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Athlete's Foot, Toenail Fungus, and Similar Repugnant Topics



When I was a boy, there were two realities I had to accept. The first was that our backyard was too small for a pony.  The second was that I was going to have athlete's foot forever. 

If only you could have seen it.  My brothers and I all had athlete's foot.  We did everything right and still it persisted.  We carefully dried between our toes.  We doused our feet with antiseptics from the drugstore.  We soaked our feet in potassium permanganate solution (the stuff that left a permanently purple water line on our old porcelain foot basin).  We used foot powders and we changed our socks nearly as often as puppies change papers.  Nothing worked. 

We all went to the YMCA and practically lived there on Saturdays.  There, the first thing you'd smell in the locker room was NOT sweat and certainly not dirty feet.  It was the strong scent of chlorine and plenty of it.  The custodians seemed to constantly be disinfecting the whole place, especially the changing rooms and showers.  The place was spotless, and the pool was like diving into the middle of a Clorox commercial.  There was precious little possibility of a foot fungus surviving there. 

And it didn't, except on our feet. 

My first real lesson in natural healing occurred the year summer day camp began in rural Bergen, New York.  The "Y" had a camp with no place to swim.  The bordering creek was stagnant and muddy (If you are from around here, you know that Black Creek didn't get its name for nothing) and the camp's outdoor pool was still a dream.  So, the counselors put us on a bus dressed in swimsuits and sneakers and took us to a nearby farm.  Some arrangement had been made so we could swim in the farmer's pond. 

I still remember learning the "flutter kick" with crayfish within arms reach and bullheads swimming around my feet.  It was a surrealistic experience for an eight year old, believe me. 

When we were finished with our swimming lessons, we were a lot dirtier than we ever got at the "Y."  We sat on the ground in the sun and quickly put our socks, without time to dry our feet, before catching the bus back to camp.  No disinfectant in sight, just the occasional cow cookie. 

Immediately that summer, my athlete's foot went away. 

Looking back, I think it was the sunlight that did it.  Fungi in general and athlete's foot fungi in particular love shade.  When we swam outside and dressed outside, the sun got to our toes.  Sunlight did what sanitation couldn't. 

Ringworm is not a worm at all, but another fungus.  If you've ever had this on your tummy, your arm, or behind a knee, you'll recall that these are generally places that are covered by clothes.  If you've always wanted a reason to become a nudist, please don't use this as an excuse.  Still, sunlight is an effective, natural treatment for skin fungus. 

When it is not sunny camping weather, careful use of a sun lamp will work just as well.  Caution: always wear heavily tinted eye protection when using a sun lamp.  (And don't forget your sun block when you go outdoors.  Just leave it off the toes and anywhere else the fungus are among us.) 

I taught high school and college biology for too long to resist this:  So what do you call a mushroom who takes everybody out for dinner, a show and a lot of laughs?  A fungi to be with.  Whoo. 

Another approach to "ringworm" fungus patches on the body is to apply tincture of iodine.  This kills them as well or better than anything the doctor will tell the pharmacy to sell you.  Iodine tincture is very cheap to buy.  You will of course want to keep it out of the reach of children, for it is a poison if swallowed. 

In our family, we've found that it is only necessary to apply the iodine tincture every third day.  The fungus is usually gone in a week or so.  Iodine seems to irritate and dry the skin when applied too frequently, but you will probably only need a few applications to do the trick. 

I'm conveying the impression that our family is a walking fungal factory, but this is far from true.  The fact is, fungus happens to most all of us sooner or later.  Hey, a few toadstools in your lawn is no reason to pave it. 

Fungal growths under the toenail are more stubborn than usual, but a combination of sunlight and topical iodine will still generally be effective.  It is an obvious point, but sandals really make a lot of sense.  They allow light and dryness to take the place of the fungi's much preferred habitat of moist darkness.  Plus, they help you avoid any risks of going barefoot. 

I became indignant when I first learned that athlete's foot and ringworm were "plants" living on my skin.  Eeew!  Well, since I've used the above techniques, the crop hasn't come up in thirty-five years. 

Copyright C 2005 and prior years Andrew W. Saul. 


Andrew Saul is the author of the books FIRE YOUR DOCTOR! How to be Independently Healthy (reader reviews at ) and DOCTOR YOURSELF: Natural Healing that Works. (reviewed at )

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Andrew W. Saul


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