Toenail fungus can be a persistent and distressing problem. Usually developed by fungi known as dermatophytes, this condition can become painful when not treated immediately. It causes the affected nail to become thick, crusty, distorted, and discolored. In severe cases, the nail may detach from the nail bed. If you have yellow discolored nails, chances are you develop a toenail fungus. Consider a selection of supplements to prevent the infection from aggravating.
About Toenail Fungus
Onychomycosis or toenail fungus is a common condition that starts as a yellow or white spot under the tip of the infected nail. As the infection goes deeper, it may cause your nail to crumble at the edge, thicken and be discolored. It will be dull, and you will notice a dark color caused by dirt or debris building up under the infected nail. In worse cases, infected nails may separate from the nail bed. You may detect a slightly foul odor and feel pain in your toes (1).
The common cause of toenail fungus is dermatophytes. Molds and yeasts are also accountable for nail fungal infections. These organisms do not need sunlight to thrive. They live in moist and warm environments, including showers, swimming pool, and damp shoes. Fungi can invade through a small separation between the nail bed and your nail. They may also enter your skin through cuts.
Men are more likely to develop toenail fungus than women. Older people also have better chances of getting the infection. People who have weak immune system, athlete’s foot, who smoke, have diabetes and whose family members have the infection are also at a higher risk. If you have injured your toenail or you spend a lot of time in wet, public areas, your chances of developing fungal infection increase (2).
Vitamins and Supplements for Toenail Fungus
Although vitamin deficiencies are rarely the cause of toenail fungus, including more nutritious foods in your diet can help in improving nail health while preventing nail infections.
To understand how to keep your nails healthy, it is important to know that toenails and fingernails are made of layers of a hardened protein called keratin. This protein is also found in your hair and skin. Nails are more than just keratin as they consist of several components:
- The skin around the nails is called nail folds.
- The tissue that covers the bottom of the nail and protects newly formed keratin is called cuticle.
- The nail plate is the visible part of the nail.
- Lunula is the white half-moon seen at the base of the nail.
Discoloration and changes to any parts of your nails indicate an infection or health complication. Certain vitamins and supplements in the forms of oral, tablets and capsules may assist in maintaining healthy nails.
Vitamin B12 is important when it comes to treating brittle nails that may break easily. Lack of this vitamin may cause toenail fungus and other similar infections as the nails are prone to these conditions. In addition, nails may turn dark when the body does not get enough vitamin B12.
You can obtain this vitamin from animal products including eggs, fish, daily and poultry. If you are a vegetarian, you can obtain vitamin B12 from fortified breakfast cereals or supplements.
Ascorbic acid or vitamin C is essential to the production of collagen, which is a component of skin, nails and hair. It has antioxidant properties that help in fighting free radicals while keeping your nails hydrated. Lack of this vitamin can slow down the growth of nails and hair, resulting in brittle nails, dull hair and dry skin (3).
Since the body cannot produce this vitamin, consume more citrus fruits, berries, green vegetables and other foods rich in vitamin C.
Zinc is one of the essential minerals needed by the body to stay healthy. It contains antioxidant properties that help in protecting your organs and cells from damages caused by free radicals. It contributes not only to immunity and wound scarring, but also to hair and nail growth. This mineral assists in treating nail fungus by getting rid of bacteria from the infection. Consuming foods high in zinc can also improve brittle nails.
You can obtain zinc by consuming more lean meat, seafood, and zinc-fortified breakfast cereals. You can also ask your physician for zinc in supplement form and proper dosages. However, do not consume too much of this mineral as it may lead to diarrhea and upset stomach.
Vitamin B7 or Biotin
Vitamin B7 or biotin plays an important role in numerous metabolic processes of the body. Vitamin B7 supplements are administered orally to prevent deficiency related to malnutrition, pregnancy, and rapid weight loss. It is also useful for treating brittle toenails. You can also obtain this essential vitamin from eggs, liver, milk, nuts and legumes to prevent biotin deficiency and maintain healthy nails.
Other foods rich in biotin are barley, chicken, mushrooms, spinach, broccoli, fortified cereals, fish and cauliflower.
Vitamin E is another noteworthy addition to this list. This vitamin can neutralize the effects of free radicals formed as a result of the body’s various metabolic processes. Several studies have found that vitamin E can help in treating yellow nail syndrome, a condition characterized by yellow to yellow green discoloration and thickening of the nails.
It can be obtained from corn, nuts, olives, spinach, sweet potatoes, avocado and wheat germ. In addition to dietary sources, you can also take vitamin E supplements that can be bought over-the-counter.
Low consumption of foods rich in iron can lead to iron-deficiency anemia, a condition in which there is a deficiency of red blood cells. This also affects the cells that assist in forming the nails, making the nails weak and brittle. Foods rich in iron include red meat, poultry and pork, sea foods, dark green leafy vegetables, dried fruits, iron-fortified cereals, raisins, eggs and peas. Consume these foods along with vitamin C to improve iron absorption.
Consider adding these vitamins and supplements to your diet while treating toenail fungus. Keep in mind that these vitamins do not miraculously heal the infection as this condition requires more time and effort. It is important to visit your doctor before taking supplements to avoid complications and risk.
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