A Staff Report from the Straight Dope Science Advisory Board

Is yeast infection yeast the same as cooking yeast?

Dear Straight Dope:

Is yeast infection yeast the same as cooking yeast? If I put my girlfriend in an oven the next time she has a yeast infection, will she rise? Have you ever heard of women using their own yeast in emergency cooking situations?

I can see why Cecil declined to answer this one. Brian, just so it comes as no surprise, I am NEVER eating at your house.

As far as yeast goes, the stuff we traditionally use as a leavener in baking is a microscopic fungi from the Saccharomycetaceae family. Yeast multiplies quickly in certain situations, such as those that bread dough supply; warmth, moisture and sugars to digest. This yeast causes alcoholic fermentation (not unlike certain members of the SDSAB) converting the sugars and starches it digests into ethyl alcohol and carbon dioxide. This gas is what causes bread to rise. If you bust open a loaf of your favorite bread you'll find that it's just chock-full of little holes; the bubbles caused by this process.

Yeast infection yeast, on the other hand, is a parasitic yeast-like fungus called Candida albicans. This is a fungus that normally lives in everyone's intestines, genital tract, mouth, esophogus and throat. Normally, it's not a problem as it keeps some kind of balance going with the bacteria, yeasts and assorted wee beasties that also inhabit said spaces. It's when something happens that upsets this balance and gives the Candida a chance to bloom out of control that we get the classic "yeast infection" that has plagued nearly every woman past the age of puberty. I won't go into the symptoms of this, or the other dozens of symptoms that can affect both men and women. I will note that it is the same fungi responsible for thrush in babies, that it can cause athlete's foot and jock itch and that it's possible to get it so badly that you get Candida Septicemia, a blood poisoning that affects every system in the body. Cutting down on the sugar you eat is said to go a long way towards curbing the growth of this particular nuisance.

Suffice it to say that if you bake with this stuff you probably won't get any of the results you'd hoped for.

SDSTAFF Jill comments:

Lara's answer was great, but I'll add a couple of things. I don't think what you consume generally affects your predisposition to yeast infections. There is controversy, also, about whether eating yogurt prevents and/or treats candida infections. They are often caused by taking antibiotics, which kill off some of the other bacteria present in the genital tract and allow the candida to overgrow, causing "candidiasis." The infectious agent is Candida albicans, and there are a couple of other types, too, but that is the most common. One can also contract candida by coming in contact with excretions of the mouth skin, vagina and feces from carriers, and from mother to baby during childbirth. Babies get thrush as Larasaurus said, and so do people with immunosuppression, such as with HIV. Another condition that can make someone susceptible to Candida infection is diabetes, so a good health care provider will test for diabetes any woman who has recurrent infections (though some women just DO, and no one knows why).

SDSTAFF Lara replies:

I can add as "notes from the field" that I stopped getting yeast infections (yep--got them every single time I had to take antibiotics) when I discovered liquid acidopholus (the live culture in yogurt). It's wayyyy nicer to use than that nasty over the counter-make-a-mess-in-your-panties stuff. Cheaper, too. But I doubt there's any proof it works. Except that I said so.

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