Yeasts are actually tiny spores of single cell fungus that belong to the division Ascomycota, which also includes molds, mildews and mushrooms. It grows naturally in the body and performs an important role in ridding the body of various excess nutrients, however when it grows out of control the toxic by-products it creates can irritate and inflame sensitive mucus membranes and tissues.
Yeast infections are not usually harmful or dangerous but they can be very unpleasant, and when situated in the vaginal area can create an uncomfortable itching and burning sensation, along with a lumpy, cheese-like discharge that sometimes has a noticeable smell. Yeast and other fungal infections such as athlete’s foot and ringworm can indicate an imbalance in our bodies and a weak immune system. It is important that you eat a healthy diet, as yeast feeds mostly on glucose and eating a sugar rich diet can encourage yeast to grow out of control. The ‘good’ bacteria that control and prevent yeast infections mainly feed on sugars gained from fruit and vegetables, so a healthy diet can help your body keep the right balance of bacteria and yeasts. You should also avoid wearing synthetic, tight clothes, which can make your body sweat more, and encourage yeast to grow and spread on your skin, and also practice a good daily hygiene ritual of washing and thoroughly drying your clothes before wearing, and showering at least once a day.
Fungal infections thrive in moist, warm conditions, so be careful when using public showers and gyms, and try to wear shower shoes (or flip flops) rather than walk around barefoot. Unlike other fungal infections such as athlete’s foot, yeast infections are not usually transferable from person to person. Yeast infections occur mostly when your own balance of yeast grows out of control, rather than an infection from someone else, the main exception to this being from mother to baby while nursing.
Fungus sounds unpleasant but it performs some vital functions in nature. Mushrooms are not only used for food, but also play a key role in decomposing organic matter in the soil, making nutrients and proteins available again to other plants and animals. Penicillin is a type of mold, and is one of the key treatments for many bacterial infections such as syphilis and meningitis. Yeast itself has many uses, such as to raise bread and ferment wines and beers. Yeast is also used in the biotechnology industry, because of its ability to break down sugar and convert it into ethanol.