What types of fungus may get on the skin and nails?
There are two main groups:
The genus Candida includes about 154 species. Six of them are more frequently isolated in human infections. Candida is an ever-present fungi organism and normal part of ordinary vegetable life of the intestines, skin, mouth, vagina, and stool. However, it requires a very delicate balance of coexistence in the system otherwise it becomes opportunistic and overpopulates very quickly and becomes toxic. According to Dr. William R. Kellas, co-founder of the Center for Advanced Medicine in Encinitas, CA, bacteria can multiply 16,777 time in 24 hours, and yeast can multiply almost as fast.
Dermatophytes are fungi that require keratin for growth so they only live in dead tissue, such as your nails and dead skin cells. Dematophyte are the most likely culprits for infections (which can also be called tinea). Dermatophyte infections of the skin can cause a round, scaly rash that may also have blisters. When the nails are infected they become thick, split, become dull, and may fall off.
How do you identify that you have nail fungus?
How common is nail fungus?
Fungus may be more widespread than expected. According to Dr. Collins, more than 29 million Americans suffer from fungal infections.
According to Dr. Henry Collins, anatomy, medical terminology, physiology and pathophysiology expert, “it is estimated that 2-18% of the worldwide population has some form of toenail fungus. Some experts say that this translates to over 35 million people. The condition is more prevalent among adults and increases with age. For example, 25% of adults experience some form of nail fungus by age 40, and 50% of seniors will experience it by age 70.”
How do you get nail fungus?
According to WebMD “Anyone can get nail fungus, but infections are more common in people over the age of 60. For people who have diabetes or a weakened immune system, nail fungus can present serious risks. Usually, nail fungus occurs when fungus enters the nail through a small trauma (cut or break) in the nail. Nail fungus is not caused by poor hygiene. Nail fungus can be spread from person to person. It may be hard to determine exactly where or how a fungal infection is acquired. However, a warm, wet place (for example, a locker room) is a good place for a fungus to grow.”
The dermatophytes type can be spread from person to person, from household items such as clothing, towels and bedding. Walking barefoot in wet area or work that involves keeping your hands wet, wearing work boots where you sweat a lot – these are all conditions that can contribute to Dermatophyte infections. The skin has a natural mechanism of protection, but that protection can be compromised by trauma, irritation or maceration.
Several other possible causes may be:
- Cuticles are living skin and necessary to the health of the nails. Some manicurists cut the cuticle to close to the skin which can ruin the protective covering that allow fungi and bacteria to get under the skin. Dirty tools can also be a contributing factor.
- Improper cutting of the nail may also cause problems. Nails, particularly toenails, should never be cut below the top of the toe. At the top edge and directly under the nail (finger or toe), there is a fine membrane called the hyponychium. The purpose of the hyponychium is to seal the nail to the nail bed thus prohibiting any foreign substance from penetrating the nail bed. When the hyponychium is broken the nail bed becomes vulnerable to bacteria.
- Trauma from accidents can create conditions that open the door for fungus. ( ie. trapping finger(s) in doors, or windows; dropping heavy items on foot; wearing ill fitting shoes, or athletes who run distance regularly, often unknowingly jam the big toe against the interior of the shoe with each step.) In addition, certain chemicals can traumatize the nail so as to allow conditions ripe for nail fungus.
- There several pharmaceuticals that will cause the manifestation of fungus in finger and toenails as well as skin, such as insulin, chemo therapy, heart medication, blood thinners and sometimes contraceptive pills.
- Iron deficiency common in women can also imbalance the natural flora manifesting fungus.
Is fungus contagious?
Yes. Certain fungal infections can spread between people from contact of the infected area but most develop from naturally instances on the human body or in the environment from animals, clothes, fabric and soil. Fungi love warm dark places so if your socks or shoes have an offensive odor – you are smelling bacteria and fungus that may spread! Wash and air them or just toss them out.
Try to keep the infected area covered – but not so tight that air can’t circulate. Fungi love warm, cozy environments and cool environments can cause skin fungus to die so keep your home cool while recuperating.
When fungus manifests in just one toe, when wearing a sock, a step that can be taken to prevent it spreading from the socks is to wash and dry the sock in the usual way, then place in a plastic bag and put them in the freezer for 24 hours. Fungus cannot survive freezing temperatures. This method of killing bacteria and fungus should also be used with underwear where jock itch has become a problem. All of these things can mitigate contagion.
How can I prevent fungus?
Along with good health practices, good hygiene is the key to preventing fungal infections.
- Keep your fingernails and toenails on the short side and keep them clean. Don’t forget them just because they are painted!
- Maintain a clean tub and shower at home.
- Wear sandals or flip flops if you have to use a public shower such as in your gym or health club.
- If you have sweaty feet or sweat during exercise, wear shoes with plenty of ventilation and remove your socks and shoes promptly.
- If you have an open cut keep it protected and clean as this is an entry point for fungus and bacteria.
- Make sure your salon is reputable if you get manicures and pedicures.
- Be aware of the standards of hygiene practiced by the nail technician, as well as the general appearance off the salon is very important. Fungus can be transferred and implanted from one client to another by tools and implements that are not washed or sanitized properly. Salons are not required to sterilize their tools, but by law are required to sanitize. Ask your nail technician how she/he maintains sanitized tools and equipment, if they are not practicing required procedure then change your nail tech and or salon. Another way of limiting the risk is to bring your own personal tools.
The tools you keep in your bathroom drawer must be sanitized as well to keep from fungus and bacteria!
What is the best way to maintain a healthy balance in our bodies?
The expression “I’m stressed out” is tossed around like a basketball, and all too often not taken seriously, when stress is public enemy #1. Stress often causes sleep interruption, or no sleep at all. The days following can be weary and disorientated, with good eating habits giving way to either not eating at all, or over eating to console ourselves. Workout routines are often forfeited as well. This is the beginning of compromised health. We become vulnerable to viruses such as colds coughs, sore or strep throat or more.
At that point it is all too easy to reach into the pharmaceutical warehouse. OTC items found in your local store can be of some help when you’re feeling sick, but it is important to understand these are drugs. A prescription for a 10 day supply of antibiotics is common, but once again, there may be a price to pay. While antibiotics destroy bad bacteria, they also destroy the good bacteria that are so important to a healthy gut. If you do need to take antibiotics make sure you replenish beneficial bacteria with yogurt, fermented raw foods such as cabbage and probiotic supplements.
The first health defense is good nutrition consisting of rainbow colors of fresh and ideally organic foods. Exercise is so very important. Certain things are best left out of your diet such as avoiding high consumption of animal byproducts, sugar, dairy, caffeine, wheat and especially white flour.
How do you alleviate fungus?
There are numerous prescription drugs on the market that you can obtain from your doctor. For those who are looking for a more natural approach, seek out anti-fungal products that use natural ingredients. A key ingredient amongst these that are highly effective are those formulated with grapefruit seed pulp and extracts.
Using proven natural remedies, paired with a healthy lifestyle and precaution, is the best way to treat and prevent future issues.
Collins, Dr. F “Yes, It’s true: There’s a Fungus Among Us”
May 29, 2013
Gittleman, AL “7 Steps to Stall Yeast Infection”
May 24, 2013
McCombs, Dr. J “Break the Yeast Cycle”
May 25, 2013
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