The single celled yeast organisms is either oval or spherical shaped and reproduces by the “budding” system. This is accomplished when the nucleus divides, passing one to a bud forming from the wall of the mother cell. A wall then builds between the bud and the mother cell and separates to become a daughter cell. This is repeated until many smaller daughter cells are produced. These gradually increase in size, producing their own daughter cells. Both yeasts and molds prefer a mildly acidic atmosphere.
Candidiasis is caused by the genus Candida, which is a true yeast and not dimorphic, although chains of yeast cells sometimes link together, forming a structure known as pseudo or false hyphae. When C. albicans lives as a part of the normal body flora (the mucous membranes of the mouth, the vagina, and the intestinal tract), it is typically seen as a yeast, but when it is actively causing disease, it is more likely to appear with mycelia (a mass of threadlike processes). It becomes a problem only when the immune system becomes weakened and unable to fight off the growing numbers. Other agents capable of causing systemic fungal infections are mycelial when free-living, but adopt a yeast form when causing infection.
C. albicans is the usual cause of the oral ‘thrush’ and diaper rash infections often seen in infants, as well as the vaginal infections that plague women. Candidiasis of the skin may appear in areas where skin is damp (it does not grow well in dry environments) or irritated, but it seems to be more prevalent in persons on broad-spectrum antibiotic therapy. Members of this genus can also produce such serious illnesses as endocarditis, septicemia, protracted urinary tract infections, kidney and lung infections, esophagitis, and other soft tissue infections. Even with treatment at this stage, mortality rates are high.
Even though C. albicans remains the most common cause of serious candidiasis, other Candida species are becoming more and more common. This yeast is not to be confused with baker’s yeast or brewer’s yeast (Saccharomyces cerevisiae) or the English food Marmite, which uses Candida utilis. It was developed during shortages of WWII for use on toast. Live baker’s yeast should be avoided since it depletes the body of B vitamins and other vital nutrients.
Symptoms of candida-related conditions include the following: fatigue or lethargy, poor memory, feeling spacey or unreal, numbness, burning, tingling, insomnia, muscle aches, weakness, abdominal pain, constipation, bloating, intestinal gas, vaginal itching/burning/discharge, prostatitis, PMS, attacks of anxiety or crying, shaking or irritability when hungry, headaches, sinusitis, moodiness, white tongue, tendency to bruise easily, chronic rashes, itching, food sensitivities or intolerance, mucus in stools, rectal itching, hoarseness or loss of voice, and nasal itching.