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Feet fungi

Your feet are full of fungi - 200 species live there, say scientists

Saturday, June 01, 2013 by: Jonathan Benson, staff writer
Tags: feet fungi, skin flora, disease prevention

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(NaturalNews) If you are a germaphobe - that is, you constantly worry about bacteria and germs and the infections they might potentially cause - then you will probably be surprised to learn that your body is naturally teeming with hundreds of species of diverse fungi. As evidenced by new research published in the peer-reviewed journal Nature, your arms, hands, feet, and other body parts are right now colonized by upwards of 200 different types of fungi, which is far more than previously believed.

A team of scientists from the National Human Genome Research Institute in Bethesda, Maryland, led the research, in which samples of fungi were collected from various parts of participants' bodies. According to BBC News, samples were taken from the participants' ear canals, from between their eyebrows, from the backs of their heads, from behind their ears, as well as from their heels, underneath their toenails, between their toes, their forearms, their backs, their groins, their nostrils, their chests, their palms, and the crooks of their elbows.

What the team discovered is that fungi in general love to congregate on the palms of people's hands as well as on the forearms. Fungi are also prevalent inside the elbow. But where fungi really love to set up shop is on the feet, and particularly on the heels. According to data gathered from a series of DNA sequencing, it was determined that roughly 80 different types of fungi live on the heels, on average, while another 60 different types live in the toenails. The space in between toes is also a fungal hotspot, with roughly 40 different types of fungi calling it their home.

"The data from our study gives us a baseline about normal individuals that we never had before," said lead researcher Dr. Julia Segre. "The bottom line is your feet are teeming with fungal diversity, so wear your flip flops in locker rooms if you don't want to mix your foot fungi with someone else's fungi."

Bacteria, fungi are meant to live on skin in harmony with one another

This may be valid advice, particularly for those with weak immune systems or who are susceptible to infections. And yet at the same time, your skin requires healthy, living colonies of both fungi and bacteria, as these important microbes act as a type of protective flora similar to the one found in your gut. Without them, your skin would be exceptionally prone to infection from harmful organisms, which are warded off by the beneficial ones.

"The normal skin flora serves some useful purposes," explains a report from the University of Hawaii. "Most notably many of these organisms produce organic acids such as propionic acid which lowers the pH and makes the skin less hospitable to many of the more harmful transient flora. Perhaps another beneficial effect of the normal flora would be the production of volatile, aromatic compounds which each of us come to recognize as our own natural scent."

The best way to maintain a healthy fungal and bacterial balance on your skin is to avoid engaging in activities and using consumer products that tend to disrupt it. This includes taking too many showers, particularly in water that is heavily chlorinated and fluoridated, as well as using skin care products and soaps that raise pH levels or contain harmful chemicals. Instead, stick with natural, pH-balanced moisturizing and cleansing agents such as coconut oil and Shea butter, and eat healthy foods that help boost your immune system, and in turn promote a healthy bacterial and fungal balance on your skin.

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