Say No to Toenail Fungus: Try These Lifestyle and Dietary Habits

written by Dr. Bolanle Aina - Jun 5, 2023

Photo Credit: by Karolina Grabowska, Pexels
Photo Credit: by Karolina Grabowska, Pexels

Beautiful, healthy nails are not just a fashion statement—they also indicate our overall well-being. However, toenail fungal infections, known as onychomycosis, can dampen our confidence and cause discomfort. Whether you're an avid athlete, a fashion enthusiast, or simply someone who values good foot health, understanding how lifestyle and dietary habits can prevent toenail fungal infections is crucial. In this article, we will be exploring practical tips and nutritional insights that will help you safeguard your nails and keep them looking their best. Say goodbye to unsightly toenail fungus and say hello to happy healthy feet!

Toenail fungus or onychomycosis is a fungal infection of the toenails. It causes changes to the toenails and makes them unsightly. You may not easily notice these changes because fungal infections develop gradually.

Onychomycosis leaves your toenails discoloured, hard, and brittle, and in some cases, the toenail may separate from the nail bed. The infection is difficult to treat and takes time for people to get results, even with antifungal agents. Nonetheless, you could reduce your chances of infection by modifying your lifestyle and diet. After all, prevention is always better than cure.

What causes toenail fungus and why does it develop?

About 90% of toenail fungus is caused by a group of fungi called dermatophytes, while the remaining cases are due to non-dermatophytes. Fungi thrive under warm, moist conditions, and since the toenails provide this environment for them, there's an overgrowth of fungi in, under or on the toenails leading to an infection.

They usually get between your toenails and the nail bed through a cut on the nail or skin. It may spread to other nails and parts of the body if not treated. The infection is contagious and can spread through direct contact with an infected person or surface. So be sure to get a pedicure from a trusted salon because the tools may spread the infection if not properly sanitized.

Who is at risk for toenail fungus?

Fungi are ubiquitous, and anybody can contract toenail fungus. Generally, nail fungus affects about 2-14% of the population, but fungal toenail infections are more common.

However, some people are at higher risk of getting the infection.

The risk factors are:

• old age: people above 60

• pre-existing fungal infection on foot, e.g. athlete's foot

• nail injury

• male sex

• diabetes

• weakened immune system, e.g. In HIV patients

• diseases that affect blood circulation

• wearing non-breathable shoes

• walking barefoot in public

• use of artificial nails

A family history of the infection increases your risk of getting infected.

How does onychomycosis affect your toenails?

Toenail fungus may affect part of the nail or the entire nail and may spread to other toenails.

Though the infection develops over time, the following are common signs of a toenail fungal infection.

• discoloured nails: toenails appear white, yellow or brown depending on the type

• nails become brittle

• nails thicken or misshapen

• cracks on toenails

• toenails may separate from the nail bed

Toenail fungus may affect your toenails in multiple ways, and some infections may mimic it.

Therefore, you need a doctor's diagnosis to confirm the infection.

Tips for healthy toenails

How Can I Prevent Toenail Fungus?

Even though most toenail fungal infections are not painful, the ugly appearance it gives your toenails may make you bothered. So, prevention is key.

Doctors often prescribe oral antifungal medication like itraconazole (Sporanox) and topical preparation like efinaconazole (Jublia) to fight the infection. However, these antifungal drugs take a long time to completely eradicate the infection up to 9 months to a year.

Moreso, patients come down with some side effects.

Therefore, it is better to resort to lifestyle and dietary habits to prevent the infection in the first place.

Recommended lifestyle modifications to prevent toenail fungus are:

• Keeping your toenails trimmed and clean, and do not share personal items for nail trimming.

• Wear socks that absorb perspiration, change your socks regularly.

• Avoid non-breathable shoes and rotate your shoes regularly. It is important to choose your shoes carefully, avoid tight fitting shoes, and select suitable footwear for different activities.

• Dry your feet after swimming or showering and dry the water between your toes.

• Avoid artificial nails or polish

• Wear sandals in public shower

• Do not walk barefoot in public places like pool, gyms or locker rooms

What can I eat to prevent toenail fungus?

Diet and toenail fungus are linked. Some diets worsen the infection, while some will hep fight it.

Generally, foods that have antifungal and immune-boosting properties are beneficial in onychomycosis.

7 Good foods for toenail fungus include:

* Fruits and vegetables like spinach, tomatoes, white peaches, broccoli, and bananas have antifungal properties.

* Yoghurt and other probiotics contain live, healthy bacteria that will help fight nail fungus

* Garlic infused with raw honey is effective in preventing toenail fungus. One teaspoon three times daily is recommended.

* Coconut oil contains acids that inhibit the overgrowth of fungus

* Ginger

* Pumpkin seeds

* Cayenne pepper.

10 bad foods for toenail fungus:

Taking the good foods while avoiding the bad ones is the real deal. It's counterproductive if only you are to include the good foods in your diet but fail to avoid the unhealthy ones.

Examples are:

* Sugar

* Artificial sweeteners

* Coffee

* White bread

* Pasta

* Alcohol

* Peanuts

* Mushroom

* Cheese

* Soy sauce

Can I take supplements for toenail fungus?

Yes. Toenail fungus supplements help prevent infections, boost your immune system, and clear toxins from your body.

Although most of these supplements haven't been tested in humans, they contain ingredients that have antifungal, antioxidant and anti-inflammatory abilities.

Most of the toenail fungus supplements contain Vitamins, especially E and C. Vitamin E is important for skin health, while Vitamin C is a potent antioxidant and aids wound healing.

Essential oils like lavender and cinnamon oils are often included in these supplements because of their antibacterial and antifungal properties. Other ingredients include plant extracts, minerals, and tea tree oil. Not all marketed products work effectively, so ensure you read labels and reviews before you buy.

The bottom line

Toenail fungus can be difficult to eradicate and may cause permanent damage to your nail. It takes a long time, up to 9 months for antifungal medications to work and may require more than one round of treatment. Although a healthy lifestyle and dietary habits will reduce the risk of infection, they may not be effective for everyone all the time.

It's important to consult with a healthcare professional for a proper diagnosis and to discuss appropriate treatment options for fungal toenail infections when they occur. Your doctor can provide guidance based on your specific situation and help you determine the best course of action.



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While the above article is based on thorough research, we do not claim to offer a substitute for medical advice from a qualified healthcare provider. The article was written for information and educational purposes only. We aim to provide helpful information to our readers, but cannot provide a treatment, diagnosis, or consultation of any sort, and we are in no way indicating that any particular drug is safe or appropriate for you and your individual needs. To receive professional medical attention, you must see a doctor.