Home Health Fungi - What Are They and How Do They Affect Us?

Fungi – What Are They and How Do They Affect Us?

Fungi (singular fungus) are living organisms with about 144,000 known species. These include yeasts, molds, mildews, rusts, mushrooms, and smuts.

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Fungi are the most common organisms on earth. They have great environmental and medical importance.

They are also organisms that look like fungi. Some of them are water molds, slime molds, etc. They don’t belong to the fungi kingdom but they are called fungi.

You can find fungi living freely in soil or water. Others form symbiotic or parasitic relationships with plants and animals.

Types of Fungi

There are three main groups of fungi and they are divided based on their life cycles. They are also divided based on the type of spores they produce, the arrangement of the spores, and the structure of their fruiting bodies.

The divisions are:

  • Multicellular filamentous molds
  • Macroscopic filamentous fungi (also known as mushrooms)
  • Singled cells microscopic yeasts

Fungi play different roles in the environment. Some fungi are pathogens (they cause diseases in the human body). Examples are yeasts and candida.

Yeast is used in cancer research. It is also one of the most used model organism for genetic studies. Candida causes infections in people who have a compromised immune system.

Fungi That Cause Diseases in Humans

In humans, pathogenic fungi enter the body through wounds in the skin. These wounds can be caused by insects, scratches, bruises, and cuts. There are about 300 known fungi that are pathogenic to man.

In the middle ages, a fungus called Claviceps purpurea caused ergotism, a disease that was prevalent in Northern Europe. It was common in people who consumed large quantities of rye-bread.

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Other human diseases caused by fungi are:

  • Ringworm
  • Athlete’s foot
  • Coccidioidomycosis
  • Histoplasmosis
  • Aspergillosis
  • Yeast infection that affect the mouth, throat, reproductive organs, and colon. These yeast don’t cause diseases when they are in little amount in your body except they outnumber the beneficial bacteria (probiotics) in the gut.
  • Fungal nail infections
  • Fungal eye infection

Some medical procedures like drug therapies used to suppress the immune system after transplant and cancer treatment can weaken the immune system.

This makes the immune system unable to fight fungi pathogens. People with HIV/AIDS have weak defenses against fungi infection. Many deaths of AIDS patients are caused by fungi infections. The most common being that of Aspergillus fumigatus).

What You Need to Know About Common Fungi Infections

Athlete’s foot

This is a common fungal infection affecting the foot. This fungus grows in a warm and moist environment such as socks, locker rooms, sport equipment, and shoes.

Athlete’s foot is common in athletes and people involved in sports. However, anyone can be affected by athlete’s foot. It is common in summer and warmer climates. The fungi can quickly multiply during this time.

The symptoms of athlete’s foot vary from person to person. But the common ones are:

  • A burning sensation in the affected area
  • Itching and stinging
  • The affected area becomes scaly and peels away
  • The affected area may crack or peel away
  • The infected skin part would be soft
  • The layers of the affected parts may start to break down
  • Blisters or redness on the affected area

Yeast Infection

Yeast infection can affect any part of the body and the most common is vaginal yeast infection. It occurs when there is an overgrowth of Candida albicans in women.

This candida overgrowth disrupts the normal balance of bacteria and yeast in the vagina. This overgrowth can be triggered by antibiotics, stress, hormonal imbalance, and even wrong diets.

Yeast infection can also affect the toenails, mouth, fingernails, and even cause diaper rash.

Common symptoms of yeast infections are:

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  • Unusual vagina discharge. They can be gray clumps that look like cottage cheese. It can also be a very watery discharge.
  • Swelling and itching around the vagina
  • Soreness and redness on and around the vagina
  • Pains during urination or sexual intercourse
  • Burning sensations when urinating or having sex
  • In some cases, a rash can develop

Jock itch

This is a common fungal infection affecting the skin. These fungi love and thrive in warm and moist areas of the body. This includes the inner thighs, buttocks, and the groin.

Jock itch is common in warm places and summer. It is also common in humid areas of the world. Jock itch, also known as Tinea cruris is mildly contagious.

It spreads when you come into direct contact with an infected person. You can also contact it from an object carrying the fungus. The affected body part becomes itchy. A red rash with a circular shape covers the area.

Other symptoms of jock itch are:

  • Dry peeling of the affected area
  • Cracking or flaking of the affected area
  • A red rash with circular shape and a raised edge
  • Burning or itching in the affected area
  • Irritation and chaffing
  • Redness in the thighs, buttocks, and groin

Ringworm

Ringworm also known as Tinea corporis is a fungal infection affecting the skin. This fungus lives on dead skin tissues like the skin, hair, and nails.

This is the same fungus responsible for causing athlete’s foot and jock itch. It’s called ringworm when it appears anywhere else on the body. Ringworm is characterized by a red patch that is itchy and scaly.

These patches and scales are usually raised and have a ring shape. It can spread out into several rings over time. The outside of the ring is usually red and it appears raised and bumpy.

The inside of the ring will either be clear or scaly. Ringworm can be transmitted when you come in contact with the skin of an infected person or pet. It is highly contagious.

This fungus can also be found on infected objects, mud, and soil.

Effective Home Remedies for Fungal Diseases

There are highly effective natural remedies for fungal infections. You can make and use them in the comfort of your home and get relief from the symptoms of fungi infections.

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Baking soda

Baking Soda

This is one of the most common home remedies for fungal infections. You can mix it with either water or vinegar. Get or prepare a cup of white vinegar or apple cider vinegar.

Stir well and soak your nails in this for about 15 minutes. Then dry your nails using a clean paper towel. After this, add 2 or 3 tablespoons of baking soda to water and soak your nails in this solution again. Leave your nails in there for 15 minutes.

If you are using baking soda and water, use lukewarm water and soap to wash your hands. Then pat your hands dry. If it is your toes, do same. Make sure the infected area is clean and dry.

Then mix baking soda and water until you get a thick paste. Apply this mixture directly on the affected nails using a cotton ball. Leave it on them for about 15 minutes and then rinse them off.

Do these two times daily until you the infection goes away. Note that the bad nails will fall off. So you shouldn’t get scared when this happens.

Lavender essential oil

Lavender Essential Oil

This powerful oil is dense in antiseptic and anti-fungal properties. It works on black or green infected nails and restores your nails back to their former state.

Apply warm lavender oil directly on the affected body parts using a cotton ball. Leave the cotton ball on the place for 5 minutes before taking it off. Do these once daily until the fungi infection goes away.

Lemongrass essential oil

Lemongrass Essential Oil

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Lemongrass has natural antiseptic and antimicrobial properties. It also has a nice fragrance that can ward off the unpleasant smell of fungal infections.

Apply this essential oil on the affected nails or body part three times daily.

Tea tree essential oil

Tea tree is a powerful natural remedy for fighting a lot of germs and parasites. Its powerful antiseptic property makes it a famous home remedy for fungal infections.

Dab tea tree oil directly on the infected area. You can also mix it with olive oil and apply it on the infected body part. Do these two times daily to get a fast result in the shortest time possible.

Mouth wash

Mouthwash

This is another common home remedy for fungal infections. Soak the infected nails in the mouthwash for 15 minutes. Do this daily until the infection vanishes.

It contains antiseptic compounds. Go for brands that have Listerine.

Salt and olive oil

Mix these two together until the oil absorbs the salt completely. Apply a little amount of this mixture on the affected body part. Do these twice daily until your nails heal completely.

Onion

Onions

Onion juice is used by Ayurveda practitioners to treat fungal infections of the skin and nails. Juice onions and apply the juice directly on the affected skin part.

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You can also place a piece of onion on the affected skin part to hasten healing. You can mix onion juice with lemon juice in equal amount. Apply this mixture on the affected part to get fast relief from fungal infection.

Oregano oil

This super great oil is a wonderful home remedy for any type of fungal infection. Oregano has powerful anti-parasitic, antiviral, antiseptic, analgesic, and antibacterial properties.

It treats your nails and beautifies it. Add two drops of oregano oil to a teaspoon of olive oil. Mix thoroughly and apply this mixture on the affected part using a cotton ball.

Do these once daily until you get the desired result.

Ground turmeric

Turmeric is a powerful remedy for stubborn fungi infections. It contains Curcumin, one of the strongest anti-fungal and antiseptic agents in nature.

Get ground turmeric and mix it with lemon juice or water. Create a thick paste with this and apply it directly on the affected area. Do these twice daily and you will see a fast result.

You can leave the turmeric paste on for a whole day, this will hasten the healing. It will remove the fungus and prevent it from spreading.

Organic apple cider vinegar

This is a famous home remedy for a lot of ailments including fungal infections. It is one of the best home remedies for fighting fungal infections. Its acidic nature kills germs like bacteria and fungi.

Mix apple cider vinegar and water in equal amounts. Use a cotton ball and apply this on your nails. Leave it on for 30 minutes before washing it away.

Do this daily until the condition improves.

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Garlic

garlic and onions

Garlic is a powerful natural antibiotic and anti-fungal agent. Take in 5 cloves of garlic daily. You can also crush garlic and apply the paste on the affected area.

Wash it off after one hour. In cases of skin burning, you can mix it with water or coconut oil.

Orange essential oil

Orange oil is extraordinary when it comes to fungi infections. It is a powerful natural fungicide. Apply orange oil directly on the affected body part of fingernails.

You can also mix orange oil with olive oil, Grapeseed oil, or tea tree oil. Apply this mixture on the affected body part and leave it to dry off.

Aloe vera gel

Aloe Vera

This is a powerful remedy for fungal infections and ringworms. Aloe vera gel is loaded with antiseptic properties. It also has anti-fungal, antiviral, and antibacterial properties.

Apply aloe vera gel directly on the affected skin part. Do these three or four times daily. The cooling properties of the gel will relieve the itch and soothes the troubled skin part.

Lemon juice

Lemon juice is another powerful remedy for fungal infections. The high content of citric acid in lemons is responsible for its anti-fungal actions. Mix equal amounts of lemon juice and olive oil.

Apply this mixture directly on the affected body part and leave it on for 20 minutes. Do these many times daily. You can also apply the juice of lemon directly to your nails.

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Wash it off after 15 minutes using lukewarm water. Dry the place immediately and do this twice daily. In the case of vaginal infection, wash the affected part using warm lemon water two times daily.

Probiotics

Probiotics

These are beneficial bacteria that can kill fungi and other harmful parasites in your system. You would get probiotics from fermented fruits and vegetables. It is also available as supplements.

Coconut oil

This is one of my best remedies for fungal infections. Rub coconut oil directly on the affected body part. To make it more effective, infuse garlic in the coconut oil.

Cut few cloves of garlic into tiny pieces and soak them in coconut oil for at least 2 hours. Then you sieve the oil and discard the garlic. Make sure you squeeze it to expel any oil left in the garlic.

Apply this oil directly on the nails or in the vagina or on any body part that is infected with fungi. This will heal both the nails and the nail bed.

DIY scrub

This scrub can be used for nail fungus infections. It is highly effective even though it is made from simple kitchen ingredients. To prepare this scrub, you need the following:

  • Half cup of baking soda
  • Half cup of Epsom salt
  • ¼ cup of hydrogen peroxide
  • ¼ cup of white vinegar
  • 4 cups of hot water

Combine all these ingredients together and mix properly. This should give you a paste which you would use as a scrub. You can put this mixture in a bowl and soak your nails in it.

You can also use a cotton ball and apply it on your nails. Leave the mixture on your nails for at least 10 minutes. Do these two times daily until your nails recover.

Sources;

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  1. Fungal Disease-Specific Research NIAID
  2. The Spectrum of Fungi That Infects Humans NCBI
  3. Fungi Diseases CK-12
  4. 7 Major Diseases Caused by Fungi MC
Ebiojo David
I am a Biochemist and Naturopath, I love writing and educating people on health and wellness matters.

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