What is Athlete’s Foot?
The athlete’s foot is a common fungal infection of the skin also known as Tinea pedis. In an acute flare-up, the skin of the foot is red or white with scales, cracks, inflammation, cuts, and blisters. There is itching, burning, and stinging. Most often, it occurs in between the toes. During an acute flare-up, the secondary bacterial infection is common.
In a chronic athlete’s foot, the skin of the sides and sole of the foot is pink and scaly and there is no itchiness.
The fungus lives off dead skin cells and thrives in warm, damp environments, such as the floors around gym locker rooms and indoor swimming pools.
Athlete’s foot can sometimes be confused with these conditions
- Dyshidrotic dermatitis (a type of eczema)
- Allergic contact eczema (a type of eczema)
- Atopic eczema (a type of eczema)
When to see your medical doctor
- There is swelling in your foot or leg and you develop a fever.
- You notice an accumulation of pus in the blisters or cracks in your skin.
- Your symptoms interfere with normal activity.
The tinea fungus is contagious and once it takes hold, it can be quite tenacious, so it is important to take the following steps to prevent re-infection:
- Keep your feet thoroughly dry, especially between your toes.
- Wear cotton socks, and change your socks daily.
- Do not wear tight, closed-toe shoes. Moisture and heat cause athlete’s foot fungus to thrive.
- Do not go barefoot in public places. Wear flip-flops.
- Use a foot powder to keep feet dry. Simple cornstarch makes a good foot dusting powder.
- Wash socks in the hot water setting of a washing machine.
Herbs and Essential Oils
Tea tree oil
The most common natural treatment for athlete’s foot is the essential oil tea tree (Melaleuca alternifolia). A home remedy works as well as over-the-counter foot medications. It has anti-fungal properties. Tea tree oil can be applied directly to the skin three times a day, covering the affected area. About 4 to 10 drops are sufficient. Continue for two weeks after the fungal infection seems to have disappeared to ensure that it is eradicated. Tea tree oil also helps with fungal infections of the nails.
Tea tree oil can also be mixed with aloe vera gel. About 4 ounces of aloe vera gel to 1/2 teaspoon of tea tree oil can be combined in a spray bottle and applied twice daily. Allow the feet to dry before putting on footwear. Tea tree oil can be found at the health food store. Be sure to buy 100 percent tea tree oil.
Grapefruit seed extract
Grapefruit seed extract, which is available at health food stores, is reported to have significant antifungal effects. Add drops of grapefruit seed extract to a wet palm and apply it to the feet two to three times per day, or follow the manufacturer’s recommendations. You can also add it to the washing machine while you are washing socks.
Put crushed garlic into dry socks before bed. Raw garlic can help to kill the athlete’s foot fungus.
Athlete’s foot is often related to the pitta and Kapha constitutional doshas, which have a tendency to sweat. Begin by cleaning the foot area with tea tree oil, about 4 to 10 drops. Combine 1 teaspoon of aloe vera gel with 1/2 teaspoon of turmeric. Apply this mixture to the feet every morning and night and cover them with old socks (turmeric will stain sheets and socks). After two weeks, if there are signs of improvement, continue with a once a day application of this mixture for another week. If there has been any discoloration of the skin due to the turmeric, it will fade within two weeks.
People with chronic or recurring athlete’s foot should avoid excessive consumption of yeast products such as bread and other baked goods, as well as vinegar, and alcohol. People with higher intake of yeast may be more prone to athlete’s foot.