Fungal Infections

Minor infections can affect your group’s efficiency in times of trouble. In addition to viruses and bacteria, our body may be susceptible to “yeast”. Yeast is a fungus that is one-celled and reproduces by budding off the parent. The human body naturally harbors certain types but can be damaged by others.

Fungal infections may be local, as in vaginal infections, “ringworm”, or “athlete’s foot”, or systemic (throughout the entire body).  Some people are affected by intestinal fungal infections that can affect digestion. Systemic fungal infections have been blamed for many illnesses, but proven cases seem to occur mostly in the very young or the elderly; those with compromised immune systems can also be affected.

Vaginal Yeast Infections

Vaginal yeast infections (also called “Monilia”) are extremely common and are not an indication of a sexually transmitted disease.  A woman with a yeast infection will have an odorless thick white discharge reminiscent of cottage cheese. She will complain of vaginal itchiness.

This infection is often easily treated with short courses of over-the-counter creams or vaginal suppositories such as Monistat (miconazole), but may recur.  Resistant infections may be treated with prescription Fluconazole (Diflucan) 150mg orally once.  Repeat in 3 days if symptoms persist.

Non-yeast vaginal infections, those caused by bacteria or protozoa, also exist and are called “bacterial vaginosis” and “trichomoniasis”, respectively. These tend to have a foul odor and are treated with a prescription antibiotic/anti-parasitic medication called Metronidazole (veterinary equivalent: FISH-ZOLE), which is taken orally.

The time-honored vinegar and water douche, performed once a day, is very effective in eliminating minor vaginal infections.

Douche with 1 tablespoon of vinegar to a quart of water. Use this method only until your patient feels better. Women who douche often are, paradoxically, MORE likely to get yeast infections. This occurs because douching disrupts the normal balance of pH and allows naturally occurring yeast organisms in the vagina to overrun their environment.

Acidophilus supplements, in powder or capsule form, may be a good oral treatment.  Cranberry juice and yogurt are good foods for vaginal infections because they change the pH of the organ to a level inhospitable to yeast.

As garlic has both antibacterial and anti-fungal action, you might consider inserting a clove of garlic wrapped in gauze and placing it in the vagina for no more than 8 hours. Make sure you leave a “tail” of gauze that you can easily reach to remove the garlic.

To relieve itching, sit in a bath of warm water with a few drops of lavender or tea tree oil for 15 minutes.  Repeat as needed.

Oral Yeast Infections

A related yeast infection may be seen in the mouth of some infants and others.  This infection is known as “Thrush” and is identified by white patches on the inside of the cheeks, the roof of the mouth, and other areas of the oral cavity.  Thrush can cause irritation and the white patches are adherent, causing bleeding if wiped off.  Occasionally, nipple tissue is affected in breastfeeding mothers.

Oral thrush may be treated conventionally with liquid Fluconazole (Diflucan) once a day for a week. Nystatin, another antifungal, is available as a “swish-and-swallow” version for oral thrush or can be applied topically four times a day to infected nipples for approximately five to seven days.

Alternative remedies reported to be effective for oral yeast infections include:

 

  • Swabbing the oral cavity with yogurt.
  • Applying acidophilus to nipples or other items likely to go in an infant’s mouth.
  • Applying white vinegar (distilled) or very dilute baking soda solutions (1 teaspoon to 8 ounces of water) to nipples.
  • Swabbing the oral area with coconut oil (virgin).

Athlete’s Foot

Athlete’s foot (also known as “tinea pedis”) is an infection of the skin caused by a type of fungus. This condition may be a chronic issue, lasting for years if not treated. Although usually seen between the toes, you might see it also on other parts of the feet or even on the hands (often between fingers).  It should be noted that this problem is contagious, passed by sharing shoes or socks and even by wet surfaces.

Any fungal infection is made worse by moist conditions. People who are prone to Athlete’s foot commonly:

 

  • Spend long hours in closed shoes
  • Keep their feet wet for prolonged periods
  • Have had a tendency to get cuts on feet and hands
  • Perspire a lot

To make the diagnosis, look for:

 

  • Flaking of skin between the toes or fingers.
  • Itching and burning of affected areas
  • Reddened skin
  • Discolored nails
  • Fluid drainage from surfaces traumatized by repeated scratching

If the condition is mild, keeping your feet clean and dry may be enough to allow slow improvement of the condition. Oftentimes, however, topical antifungal ointments or powders such as miconazole or clotrimazole are required for elimination of the condition.  In the worst cases, oral prescription antifungals such as fluconazole (Diflucan) are needed.  Don’t use anti-itching creams very often, as it keeps the area moist and may delay healing.

A favorite home remedy for Athlete’s Foot involves placing Tea Tree Oil liberally to a foot bath and soak for 20 minutes or so.  Dry the feet well and then apply a few drops onto the affected area. Repeat this process twice daily. Try to keep the area as dry as possible between treatments.

For prevention of future outbreaks of Athlete’s Foot, apply tea tree oil once a week before putting on socks and shoes.

Ringworm

Ringworm is just another word for “tinea”. It represents a fungal infection on the surface of the skin.  Oftentimes, a second word is added to denote the location of the infection. Therefore, “tinea pedis” is a fungal infection of the foot, or Athlete’s Foot.

The fungus that causes Athlete’s foot is just as likely to affect any other area of the skin.  Often, it will appear as a raised, itchy patch that is darker on the outside.  As such, it may resemble a sharply-defined ring, and is called “Ringworm”.  Ringworm has nothing to do with worms, however.

If Ringworm occurs in a hairy area, it will likely cause bald patches. Consistent scratching at the patches will cause blistering and oozing.  Treatment, both conventional and natural, follows a similar process as that described for Athlete’s Foot.

Make sure to:

 

  • Keep skin as dry as possible.
  • Antifungal (Miconazole, Clotrimazole) or drying powders or creams.
  • Avoid tight-fitting clothing on irritated areas
  • Wash regularly.
  • Wash sheets daily.

Dr. Bones

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