About ten years ago my doctor pointed to a thin white line on my foot: That’s fungus, he said. Huh. He prescribed an antifungal medicine, previously available only by prescription, that had recently become over-the-counter (OTC). I tried several OTC remedies from my drugstore. None worked. According to the directions, they were to be applied twice per day. My doctor said the reason for the failure was that I hadn’t precisely followed the directions. This reminded me of a doctor who said that fat people know what to do about being fat (eat less) and simply fail to do it.
Years later I discovered that socks matter. With a much larger number of socks, my foot fungus got much better. Apparently the fungus died if it didn’t come in contact with my foot within a week or so. (I had it only on one foot.) With a large number of socks, my foot fungus never got really bad. But it did not entirely go away.
I discovered that tea tree oil works. When my foot fungus got noticeable I would put on some tea tree oil and it would get better.
In January I went back to Berkeley for a month. Without doing anything, my foot fungus seemed to vanish. Apparently being away from my apartment for 4 months was enough to get rid of the fungus. When I returned to Beijing in February, the fungus returned within a day or two. The shape of a particularly bad spot matched exactly where a plastic sandal touched the upper part of my foot. A sandal I’d worn in the shower to prevent foot fungus.
All this is to show how little I know about foot fungus in spite of having it for years.
In November (3 months ago) a reader of this blog named Chuck Currie wrote me:
Sometime in the spring I noticed that I was getting what looked like a rash around the large toe of my right foot. It began spreading, first under and between my toes and then across the top and then under my foot. There was a definite line with little bumps that showed it progression. And, it itched really bad – like bad athlete’s foot.
In July I was prescribed Nystatin and Triamcinolone Acetonide cream. [I tried this — Seth] I was told to put it on twice a day, which I did. Because I wear flip flops all summer, I didn’t need to cover it. The cream did not work at all. It actually seemed to make it worse.
I have been interested in coconut oil since going paleo, even though I can’t eat it, or coconut milk – they really upset my stomach. I was reading an article on coconut oil that mentioned its anti-fungal properties and I remembered reading this before. So I thought I would give it a try on my foot.
After showering, I cover my foot with coconut oil, place a plastic bag over my foot (the kind you put produce in) to keep it from being wiped off and then place a sock over the bag to hold it on. I leave it on for two or three hours and then take everything off and lightly wipe my foot with a paper towel and go to bed.
I do this three or four nights a week and have been doing it for three months. I knew immediately that it was doing something. My foot became very warm, almost like it was on fire, the first time I did this. It didn’t have this effect the second time. My fungus/rash started to retreat. My skin would dry out and flake off between sessions, like I was using an exfoliate.
Then I noticed that my [toenail fungus] started to clear up and I could see the nail growing from the cuticle on my big toe was clear, not yellow and thick. By now the line has progressed two thirds of the way up my toe. At this rate, it should be completely clear in another couple of months.
I still get small flare ups of the rash/fungus on my foot, but it has almost completely cleared up. You can still see where it had been. The skin is dryer and lighter in color than the rest of the foot.
I think if I had done this every night the progress would have been faster. I’m now starting to put a small amount of coconut oil on the top of my foot in the morning and letting it air out for a while before putting on my socks and shoes. When the fungus was on the bottom of my foot this was not possible, but now that it only seems to be on the top, this works and I think this will speed up the process. The best thing is there are no bad effects. I use extra virgin, cold pressed, unprocessed coconut oil. My understanding is that heat processed coconut oil does not have the same anti-fungal properties.
Pretty convincing, huh? In Berkeley I bought Whole Foods house brand coconut oil (cold-pressed). Edible was cheaper than non-edible. In Beijing, after my foot fungus had gotten quite noticeable, I started to use it. At bedtime, I rub it all over my foot, put my foot in a thin plastic bag, and put on a sock. When I get up, I take off the sock and the plastic bag.
After doing this once, my foot was much better. After five applications, I couldn’t detect any fungus. Application is pleasant (without trying, I don’t miss a night) and, as Chuck says, obviously safe — I could eat what I am spreading on my foot. It costs a few dollars/month. Tea tree oil works, too, but it wasn’t easy to spread all over my foot, wasn’t pleasant to apply, wasn’t edible, and cost $15/tiny bottle. On the internet you can find many home remedies, such as soaking your feet in apple cider vinegar. Apparently they work. This is much easier.
If you try this, please tell me your experience, whether it works or not.