Probiotics can help deal with nail fungus because some strains of probiotic bacteria can decrease instances of fungal colonization under the nails. In recent times, probiotics have emerged as a viable choice for treating fungal infections because they balance the gut microbiota, thereby enabling the body to have the natural ability to deal with cases of fungal-overgrowth.
A while ago, my beloved grandma developed nail fungus…I love her a lot but that thing looked nasty. It is like you have permanent dirt stuck under your nails. Now, I love the woman too much for me to give a hoot about her imperfections, but my main problem was that her doctor prescribed her both antifungals and antibiotics to deal with the nail fungus! I mean, what? I am not a doctor, but unless there is something that I am missing it is downright suspicious to use antibiotics to target a fungus. The results of that treatment did proof my hunch, because my grandma’s nail fungus just became worse after the antibiotics.
What is Nail Fungus and How Do You Get It?
This condition is also known as onychomycosis and it is a fungal infection that is attached to the toenails or fingernails. The fungal infection ventures deeper and causes nails to discolor, become oddly thick, or have charred edges. Nail fungus can affect one or several finger nails. The condition often begins as a single spot under the fingernail and then keeps growing bigger as the infection grows. In case of my grandma, she had nail fungus growing on at least six of her fingers, a sign that hers was a chronic case.
This condition is relatively common and it is thought to affect about one in every ten people. As it turns out, it is even more common among the elderly people and it affects two out of ten people among those over 70 years of age. If you have nail fungus, you are among the 35 million people who have this condition all over the world.
Nail fungus is mainly caused by fungi of different varieties. However, the most common cause of nail fungus is a fungi known as dermatophytes, which mainly feeds on the keratin in your nails (Source). It is common for nail fungus to start in one location, or in a single nail and then spread to the other areas. The condition can also start as athlete’s foot or psoriasis, and then deteriorate to a nail fungus.
Ideally, nail fungus is contagious and an infected person can spread the fungus to an otherwise healthy person. The fungi can be passed on from an infected person through direct contact, touching an infected surface, or walking barefoot through an infection-prone area such as a locker room or the edges of a swimming pool.
How Probiotics Can Help with Nail Fungus
This research mainly seeks to find the connection between nail fungus and probiotics. The first thing you should take note about nail fungus is that it requires certain conditions to grow. In clinical settings, nail fungus has proven quite difficult to manage and get rid of because of the underlying challenge in identifying its root causes (Source 1, Source 2). According to one expert on fungal infections, one of the reasons why it is hard to get rid of nail fungus is that it requires an individual to change the conditions that make the fungi thrive under the nails in the first place (Source).
Now, probiotics work by adding more beneficial bacteria to your gut. On the other hand, well-balanced gut microbiota can have an impact on bacteria concentrations on the skin, and possibly under the nails. Nail fungus is part of a pathogenic yeast that tends to overgrow in a similar manifestation as candida overgrowth in the gut. There is enough evidence to show how probiotics can solve the problem of pathogenic yeast overpopulation in the gut (Source 1, Source 2, Source 3). However, there is shortage of research on the impact of probiotics in reducing cases of pathogenic fungi infections on the skin and nails (Source).
There is also enough research to show that gastrointestinal (GI) microbiota imbalances are related to nail fungus (Source 1, Source 2). People with internal yeast problems can easily solve their imbalance issues using probiotics. However, nail fungus infections consist of different species and strains of fungus than those in the GI. Hence, the applicability of probiotics in the treatment of nail fungus is quite possible.
However, if you lean hard on the science, you will discover that in most cases fungal infections are the result of microbiome imbalance (Source). For instance, people who have had a recent bout of antibiotics are more susceptible to fungal infections of various forms including, skin and stomach. Probiotics work primarily by restoring microbiota balances, and they can solve problems such as athlete’s foot, ringworms, and jock itch.
The success of probiotics on nail fungus will most likely be determined by the root cause of this infection. If the nail fungus infection has mainly spread courtesy of microbiota imbalance, then it is quite possible to get rid of it. On the other hand, nail fungus that develops from coming into contact with an infected person, and due to enabling conditions such as dampness and excessive sweating are less-likely to be solved with probiotics. Nevertheless, in most cases bacteria imbalances tend to result in an increase in fungal infections.
The best way to approach any fungus infections on the skin or nails is to attack it from inside out. This means that you will need to increase your probiotic-intake with the view of adding the good bacteria to your gut, and thereby influencing the overall balance of the gut and skin.
Probiotics Versus Fungus Versus Antifungal Medication: The Scientific Research
Time to go deeper into the research…Probiotics mainly work by balancing microbiota thereby boosting human immunity, resisting pathogenic colonization, and reducing the rates of infection (Source). The effectiveness of probiotics against pathogenic fungi is not well covered by research but their ability to inhibit fungal activity is clearly evident.
The conventional method of treating fungi is through antifungal drugs such as azoles, pyrimidines, echinocandins, and polyenes (Source). Like in the case of my beloved grandma, using antifungal drugs is not effective mainly because just like antibiotics, they will kill a lot of other beneficial bacteria in the process. Even when they are effective against nail fungus at first, you still need to take them for a long time. In some cases, this nail fungus can be resistant to medication (Source). All these issues indicate that it is necessary to look for a treatment option that is less harmful and more effective. Most of the people with nail fungus infections are engaged in a vicious cycle where the infections keep coming and going.
Probiotics play an important role because unlike traditional antifungal medications they are non-toxic and they do not have any major side effects. Notably, probiotics are highly effective when it comes to inhibiting any form of pathogenic bacteria. In the past, probiotics have been effective against GI fungal infections such as candida. The probiotics’ ability to inhibit the growth of fungi means that they are a viable option for preventing and reducing nail fungus. Furthermore, the probiotics are a great substitute to antifungal medications, especially for people with recurring fungal infections (like my grandmother).
Unlike antifungal medications, probiotics work under the simple premise of regulating the balance of all human microbiota and hence inhibiting the growth of pathogenic bacteria. On the other hand, antifungal medication mainly works by targeting and killing the harmful fungi but it does not inhibit its growth in the first place. One study concludes that probiotics work better than antifungal medication by preventing pathogenic fungi from multiplying and attaching in the first place.
Finally, it is important to note that all people have that tiny amount of fungi that leads to nail fungus. However, only a small number of people end up with chronic cases where these fungi overgrow.
Probiotics also work by preventing instances of pathogenic bacteria adhesion in mouth, skin, and intestines. Systemic fungi infections such as nail fungus can happen more easily where there are no good bacteria that are attached to your skin and nails in the first place. Overall, the probiotics work by inhibiting the ability of pathogenic fungi to attach themselves onto the nails.
Best Probiotics for Nail Fungus
If you are looking to try probiotics as a solution for nail fungus, you are in luck because half the work has already been done for you. Start by searching for “probiotics for nail fungus” and you will get dozens of genuine products on offer that have been formulated specifically for this problem. However, the little research that I conducted shows that the more popular approach to dealing with problems of nail fungus is to deal with the problem inside out. This means you take probiotic supplements orally and they get rid of your external nail fungus.
I would also recommend this approach. In fact, I have recently put my granny on probiotics and like in various other occasions I would like to learn by doing. Her nail fungus is not as bad as it used to be, but her digestion really went to the crapper after all those antifungal and antibiotic medications she took. So I will be updating this article with her progress in due time.
Note that here at My Probiotic Lifestyle, I do not recommend any particular brand or strains of probiotics. Instead, I would recommend you get started on any good multi-strain probiotic that you can lay your hands on. Remember, this is a marathon, not a sprint. Also, learn to trust manufacturers when they tell you a particular brand is for digestion, cognition, skin, etc. I say this because, legit companies put thousands of dollars into research and development. You should at least give them the benefit of doubt before coming up with “your” verdict. We have a Polls Section in this blog where thousands of probiotic users from around the world weigh in on these issues based on their real-life experiences. In case, you want help on how to go about choosing the best probiotics, here is an article I wrote about what makes some probiotics better than others.
Note that when taking probiotics for nail fungus you should ensure that the affected area remains dry and well aerated. Secondly, and I cannot stress this enough, you need to stop feeding the fungus even when you are taking probiotics. This means that, no sugar and you have to reduce your intake of complex carbohydrates. Basically, embracing a Probiotic Lifestyle increases your chances of solving the problem of toenail fungus using probiotics.
Best Foods and Diet for Managing Toenail Fungus
As per the doctrines of My Probiotic Lifestyle, if you want to repopulate your microbiome with good bacteria, it is just as important to stop the multiplication of the bad one. Hence, before we get into what you are supposed to eat to deal with toenail fungus, we will cover what you should not eat. The following foods feed the bad bacteria in your gut, and make your imbalance worse:
- All forms of sugars and some artificial sweeteners
- Beer and Wine
- Simple Carbohydrates and most processed foods
- Gluten (wheat) and grains
- High sugar fruits (this covers most of them including bananas, mangoes, dates, grapes, etc.)
The following foods contribute towards populating your gut with good bacteria:
- Fermented foods
- Prebiotic-rich foods- bananas, legumes, oats, lentils, asparagus, and onions
The following foods contribute toward helping your nails regain their color and strength after a nail fungus infection:
- Drinking a lot of clean water
Again, I hate the idea that an article from the internet can tell you what you need to eat. People from all over the world have access to a wide range of nutrition options. My argument is that if you get the principles of the probiotic lifestyle diet (which mainly is less sugars and more of everything else that is of nutritional value), you can look around where you live and know exactly what to eat. In case you still have challenges, there are some very supportive nutritional supplements that you can add to your diet including multivitamins, probiotics, collagens, and peptides among others.
One of the reasons why I take my probiotic lifestyle seriously is because I am a witness of how small problems that result from microbiota imbalance can degenerate into big issues. My grandma’s nail fungus is an example; I wish I had a picture because even I could not believe that nail fungus could become that bad. She later developed a type of dementia that comes and goes. I come from a big family and that meant that the decision-makers had to agree on her probiotic intake. They insisted on strict doctor’s regimens at first, but they have since allowed me and my probiotics on the case. So, I will definitely update you on the progress.
Probiotics and nail fungus is one of the less studied benefits of these life-affirming organisms. Even though the science is limited on this one, I am quite confident that good probiotic regimens accompanied by appropriate lifestyle adjustments can solve any nail fungus issues that result from microbiota imbalance. I do not see any harm in trying as probiotics do not have any major side-effects. After you have tried them for a month or so, then you should come back with a better perspective. The comment section below and our numerous polls are always open.
My problems started with Candida, which I have managed to manage quite easily with probiotics and a strict diet. However, the leaky gut problem still persists, and this is what has brought me to this point. Feel free to check out my journey in this link here. So I always urge my readers to think of their health as an individual problem that only they can solve. The simple method:
- Get into the probiotic lifestyle
- Observe its impacts on your health
- Decide if it is worth retaining this lifestyle for a longer period
This is all I did, and after item number 3, I decided to give this lifestyle. It is now several months down the line, and I am glad for both the results I am seeing and the new things I am learning! Now, I preach this gospel to anyone who might not have a clue of the good things that probiotics can do to your life.