It is important to note that Candida albicans rarely “causes” a yeast infection, even though it’s always present in the body and in the outside environment.
That’s Right – Yeast Doesn’t Cause Yeast Infections.
The yeast that is responsible for vaginal yeast infections, male yeast infections, diaper and skin rashes and oral thrush is a tiny fungus called Candida albicans.
Occasionally, a yeast infection is caused by a form of yeast other than the common C. albicans. Some of these other yeasts include C. dubliniensi and C. stellatoidea, but infections by yeasts other than Candida albicans are rare.
If you are now suffering from a yeast infection, Candida albicans yeast is currently making you itch, true enough.
But you live with yeast on your body and in the environment all the time, and it doesn’t usually cause you any problems. So why does Candida albicans sometimes go on the rampage and turn into oral thrush, vaginal and male yeast infections, skin infections, and even get in under your nails?
I know you’re in a hurry, so for now, let’s make it simple –
Remember the Incredible Hulk?
Because of an unfortunate accident involving gamma rays, mild-mannered nuclear physicist Dr. Robert Bruce Banner turns into a giant green raging monstrosity.
You really don’t want to make Dr. Banner mad…
Okay, I know I’m oversimplifying this – but Candida yeast acts just like The Hulk. Most of the time, this tiny one-celled organism just floats around harmlessly.
In fact, most of the time it is completely incapable of doing any damage, and can’t cause any kind of infection or rash.
But under certain circumstances, this harmless little fungus can almost instantly morph into a completely different form, with long stringy parts that glue themselves to your skin or mucous membranes and multiply into a raging rash that causes those uncomfortable symptoms of a yeast infection that we all dread.
And then, just as quickly, the yeast cells can morph back into their harmless form again. Rash is gone, no more discharge, no more itch, no more pain.
You still have yeast – it just isn’t doing anything to hurt you any more.
And that matters because the key to eliminating your chronic yeast infections is to find the true cause of yourinfections, so you can make simple changes in your diet or daily habits to keep from triggering your yeast to become infectious
Then you can stay free of the nasty symptoms of yeast infections, without using strong herbal remedies or restrictive diets.
Yeasts, including the Candida albicans that may be now causing your yeast infection, are single-celled fungi.
Other types of fungi are molds and mushrooms. Fungi are more closely related to animals than plants, although you wouldn’t be able to tell that from looking at them.
Because the Candida albicans cells are very similar to our own, many chemicals that are known to kill them can also damage or kill human cells. Some anti-fungal medications can also kill off the beneficial bacteria that live in our gut. This makes the process of finding safe and effective anti-fungal medications even more difficult for researchers. In fact, this is one of the dangers of using strong natural anti-fungal herbs, since they also kill the bacteria that are our first line of defense against a Candida albicans infection.
Scientists have found over a thousand different species of yeasts so far, and there are probably many more that have not yet been discovered. Yeasts tend to reproduce very quickly under the right conditions, and this makes them a favorite organism for scientists who study DNA and genetic markers. It also makes yeast infections difficult to fight when your own body becomes a “perfect” environment for the fast growth of yeast. While Candida albicansis the most common form of yeast to cause yeast infections, other species can sometimes also become invasive.
Most people, (at least 80% of us), have Candida living in or on our bodies. C. albicans lives on the skin and in the mouth and gastrointestinal tract, along with many other living organisms. Most of the time, the yeast is perfectly harmless.
Candida is an opportunistic infection, which means that it’s usually benign, but it can explosively reproduce and become invasive under conditions.
This is especially troublesome if the body’s own immune system is impaired for some reason and unable to fight off the infection.
When the yeast is in its harmless round form you would never know it was there, even though it is probably living on your skin and in your lower intestine and vagina all the time.
However, Candida yeast is dimorphic, which means that the same yeast cell can take two different forms, depending on the environment in which it is living. If a chemical change in the body causes the yeast to be “stressed,” the shape of the Candida cell changes and it becomes invasive.
Candida is everywhere, but a Candida overgrowth will only happen if the conditions are right for it.
This yeast lives in and on most humans most of the time, and we are rarely aware of it. Something must happen to upset our internal balance or the health of our immune system before the organism becomes a problem for us. If we remember that Candida albicans is really not the enemy, it is easier to understand how to prevent future infections.
When our system is upset, perhaps because of a hormone change, antibiotic use, or poor diet, your normally “nice” yeast can morph into an infectious form. As soon as your health conditions improve, the yeast will morph back to its benign form, and stop making you itch.
Some of the things that cause yeast to switch from friendly to aggravating can be controlled by diet or lifestyle changes, while other conditions need the assistance of a health care provider.
The following list shows some of the more common things that can trigger a Candida albicans infection:
- The balance of power between bacteria and yeast is disturbed. The beneficial bacteria that live in our intestines, gut and skin are our first line of defense against yeast. Bacteria and yeast are natural enemies, so your beneficial bacteria will keep your internal population of yeast from growing out of control. Generally, bacteria in the colon and vagina vastly outnumber yeast cells. However, when antibiotics are used to fight a bacterial infection, we lose this important safeguard and yeast is able to take over. A diet high in refined sugars and other carbohydrates will also favor the growth of yeast and inhibit the growth of bacteria. This can result in the same type of imbalance that is caused by antibiotics. This imbalance can lead to a yeast infection in the mouth or vagina, and is one of the main reasons why so many otherwise healthy women keep having yeast infections. (See sgmjournals.org and pubmedcentral.nih.gov)
- Changing hormone balances, due to pregnancy, hormone replacement therapy during menopause, using oral contraceptives, and certain illnesses like diabetes. The hormones in your body affect your chemical balance and pH, and changes in the hormone balance can create the conditions that cause Candida to change into its infectious form. Insulin resistance, which is a symptom of type 2 diabetes, is another thing that can change the hormone balance and create an opportunity for a yeast infection. Obesity can cause insulin resistance, and obese women are more likely to get yeast infections than their thinner sisters.
- The immune system is compromised by an HIV infection, chemotherapy or radiation treatment, Lyme disease, or immune-suppressing medication used after an organ transplant. Premature babies are also at risk of yeast infections. Yeast infections can be fatal for some immune compromised patients. The use of steroid medications to combat auto-immune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis can also trigger a yeast infection.
- An underlying illness or condition. Chronic yeast infections are often the first symptom of a more serious underlying illness, such as diabetes, thyroid disorder, leukemia or AIDS.