There’s no question that the correct tinea versicolor diet is essential if you want to rid yourself of this embarrassing and irritating infection. However, treatment and prevention require several extra prongs of attack to be really effective. You can boost your results by following our 10 tips.
We’ll start by looking at what tinea versicolor is, and then look at what you should do if you have it. To note, is that it is also sometimes called pityriasis versicolor.
What Is Tinea Versicolor?
The dictionary definition of versicolor is "changeable in color", as in "versicolor skies". Or it can mean "of various colors", as in "a versicolor flower arrangement". Tinea means "any of several fungal infections of the skin".
So, the name tinea versicolor clearly describes the condition: a fungal infection that leads to changes in the color of the skin.
It is not a dangerous disease, but can be very irritating and embarrassing, and it can become more serious if left untreated.
There is no certainty about what exactly triggers the infection, but it is known to be associated with immune system dysfunction, diabetes, hyperhidrosis (excessive sweating), hormonal changes, and the use of oral contraceptives, antibiotics and corticosteroids.
Tinea Versicolor (TV) is caused when the Malassezia fungus, which lives naturally on the skin, begins to grow too quickly for the body to keep it under control. Conditions such as heat or high humidity stimulate the growth. This means that getting hot and sweaty will encourage the growth. Excess oil or folds in the skin will also be a factor. This is why you will often get it on the oilier areas of your body, like the back, chest or neck. The crook of an arm or the skin under breasts may be affected. Sometimes it appears on the face. It’s most prevalent in adolescents and young adults.
What Is the Difference Between Candida and Tinea Versicolor?
You might wonder what the difference is between tinea versicolor (TV) and candida. They are similar, because both are fungal infections. However, candida is caused by a different fungus living on the skin (mostly Candida albicans). It is more of a yeast fungus, whereas TV is a mold fungus. Both cause changes to the skin color, but candida causes the skin to be red, flaky and itchy, while TV lesions may appear white, brown, tan or pink. TV leads to the affected areas of your skin being either darker or lighter than the rest of your skin.
These patches become more noticeable if they are exposed to the sun, as they do not tan. In fact, exposure to the sun may make the condition worse. This leads to some more tips for boosting your tinea versicolor diet:
Other Fungal Skin Infections
Other common, and similar, fungal skin infections include
- Tinea capitis, occurring on the head
- Tinea corporis, also known as ringworm
- Tinea cruris, or jock itch in the groin, anus and upper thigh areas
- Tinea pedis, or athlete’s foot
- Tinea unquium, or nail fungus
They are generally named after where they occur, and all are caused by different types of fungus.
Probably two comments can be made about this. The first is that anyone who has ever had any of these infections knows how upsetting they can be and how difficult they are to get rid of. Even if you seem to have them under control, they tend to recur.
The second is that the treatment for each one is different, so it’s important to get a professional opinion before you start self-treatments. A good example is that the drug nystatin is very effective for candida and TV, but it is ineffective for the fungal infections in the list above. Doctors use the so-called KOH test, where skin scrapings are placed in potassium, to identify the shapes of the spores, and so identify the infection.
FAQ About Tinea Versicolor
These are the three most common questions about TV:
Q1: Is Tinea Versicolor Contagious?
This is usually what other people will ask you, when they are nervous to get too close. The answer is "NO". This is because we all have bacteria, yeast and fungus on our skins. They feed on sweat and oils, and keep our skins healthy and each other in check. When you have immunological or hormonal dysfunctions some of them can get out of control and cause infections such as TV. However, for others to get the infection, they would have to have the same imbalances and dysfunctions – and would then react to the fungi on their own skin, not yours.
For it to spread on your own body would require that conditions are favorable – for example, heat and humidity, sweating, oily skin. If these conditions are there, it can spread very quickly.
Q2: Will Tinea Versicolor Leave Permanent Marks on My Skin?
Again, the answer is "NO". This is because the change in color is not caused by damage to the skin. It is caused by the Malassezia fungus creating an acid that stops the production of melanin in the areas affected. Melanin is the pigment that gives our skin its color. So, what you are seeing with TV is patches of skin where the melanin is not working, surrounded by skin with your normal color. If you are dark skinned, the patches will be lighter than your normal skin color. If you are light-skinned, the patches may look darker.
As soon as you have the fungus under control, melanin production will return to normal, and your skin will gradually return to its normal color. This can take from 6 to 12 months. If the infection recurs, you’ll have to start again.
The answers to these two questions also raise a third issue, not always well-known:
Q3: How Can I Prevent Tinea Versicolor From Recurring?
This is where understanding of how to implement a multi-pronged attack comes into effect.
- It is important to deal with the condition itself. The quickest treatment is the use of topical creams or lotions, very often containing selenium sulfide. You can also try some home remedies (we give you some ideas here). You should continue to use these lotions, even after the initial infection has cleared.
- For more stubborn infections, anti-fungal pills may be required. This will require a prescription and careful adherence to directions, as these medications can be toxic, especially to the liver. They can be taken for short periods only.
- Be careful of how you do your laundry – wash clothing, towels and bed linen in hot water to kill the fungus, so that you don’t re-introduce it to your skin.
- Understand which foods to eliminate and which to keep in your diet. Some foods promote the growth of yeast.
- Unfortunately, only long-term and lifestyle changes prevent recurrence.
What Is a Tinea Versicolor Diet?
It is not clear whether the wrong diet will cause tinea versicolor, but it will certainly exacerbate it. Equally, diet on its own may not cure TV, but it really helps.
People ask whether they should follow a paleo diet, a candida diet, a vegan diet? All of these have elements that will work for tinea versicolor. However, you can also choose to design your own diet, based on knowledge of what foods to avoid – and why.
Foods to Avoid
There are unfortunately many foods that we commonly eat that will encourage the growth of yeast and fungus. There are a number of sites where you see all the lists – most of the "candida diets" will give guidance. There’s a useful list on "The Candida Diet" website.
In essence, you need a yeast free diet. The main foods to avoid include the following:
Sugar acts as fuel for growth of mold. So, avoid all forms of sugar completely. This includes honey and artificial sweeteners. Products made with white flour quickly turn to glucose in the blood, and must also be avoided.
This is because vinegar has been concentrated with yeast. You’ll have to cut out all those ketchups, condiments and salad dressings made with vinegar.
Barley malt is used in many breads and breakfast cereals. It is a product of the beer industry, and is yeast-based.
Avoid those made with yeast – and those with white flour. Some people with tinea versicolor are also gluten intolerant, so be on the lookout for this.
Fruits and Nuts
Although fructose is a natural sugar, it will accelerate the growth of yeast or mold. High sugar fruits include bananas, dates, grapes, mango and raisins. Avoid fruit juices altogether. Nuts, especially peanuts, and nut butters, support the growth of mold spores. Be especially careful of old and moldy nuts.
Any alcohol that had a fermentation process – especially beer – has had yeast added.
Some people may also have to exclude shellfish, swordfish and tuna, pork, processed meats, and all dairy products, except butter, ghee and yogurt. You’d have to exclude them and then bring them back slowly to see whether you have any reaction.
Foods to Include
Vegetables: The main food source will be vegetables – as many as possible. Eat broccoli, green beans and green leafy vegetables at least four times a week. Add sweet potatoes, onions, pumpkin seeds and citrus fruit.
Garlic has very strong anti-fungal properties. Swallow 2 raw cloves daily, first thing in the morning on an empty stomach (or get a very good garlic supplement).
Cloves, cinnamon, lemon juice, baking soda and apple cider vinegar all help to reduce fungal growth. (When you buy apple cider vinegar, make sure that it is unfiltered and still has the "mother". You can find one of the best brands here.)
Yogurt: Yogurt supports healthy gut bacteria and prevents overgrowth of fungus. Eat 2 to 3 cups of plain yogurt per day.
Meats: Meats such as chicken and turkey and good quality, grass-fed red meats (not pork) are OK in small portions. Bone broth is very good for re-establishing gut flora.
Fish: Stick to small fish like herring and sardines, or salmon caught in the wild, not from fish farms. Larger fish like tuna and swordfish tend to have high mercury loads.
Supplements to Take
Anyone with a compromised immune system, and having to cut back on the variety of foods allowed, would probably benefit from a good quality multivitamin. Make sure that it is not synthetic or made up of isolates. Look for a brand that is whole-food based.
One of the main things to recognise is that a reduced immune system – one of the predisposing factors for you to get TV in the first place – is related to gut health. 70% of your immune system is based in your digestive system, in your stomach, intestines and colon. Patients with tinea versicolor typically have fewer "good" gut bacteria. Taking a probiotic boosts this number. Remember to take probiotics after a meal. If you take them on an empty stomach the stomach acid is too high and destroys the bacteria.
Biotin stops yeast from reproducing. Biotin normally is produced by gut bacteria - but with TV you don’t have enough gut bacteria, so it becomes a vicious circle. So, a supplement can help.
Your skin is the biggest organ in your body, so it’s a good idea to take care of it. We have already talked about choosing the correct fabric for your clothing, washing linen in hot water, etc.
Some other good ideas include:
- Attach a chlorine filter to your shower to stop chlorine from drying out your skin and stopping the healthy production of oil. (It goes without saying that you should have a chlorine filter for your drinking water, so that chlorine doesn’t destroy the few good gut bacteria you have!)
- Use a natural soap, body wash or anti-dandruff shampoo, and preferably one with a natural antifungal such as neem or tea tree oil.
- Apply a lotion or cream regularly. The medicated lotions can only be used for very brief periods, so learn to make some great lotions with natural products. Apply once or twice a week to prevent recurrence of the infection.
Conclusion: A Tinea Versicolor Diet Works if You Add Some Extra Steps
So, there you have it. It isn’t necessary to put up with the embarrassment and discomfort of tinea versicolor.
But it will take a multi-pronged treatment regimen. Start with a topical cream (and an oral medication if necessary). Immediately switch to a carefully controlled tinea versicolor diet, with some supplements. Then make some lifestyle changes. These include wearing the right clothing, washing them properly, choosing the correct skin care products and sunscreens, filtering the water you use for drinking and showering.
Finally, you will have to continue with these steps on a long-term basis to be totally clear of the infection and prevent recurrence.
I hope this has helped you, given you some hope about getting your skin back to normal, and that you’ll follow some of our tips. Let me know how you go!
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