Foot problems are hard to ignore. When your tootsies are unwell, something as simple as shopping for groceries becomes a chore. Fortunately, some well-chosen natural remedies can really help these common foot problems…
• Toenail fungus. This is a stubborn problem, particularly for people with poor circulation or diabetes. You’ll know you have a fungal infection if your nail is yellowed and/or raised or if there’s white, flaky debris under the nail. Keeping your nails clipped, clean and dry can reduce the chances that the problem will spread to other toes. In mild cases, which usually involve just the top of the nail and/or skin around the nail, applying full-strength white vinegar two times daily to the site of the infection can reduce fungus. In more severe cases, an effective prescription topical drug regimen is ketoconazole (an antifungal) mixed with DMSO, a liquid substance made from wood pulp. DMSO enables the penetration of other liquids—such as ketoconazole—through skin and nails. This regimen is usually prepared by a compounding pharmacist and must be prescribed by a physician. (To find a compounding pharmacist, search online or ask your drugstore pharmacist.) Apply this mixture twice daily to nails and the surrounding skin for several months.
• Cracked heels and soles. If you have deep cracks in those thick, unsightly calluses on your feet, lotions, herbal salves and petroleum jelly offer little benefit because the problem is caused more from the inside than the outside. Deep cracks on the bottoms of your feet can indicate a deficiency in vitamin A. Vitamin A is not abundant in food (except in liver). Instead, the body makes vitamin A from beta-carotene, a nutrient that is plentiful in beets, carrots, cantaloupe, sweet potatoes and squash. You can also take a beta-carotene supplement. A typical dose for callus cracks is 50,000 international units (IU) daily, taken with food. You may need to do this for several months for lasting results. After your feet improve, consider taking 25,000 IU of beta-carotene daily as a maintenance dose. Caution: If you have lung, liver or heart disease, are a smoker or heavy drinker or take prescription medication, check with your doctor before using a beta-carotene supplement. Do not use if you take a multivitamin that contains vitamin A.
• Swollen feet. Edema, a term used to mean puffy and swollen, can be caused by circulatory problems, heart and kidney disease, standing for long hours, pregnancy and air travel. Done properly, hydrotherapy can relieve edema by improving your circulation so that your blood vessels and lymph system move excess fluid out of your feet.
Do-it-yourself hydrotherapy: Put hot water (enough to cover your ankles) and one cup of Epsom salts into a basin. Place another basin filled with cold water next to the hot water basin. Soak your feet in the hot water for three minutes, then in the cold for one minute. Alternate between the basins three times, always beginning with hot and ending with cold. Thoroughly dry your feet, and then elevate them above your navel for five minutes. You can do this once or twice daily for as long as needed. Important: If you have neuropathy and cannot feel hot or cold sensation in your feet, be sure to test the water temperature with your hand first. Also helpful: Walk for at least 10 minutes twice daily…and elevate your feet while sitting.