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It’s no secret that we’re only talking about natural remedies here. Every mom should have a few tricks up her sleeve to help resolve minor ailments at home without resorting to harmful chemicals. Here are five natural cures for a pesky problem that has plagued many of us from time to time … gross, peeling athlete’s foot!
Athlete’s foot is the skin condition most commonly associated with smelly, sweaty feet and gym locker rooms. However, it doesn’t just affect athletes. From your husband to your kids to – yes, you – athlete’s foot can affect anyone.
It may be surprising to learn that athlete’s foot isn’t just something teenagers get. In fact, there’s more to the root cause of athlete’s foot than infected showers or towels.
The body’s microbiome can actually have a lot to do with susceptibility to infections, including athlete’s foot. First, let’s take a look at what really causes athlete’s foot.
What causes athlete’s foot
- Contact with infected people or objects such as towels, a shower tray, or a swimming pool
- Wearing tight, damp shoes
- General imbalance in the body’s microbiome
- Bad immune system function
While exposure to the fungus responsible for athlete’s foot (called tinea) As the infection spreads, your personal health can have a lot to do with how your body deals with exposure. When we have an overgrowth of harmful bacteria and fungi, we are more prone to infections of all kinds.
We have more bacterial cells than human cells, and it’s really all about bacterial balance. I talk a lot about gut health and the importance of supporting the skin microbiome. The idea is that when your inner ecosystem is balanced, your entire body microbiome is balanced, including the bacteria on and under the surface of the skin.
Athlete’s foot can actually mimic bad eczema or dermatitis, so it can be difficult to distinguish between the two. Symptoms include:
- Thick, red, flaky, or cracked skin
- Itchy rash
- Symptoms are concentrated between the toes, where fungi are more likely to grow
- Discolored toenails
Often the best remedy is to avoid the problem in the first place. Here are some ways to reduce the chance of athlete’s foot:
- Wear foot coverings in wet public places if possible.
- Dry feet are good when leaving the water, whether at home or in public places.
- Wash towels if you suspect an infection or if they have been used in a public place.
- Watch your microbiome by following a healthy diet, supplementing probiotics, and avoiding good bactericidal products like antibacterial soaps. (Read about how to take care of your gut and general health here.)
In the unfortunate event you do get that dreaded athlete’s foot infection, there are some great natural remedies that can help manage it:
1. Internal probiotic remedy
Gut health affects so many aspects of overall health! Increase probiotics, avoid sugar and overly starchy foods, and focus on nutritious foods like bone broth and sauerkraut.
Those who fight infections frequently, whether it’s athlete’s foot or the common cold, may have an underlying bowel problem. Our immune systems are responsible for fighting off infection, and while the occasional cold or flu gives them the exercise they need to stay strong, yeast infections are more of a symptom of an imbalance. When our gut is unbalanced, our immune systems are weakened and we become susceptible to infection.
Candida is a type of fungal yeast and is often the cause of many health conditions such as eczema, arthritis, and allergies. Although it is a natural strain found in every gut, problems arise when it becomes overgrown due to the lack of beneficial bacteria. A diet like the GAPS diet can help eliminate harmful fungi and rebalance the intestines.
Likewise, tinea Fungus (the fungus responsible for athlete’s foot) is normal on the skin. However, when our skin bacteria are out of whack, our skin is more prone to infection.
Not only is it necessary to balance the gut bacteria, but it can also be beneficial to balance the bacteria (microbiome) on the skin. (To learn more about caring for the skin’s microbiome, check out this podcast.)
2. Topical probiotic remedy
While oral probiotics are beneficial for your gut and general health, in the event of an acute athlete’s foot infection, you may find the topical application of probiotics helpful.
Let’s take the same idea as this recipe for my probiotic face mask and make it the base of a natural remedy for athlete’s foot.
- 1 tbsp natural yogurt (full fat preferred)
- 1 capsule Saccharomyces boulardii (a beneficial yeast that has been shown to fight pathogenic fungi)
Spread the mixture over the infected areas with a cotton ball and let it sit for about half an hour. Increase or double the amounts if necessary.
3. Apple cider vinegar remedies
The sour, tangy, crunchy mom favorite that helps from heartburn to dandruff can also be one of the best natural remedies for mild athlete’s foot.
Apple cider vinegar (ACV for those familiar with this crushed, fermented apple product) has been used since the time of Hippocrates when it was valued for its medicinal properties. It is known to be particularly beneficial against yeasts and fungi, and many people take it internally to help balance candida.
To use ACV to treat athlete’s foot, make sure you have a good, high quality, unpasteurized version (the ones that still have the “mother” in it are better, and you can even make your own!). Of course, you can also buy in the store or online via Amazon. I love and use this brand too.
Mix in a foot bath container:
- 2 cups of water
- 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
Soak your feet for about half an hour. You can also apply simple ACV directly to the infection with a cotton ball. Apple cider vinegar will likely burn, so be careful and dilute it more if necessary.
4. Remedies for essential oils
There are some essential oils that can be used to help fight yeast infections, and skin conditions are one of my favorite essential oil uses.
Anti-fungal essential oils include:
- Tea tree
There are several different ways to use essential oils as natural remedies for athlete’s foot.
How to make your own ointment:
Use this simple homemade healing ointment recipe to make your own anti-fungal ointment by adding anti-fungal essential oils.
Important NOTE: Apply neat or diluted. Whether to apply essential oils directly to the skin or dilute them is a personal and sometimes hotly debated decision. Because essential oils are highly concentrated, it is generally not recommended to use them directly on the skin.
However, some essential oils can be applied neat or directly to the skin, including lavender. The biggest concern in this case is putting the oil on broken skin, which would be painful and cause further irritation. You can always consult a certified aromatherapist if you are interested in using essential oils neat.
Otherwise, the rule of thumb is 3-5 drops of essential oil per teaspoon of oil. Coconut oil is an excellent choice as it is also antifungal. Simply combine any of the above anti-fungal essential oils with some coconut oil and apply it to the infected areas.
Make an anti-fungal spray:
Combine antifungal essential oils with witch hazel to create a cleansing, healing astringent. Combine oils of your choice with witch hazel in a spray bottle, observing the dilution ratios, spray on clean, dry feet and then allow them to dry. You could also kill two birds with one stone and add some ACV to the spray.
Try neem oil
A study from 2011 found neem oil to be effective in killing various forms of candida, fungi, and molds that are all possible causes of athlete’s foot. However, this study was conducted in petri dishes, not animals or humans. Since I already use neem oil as an essential oil carrier oil, I like to add something to this remedy.
5. Remedies for shoes and towels
It turns out that putting your sneakers in the freezer for about 24 hours can kill the fungus and keep it from growing any further. Additionally, you can use an antifungal essential oil spray like the one suggested above to spray your sneakers and kill the fungus.
In addition to disinfecting your shoes, it is also a good idea to toss or disinfect any socks you were wearing during the infection, as well as disinfecting the towels you used.
To disinfect towels, wash the washing machine on the hottest setting. Add antifungal essential oils, vinegar, or hydrogen peroxide to kill germs. If you have persistent or recurring athlete’s foot infections, consider throwing away any items that may have come in contact with the fungus.
Most minor infections can be cleared at home without using any harmful or toxic over-the-counter or prescription drugs. Athlete’s foot is no exception, and these natural remedies for athlete’s foot will get you fungus free in no time!
This article has been medically reviewed by Cynthia Thurlow, NP, CEO and founder of the Everyday Wellness Project, nurse, international speaker and globally recognized expert on intermittent fasting and nutritional health. As always, this is not a personal medical advice and we encourage you to speak to your doctor.
Have You Tried Any Of These Natural Remedies For Athlete’s Foot? What worked
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