Athlete’s foot generally presents as itchiness, skin flaking and redness on the skin of the feet, although it can also affect the toenails in some instances. Dermatophytes cause athlete’s foot. The infection is caused by a fungus called tinea [i].
Research shows that men are more likely than women to develop athlete’s foot on one or both feet. Other risk factors include being barefoot in public showers[ii]. The infection can more easily enter the skin through tiny openings or cracks, therefore cuts, grazes or conditions such as dermatitis and eczema can create a greater risk of developing athlete's foot [iii]. Other factors include having a weakened immune system. Poor circulation or related conditions like diabetes may allow for more fungal growth to occur.
There are also connections between skin microflora and the gut. There may even be genetic factors at play, affecting the production of keratin within the skin. Conventional treatments commonly involve over-the-counter anti-fungal treatments[iv].
To keep fungal infections such as athlete’s foot at bay, it is recommended to boost your immune system to more easily fight off all types of microbes. It is also suggested you maintain good hygiene such as thoroughly washing your feet after working out or sharing public bathrooms and showers. It may also be a good idea to wear flip-flops in the showers at the gym or public swimming pool.
Gut health: problems resulting from poor gut health and poor nutrition will commonly present as diseases of the skin. Consuming inflammatory substances such as processed fats (fried foods and vegetable oils), caffeine or alcohol can disrupt the health of microflora, bacteria which live in our gut[v].
Stress: Long term psychological stress can play a critical role in weakening your immune system. Blood sugar levels can be escalated due to hormonal fluctuation[vi] [vii]. When this happens, sometimes fungal strains in the gut, which feed off sugar can grow beyond a healthy amount. A common symptom of fungal overgrowth can be fungal infections of the skin, such as athlete’s foot. Don’t feel guilty about taking some time out of your day to focus on yourself.
Good nutrition: Try to include more anti-fungal and anti-inflammatory foods into your diet – one way you can do this is by incorporating more onions, garlic and ginger into your meals[viii].
A good balance of beneficial microflora can prevent fungal strains from overgrowing. Prebiotics and probiotics create a stable environment for beneficial bacteria to grow in the gut. Try: Synerbio Daily High Strength Probiotic and Your Flora - Sensitive (60 Caps). Also, Saccharomyces Boulardii can inhibit the growth of fungal strains in the gut, try: Synerbio Saccharomyces Boulardii (30 caps).
Support immunity: Good overall immunity will support balance and prevent fungal overgrowths from occurring. Support immune health with nutrient-dense food types such as citrus fruits, red bell peppers, broccoli, turmeric, green tea, papaya, kiwi, poultry and shellfish. These foods contain high amounts of vitamins such as vitamin C and zinc to support a healthy immune system. Some of our favourite immune supporting supplement blends include: Immune Complex (30 caps), Immune Support Tincture 50ml. Read more about immune health here.
There are various natural remedies such as essential oils including oregano oil, which has a very potent antifungal effect, certain supplements contain oregano oil you can take orally, but always check the advice on the packaging first. Other methods of using oregano oil include diluting it with a carrier oil and applying directly to the toes and affected areas. Please always use a carrier oil as pure essential oils may burn the skin when applied directly[ix][x]. Try Coconut Oil - Raw & Organic (500g), Clove and Oregano Complex and Oil of Oregano (30ml). Mix a carrier oil of warm coconut oil with oregano oil for a concentration of 25 to 50 percent tea tree oil. Apply it to the affected area two times a day.
To fight the infection and support immunity:
To apply directly to the affected area:
Other practical tips for athlete's foot:
Try a warm foot bath with apple cider vinegar.
[i] Ilkit M, Durdu M. Tinea pedis: the etiology and global epidemiology of a common fungal infection. Crit Rev Microbiol. 2015;41(3):374-88.
[ii] Tietz HJ. Schweiss und Massenduschen. Beim Sportler geht's dem Fusspilz richtig gut [Sweat and public showers. Favorable conditions for foot fungus in the athlete (interview by Judith Neumaier)]. MMW Fortschr Med. 2003 Jul 24;145(29-30):20. German.
[iii] Field LA, Adams BB. Tinea pedis in athletes. Int J Dermatol. 2008 May;47(5):485-92
[iv] Thomas B, Falk J, Allan GM. Topical management of tinea pedis. Can Fam Physician. 2021 Jan;67(1):30.
[v] Cani PD. Human gut microbiome: hopes, threats and promises. Gut. 2018 Sep;67(9):1716-1725.
[vi] Tetel MJ, de Vries GJ, Melcangi RC, Panzica G, O'Mahony SM. Steroids, stress and the gut microbiome-brain axis. J Neuroendocrinol. 2018 Feb;30(2):10.1111/jne.12548.
[vii] Osadchiy V, Martin CR, Mayer EA. The Gut-Brain Axis and the Microbiome: Mechanisms and Clinical Implications. Clin Gastroenterol Hepatol. 2019 Jan;17(2):322-332.
[viii] Grzanna R, Lindmark L, Frondoza CG. Ginger--an herbal medicinal product with broad anti-inflammatory actions. J Med Food. 2005 Summer;8(2):125-32
[ix] Gilling DH, Kitajima M, Torrey JR, Bright KR. Antiviral efficacy and mechanisms of action of oregano essential oil and its primary component carvacrol against murine norovirus. J Appl Microbiol. 2014 May;116(5):1149-63.
[x] Sienkiewicz M, Wasiela M, Głowacka A. Aktywność przeciwbakteryjna olejku oreganowego (Origanum heracleoticum L.) wobec szczepów klinicznych Escherichia coli i Pseudomonas aeruginosa [The antibacterial activity of oregano essential oil (Origanum heracleoticum L.) against clinical strains of Escherichia coli and Pseudomonas aeruginosa]. Med Dosw Mikrobiol. 2012;64(4):297-307.
Please note that the information contained within this website does not and should not replace medical advice, and is not intended to treat or diagnose. We always recommend you consult with your doctor. Our Nutritional Therapy team is highly trained and we offer one to one Nutritional Therapy Consultations, which are designed to be complementary to any medical treatment from a functional medicine approach, as well as offering a preventative & optimal health focus.