Toenail Fungus Treatment: 3 Steps to Get Rid of It Fast!

November 3, 2017
Toenail fungus treatment - Dr. Axe

Fungal infections that appear on the skin are one of the most common infections in humans. Many people are curious about natural toenail fungus treatment, as this is an issue that many folks struggle with. Few are aware that toenail fungus symptoms can actually be a sign of candida virus or yeast within your system.

“Onychomycosis” or tinea unguium is the name for the type of infection that causes the fungi to appear on the nails. This is caused by underlying fungal growth from dermatophytes, non-dermatophyte moulds and yeasts (mainly Candida species). (1

With dietary changes, supplements and certain essential oils, you can treat and eliminate the root cause of the toenail fungus, even when you’ve been struggling with it for years. I will take you through the exact steps of how to get rid of toenail fungus fast and for good.

I can tell you my own mother struggled with toenail fungus on her big toe for over 10 years, and the reason why she originally got it and then continued to struggle with this fungus was the chemotherapy she went through when diagnosed with breast cancer years ago. After going through chemo, she had systemic yeast and candida issues and then developed the toenail fungus. The exact treatment I detail below is what we used with her to successfully erase her fungus.


Symptoms of Toenail Fungus

Nail fungus (onychomycosis) is very common, with estimates showing that about 3 to 12 percent of the population suffers from fungal infections on their fingers or toes to some degree. (2) Older people are more likely to have nail fungus than younger people, and people with compromised immune systems are even more susceptible.

Signs that you’ve developed toenail fungus include:

  • Your nails becoming brittle or changing color, especially your big toe nail which is most likely to become infected — these are common symptoms of tinea unguium
  • A whitish-yellowish or brownish discoloration developing of the front or sides of the nails
  • Nails becoming soft, breaking easily or becoming thicker and changing shape
  • Pain around the nails
  • The nail detaching from the skin or nail bed
  • White patches forming on the surface of the nail, either in large blotches or small dots that are spread out (called “white superficial onychomycosis”)

Persistent fungal signs can show up slowly but last for years. Getting rid of toenail fungus can take some patience and requires time to fully heal. It can take several months until treatment is successful, but doing things the right way and getting rid of the underlying cause of nail fungus is the only thing that will keep the infection from coming back again.

There are actually four types of onychomycosis or toenail fungus:

  1. Distal subungual onychomycosis — the most common type, representing 58–85 percent of all cases. It’s characterized by an easily crumbled nail, thick with discoloration and subungual hyperkeratosis (scaling under the nail).
  2. Proximal subungual onychomycosis — common in immunosuppressed patients, the nail plate becomes white near the cuticle.
  3. White superficial onychomycosis — the nail becomes white and may turn crumbly.
  4. Candidal onychomycosis — the nail plate actually separates from the nail bed. (3)

What causes toenail fungus?

Well, essentially it’s an imbalance of bad bacteria to good bacteria in your body. Just like with other health conditions that stem from gut-related problems, when you don’t have enough good bacteria living within your gut, you wind up developing high levels of yeast and fungus (bad bacteria) in your body that can show up on your skin.

Besides poor gut health, other risk factors that can tip the scale in terms of an infection forming include:

  • Having athlete’s foot
  • Coming into contact with fungi, for example in nail salons, contaminated swimming pools, gyms and saunas
  • Damaged nail beds
  • Wearing dirty or tight shoes
  • Skin conditions, such as psoriasis
  • Circulation problems in the legs, from existing conditions like diabetes or artery disease
  • A weakened immune system
  • Genetic predisposition

In particular, fungal nail infections can be caused by three different types of fungus, either by themselves or in combination:

  1. Dermatophytes — fungus that grows on the skin, hair and nails but don’t penetrate tissues of the body. Athlete’s foot or Trichophyton rubrum is the most common dermatophyte and can actually infect the toenails. Infection can also begin by touching objects that have dermatophytes on them, such as nail clippers, nail files, socks, shoes, shower floors, etc. Dermatophytes are the cause of most fungal toenail infections.
  2. Yeasts — a type of fungus that grows on the skin and nails. While already pre-existing on the human body, illness, antibiotic or birth control pill use and immune system issues may spur an overgrowth of yeast and spawn a yeast infection.
  3. Molds — referred to as nondermatophytes, it’s a type of fungus that often grows in soil and may grow on the skin and nails. It’s not usually transferred between people. (4)

The genus of fungi that causes tinea unguium or toenail fungus is called trichophyton, and it can also lead to ringworm, jock itch, and even infections of the beard, skin and scalp.


Convention Toenail Fungus Treatment

For problems of the toenail, most people turn to dermatologists or podiatrists for general foot health as well, especially in cases where the nail infection goes beyond the nails. Some people also use topical treatments or medications to get rid of their toenail fungus, but often these don’t work long term or solve the underlying issue. (5)

Some drugs designed to kill nail fungus that you might have tried in the past include itraconazole or terbinafine. These might be taken for anywhere from three to six months to treat fungal nail infections, but many people will still find that the fungus comes back. (6)

Medications in tablet form are much more effective at fighting nail fungus than topical treatments are, but they aren’t guaranteed to work and also have more side effects, long treatment durations and possible interactions. (7) Another downside is that they are like putting a Band-aid® on the problem — they’re not addressing why the fungus developed in the first place.


The Diet to Help Eliminate Toenail Fungus 

 

I consider the real key to removing fungus on your toenails is usually addressing your diet. This is the best natural toenail fungus treatment plan that I’ve researched.

The dietary protocol for eliminating yeast overgrowth includes three steps:

  1. Cutting off the supply of sugar that feeds the yeast and bad bacteria
  2. Introducing beneficial foods that help replace good bacteria in the gut
  3. Including more fiber, healthy sources of protein and nourishing fats in your diet

Step 1: Eliminating the Source of Yeast and Fungus

The first step in treating toenail fungus is mimicking the most effective and natural ways to fight candida. In other words, you’ll likely need to make some changes in your diet and adopt a candida dietThe most crucial tactic for treating candida overgrowth is to eliminate what feeds the yeast and candida virus living in your digestive tract in the first place: sugars and conventional grain products.

Candida albicans is a common yeast that grows inside the human body. In healthy people, other bacteria and immune cells keep this yeast under control so it doesn’t cause any problems, but in some people candida can become overgrown and cause infections in various areas. One of the ways candida shows up is through the skin where it can cause noticeable reactions or infections. Other ways are on the mouth, vagina and anus.

What triggers candida in the first place? This overgrowth of yeast can develop from a number of factors, including antibiotic use, poor digestion, low immune system function, a high sugar and grain diet, stress or hormonal changes. All these create an acidic environment that encourages yeast growth and the presence of candida. Many people opt for over-the-counter anti-fungal creams or even medications, but they only treat the symptoms, not the environment that allows candida to flourish.

Once it takes hold, the bacteria and yeast thrive off of sugar molecules entering the digestive tract through the foods you eat. That’s exactly why you need to eliminate the underlying cause, which is likely stemming from your diet (and possibly also your lifestyle to some degree). This will help ultimately restore your body’s pH balance, improve your immune function and boost the presence of good bacteria in your gut.

It will be hard to effectively overcome any type of yeast infection or toenail fungus without kicking your sugar addiction and going almost sugar-free, as well as grain-free.

Step 2: Replenishing Healthy Bacteria

After cutting off the life-supply to the yeast causing the problem, the next step in terms of changing your diet is to start consuming loads of food that support the growth of good bacteria.

Superfoods that will help replenish your levels of healthy bacteria include various fermented foods, things like cultured vegetables including sauerkraut and kimchi. I strongly recommend that you start having a daily serving of fermented vegetables along with other probiotic foods like fermented dairy or kombucha. 

For example, yogurt and kefir benefits include enhancing immune function and restoring gut health by building up your body’s defense mechanisms. Additionally, you should also take a quality probiotic supplement to help speed up the healing process.

Step 3. Consume More Fiber, Protein and Quality Fats

Next, start consuming more of a high-fiber diet. Due to its structure and our inability to absorb it, fiber passes through our digestive system unabsorbed by digestive enzymes and acids within the stomach, taking with it toxins, waste, fat and cholesterol particles that can accumulate within the gut.

Because you’re removing the majority of sugars and grains from your diet, in addition to fiber, I also recommend increasing the amount of protein-rich foods you’re eating. Make sure to buy grass-fed meat; organic, cage-free eggs or poultry; raw, unpasteurized dairy; and wild-caught fish — this is key for obtaining enough protein while also reducing toxins in your diet.

On top of quality fiber and protein foods, your gut also needs plenty of healthy fats, especially coconut oil. Coconut oil contains caprylic acid and lauric acid, which are antibacterial and antimicrobrial fatty acids that help your body kill off candida.

If you can consume a diet that’s high in good fats and proteins along with some quality fiber — and really reduce the sugar and starches — then you’ll be on the path to eliminating candida in your body, and therefore signs of toenail fungus. Here’s some more details on which types of foods to limit or remove from your diet in order to combat yeast and fungal overgrowth…

Foods to Eat Plenty Of:

  • Colorful vegetables – these nutrient-packed whole foods provide essential vitamins and minerals to help with healing the gut and boosting the immune system.
  • Cultured dairy or fermented foods (ideally organic and raw) – these are beneficial for replacing good bacteria in the gut since they provide probiotics. Probiotics help control yeast and also have numerous immune-enhancing effects. For other sources of probiotics, in addition to yogurt or kefir try cultured foods like kimchi, kombucha or sauerkraut.
  • Vegetable juices/green drinks – Green vegetables will help improve your immune response and flush waste, toxins and bacteria from your gut. Avoid adding fruit and sugar to your green drinks and focus on fresh veggies instead. You can use a small amount of organic stevia extract to help sweeten your veggie juices since it contains no sugar.
  • Coconut oil, ground flax and chia seeds – Flax and chia seeds are anti-fungal and provide healthy, healing sources of fats. Cococnut oil does thr same, plus it contains lauric acid which is a powerful antimicrobial and antibacterial fatty acid.
  • Garlic, turmeric and cinnamon – all effective for fighting bacterial infections, virus and poor gut health
  • Unsweetened cranberry juice – Cranberry juice creates an environment that is unpleasant for yeast. Make sure to look for a 100 percent pure cranberry juice that has no added sugar.
  • High quality proteins from grass-fed, pasture-raised, cage-free and wild-caught chicken, beef, eggs and fish.

Foods to Remove or Greatly Limit:

  • Sugar – all types as much as possible, including cane sugar, coconut sugar, honey, maple syrup. Sugar feeds yeast, so you should avoid it at all costs if you can.
  • Grains – grains wind up breaking down into sugar molecules which as you know, feed candida, yeast and bad bacteria. Even whole grains (like oats, rice, quinoa) are capable of worsening the problem, but you should especially limit refined grains like the kind used in baked goods, breads, cereals, muffins and packaged foods.
  • Fruit or fruit juice – even though fruit is generally healthy, it is high in sugar and can make candida worse. Fruit juice also lacks fiber and therefore causes blood sugar spikes that can lead to cravings, low energy, inflammation and poor immune function.
  • Alcohol – produces more yeast and should be avoided. Many alcoholic drinks are also high in sugar.
  • Food intolerances – Some yeast infections are due to food allergies. Try to avoid foods that cause negative reactions of any kind and pay attention to symptoms you experience when eating things like dairy, eggs, certain nuts, wheat-containing foods and grains. If you think you have a food allergy or sensitivity, try an elimination diet to figure out what foods are causing intolerance and work on removing those foods.

If this seems like an overwhelming task, keep in mind that many people have successfully done it, plus it doesn’t necessarily need to be forever.

Following this protocol for several months might be able to help solve the problem for good, and then you can slowly reintroduce sources of sugar like fruit, or whole grains, while monitoring your progress. However keep in mind that some candida or yeast sufferers have lived with their condition for years, so combating the issue might take more than just a few weeks or months.

Eating in accordance with an anti-candida diet for six months or more might be needed for some people, and for a percentage eliminating all refined carbs, sugary foods and alcohol permanently might be necessarily in order to prevent the overgrowth of fungus from returning.


Supplements & Essential Oils for Getting Rid of Toenail Fungus

The final step to removing fungal and yeast infections is taking supplements, such as the probiotic supplement that I mentioned above. A quality probiotic supplement will help you get rid of the yeast and candida in your system that’s truly causing your toenail fungus. I personally recommend a probiotic supplement that has at the very least 10+ strains of probiotics with at least 15 billion CFUs.

Additionally, I would take olive leaf extract. Olive leaf benefits include its powerful antimicrobial action that can help eliminate yeast within your system. There are other supplements, meanwhile, that contain enzymes like cellulose and hemicellulose, which can kill fungus within your system, so look into trying those enzymes as well.

Last but not least, the secret to natural and effective toenail fungus treatment — and getting rid of it for good — is using essential oils.  I personally recommend two powerful essential oils below if you want to get rid of toenail fungus. I consider this to be one of the most crucial steps! Even if you do this one thing to solve your problem, with or without changing your diet (although you should change your diet too!), you may be able to get rid of toenail fungus.

The first oil you want to use is oil of oregano. In fact, oregano oil benefits are superior to prescription antibiotics, as it has powerful antifungal properties. Not only can oil of oregano kill fungus, it can kill mold and other causes of candida within your system too.

try using oil of oregano along with another essential oil called melaleuca, which is also known as tea tree oil. The uses of tea tree oil will astound you, including its ability to act as a natural antifungal agent. Use these two oils topically on your toenail fungus daily. I recommend three drops of oil of oregano and two drops of melaleuca applied directly on the toenail, four times a day ideally.

The key to effectively fighting toenail fungus with essential oils is consistency. You need to be religious with using essential oils to see lasting results. You can’t do this once a day, then miss a day here and there and say you’re not seeing changes. If you use these two oils four times a day for two months, in 90+ percent of cases, it will clear up your toenail fungus for good!

Trust me, my mom had this condition for 10 years as I mentioned above. She went through chemotherapy. She had loads and loads of candida and yeast in her system. She followed this essential oils routine, and after two months, it amazingly completely cleared up her toenail fungus.

Read Next: 101 Essential Oil Uses & Benefits


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