5 funky signs your body is fighting fungal infection
Ever had a fungal infection? Probably! Fungal infections are so common that most of us will have had at least one in our lifetime.
But that doesn’t make it any less uncomfortable to talk about!
We often feel so embarrassed about these tricky little infections that we ignore them – which means they spread and become even harder to treat.
Let’s take a look at some typical fungal skin infections and how they can be tackled naturally.
Common fungal skin infections
Fun fact: your skin is covered in bacteria and fungi. Gross? No! These little microorganisms are all part of your body’s natural ecosystem.
Fungi tend to live in areas where the sun doesn’t shine. We’re talking between your toes and fingers, within your nails, under your breasts, in your armpits, and in your crotch (vulva or groin).
The thing with fungi is that it really thrives on warmth and dampness. Sometimes it can grow out of control, upsetting the healthy microbial balance of your skin and causing a full-blown fungal infection.
5 signs of a fungal skin infection
- An itchy, burning rash
- General redness and irritation that gets worse with heat and moisture
- Dry, scaly skin or splits in your skin
- Blisters and/or swelling
- Unusual discharge in the vulva (in the case of thrush)
Types of fungal skin infections
Athlete’s foot (tinea pedis)
Red, flaky, scaly skin on your feet that can crack or blister, especially between your toes.
If untreated, tinea can quickly spread to your nails, groin, or hands.
Jock itch (tinea cruris)
Most common in guys, but gals can get it too! Jock itch is an itchy red rash that usually starts in the groin area or around the upper inner thighs. Exercise or heat makes it worse, and it can spread to the buttocks and abdomen.
Candidiasis of the skin (cutaneous candidiasis)
Candida is a yeast that lives both on and in your body and can cause skin infections if it grows out of control. It especially enjoys the folds of skin, like in the armpits, in the groin, between the fingers, and under the breasts. It’s also prone to infecting the nails, the corners of the mouth, and the vagina (it’s the main cause of vaginal thrush).
Nappy rash is also a form of cutaneous candidiasis.
Onychomycosis (tinea unguium)
Onychomycosis affects the fingernails or the toenails (more often the toenails). It causes brittleness and thickening in the nails, as well as discolouration (yellow, brown, or white).
What causes fungal infections?
Fungi don’t need a lot of encouragement to grow. Some of the major risk factors include:
- Warmth and humidity – especially in those “tucked away” areas. Not surprisingly, infections are even more common in summer (but they can strike at any time of year!)
- Using gyms, pools, and bathrooms. These are breeding grounds for fungi and yeasts.
- Wearing tight clothing and/ synthetic fabrics that don’t allow your skin to breathe.
- Gut dysbiosis. Your ‘friendly’ bacteria play a major role in keeping fungi and yeasts under control. If your microbiome is out of balance, pathogenic fungi can take over more easily.
- A weakened immune system due to illness or certain medications.
Natural options for managing fungal skin conditions
- Keep moisture to a minimum! Your skin should be clean, dry, and exposed to the air. Use a clean towel to dry between your toes and in all your skinfolds after you shower. Change out of your activewear as soon as you’re done exercising.
- Stick to light, cotton clothing that breathes. Avoid socks and other clothing made of synthetic fabrics, especially underwear.
- Avoid sharing items that have been in contact with other people’s skin: towels, bedding, clothes, and shoes. Wear jandals in the shower at the gym, pool, or other shared bathrooms.
- Take a daily probiotic to help restore the natural balance of your gut microbiome. Up to 70 percent of your immune cells live in your gut, so it pays to keep them in good condition! Look for a probiotic supplement with guaranteed potency and multiple strains of probiotic bacteria.
- Try a topical application made with herbs, like horopito and tea tree. Horopito is a native New Zealand plant that can help support the skin’s natural balance. These products are designed to soothe, calm, and restore those “tricky troubled bits” that are prone to imbalance (and like to get warm and sweaty!) Look for something that is suitable to use under the breasts, between toes, on feet, nails, underarms, within folds of skin, and in the crotch and groin.