Nurturing natural nails

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Have you ever been too embarrassed to kick off your shoes and walk around barefoot?

If you’ve ever suffered from toenail fungus, you know what I’m talking about.

Your nail, usually the one on your big toe, becomes thick and misshapen with brittle, ragged edges. Sometimes it starts yellowing and dark spots appear where dead skin builds up underneath the nail.

If you suffer from toenail fungus, you’re not alone.

I see this condition a lot in South Florida. The humidity here is relentless and fungus is quick to thrive. But doesn’t just happen in warm climates. In fact, 10 to 15% of all adults have a fungal infection of the nails.

Nail fungus is a medical condition called onychomycosis (on-ih-koh-my-KOH-sis). It’s usually the same fungus that causes athlete’s foot. And you can get it in the same warm, moist environments, like swimming pools, locker rooms and showers.

But even if you avoid those areas, you’re not home free.

Nail fungus can also be a sign of an overgrowth of yeast called Candida albicans. Good bacteria in a healthy gut keep this yeast in check. But when your gut bacteria are out of balance, this yeast grows out of control.

Candida also flourishes with a high sugar, carb and grain diet. It gets worse with antibiotic use, stress and poor digestion. And it can cause skin reactions and infections, including nail fungus.

Most doctors recommend surgery and prescription drugs or topical creams for nail fungus. These treatments have a low success rate and lots of side effects.

Nail fungus drugs may cause trouble breathing, hives, rashes, blisters, headaches, dizziness and nausea. They’ve been linked to liver damage, weight gain, fatigue and heart problems.

Wipe out nail fungus naturally

For years I’ve been helping my patients wipe out nail fungus without drugs. I’ve designed a 5-part nail fungus protocol. Here’s what I suggest.

1. Paint Your Toenails with Tea Tree Oil. This essential oil is antimicrobial, antiviral, antibacterial, anti-inflammatory and antifungal. Studies show it’s very effective at treating toenail fungus.

In a review of multiple existing studies, researchers found positive results across the board when patients were treated with tea tree oil.1

That means just a tiny amount of tea tree oil can wipe out fungus. I recommend painting it on clean, dry nails twice a day. Be consistent with this treatment as long as the nail is growing out. You should see results in several months.

2. Apply Thyme Oil. Studies show oil from the herb thyme (Thymus vulgaris) destroys Candida by disrupting its cell membrane and metabolism.2

I like to mix thyme oil with coconut oil. Medium chain fats in coconut oil are also natural fungicides. Studies show they suppress the growth of Candida.3

Combine equal parts of thyme oil and coconut oil. Apply it to your nail twice a day. Or you can place 10 drops or so of the combined oil in a footbath and soak your feet twice a day for 15 to 20 minutes.

Again, be patient. Results can take a month or two. But there is a way to speed up nail growth…

3. Encourage New Nails with Bamboo. It takes six months for nails to grow out completely.

To speed things up, I recommend the bamboo plant or bambusa vulgaris. It’s rich in the essential mineral silica. It’s the same mineral that makes your nails grow fast and strong.

Other food sources of silica include bamboo shoots, seafood, leafy greens, root vegetables, almonds, seeds and even beer. But modern chemical farming has depleted the soil of silica. That’s why I recommend a supplement. Take 50 mg of bamboo extract a day.

4. Follow a Low-Carb Diet. The first step in getting rid of nail fungus is to stop feeding it what it loves — sugar. That means following a diet low in sugar and carbohydrates.

Focus on foods high in good fats and protein. These won’t spike your blood sugar. Look for grass-fed beef and dairy products, wild-caught coldwater fish and poultry and eggs from pastured animals. Choose healthy fats like olive oil, butter and coconut oil.

5. Build Up Your Good Gut Bacteria. To build a healthy gut that keeps Candida and nail fungus in check, eat more fermented foods. They are high in probiotics — the good bacteria.

Good choices include cultured dairy like yogurt and kefir. They contain lactobacillus bacteria that secrete a by-product poisonous to Candida.

Just be sure to avoid commercial products with added sugars. The ingredients should say milk and “live, active cultures” — that’s it.

To Your Good Health,

Al Sears, MD

Al Sears, MD, CNS

1. Martin, KW and Ernst, E. “Herbal Medicines for treatment of fungal infections: a systematic review of controlled clinical trials.” Mycoses. 2004 Apr.
2. Braga PC, Alfieri M, Culici M, Dal Sasso M. “Inhibitory activity of thymol against the formation and viability of Candida albicans hyphae.” Mycoses. 2007 Nov.
3. Takahashi M, Inoue S, Hayama K, Ninomiya K, Abe S., “Inhibition of Candida mycelia growth by a medium chain fatty acids, capric acid in vitoro and its therapeutic efficacy in murine oral candidiasis.” Medical Mycology Journal. December 2012.

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