Fungi are a unique collection of single-cell and multicellular organisms that have their own kingdom, separate from the plant and animal kingdoms. Mycology is the dedicated field of study for fungi, concerned with discovering new species, as well as discovering how to use them in various industries or applications that can benefit humanity.1
What makes fungi unique is their combination of plant and animal characteristics. Fungi cannot produce their own food and must obtain it from their surroundings by utilizing carbon, amino acids, nitrogen and other nearby nutrients.2 Plants make their own food through photosynthesis.
In contrast, fungi have a cell wall similar to plants. It performs important functions, such as nutrient absorption and protection from the environment, as well as to define the actual shape of the fungi. Animals only have cell membranes.3
Why You Should Pay Attention to Yeast in Particular
Yeasts are microscopic single-celled fungi found in the soil and water all over the world, and even in small, harmless numbers inside you. They are lemon-shaped and are about the same size as your red blood cells.4 One example of yeast used in cooking is Saccharomyces cerevisiae. It’s used to make baker's yeast, allowing the production of leavened bread.5
Budding is the method of reproduction of yeasts. A small yeast bud grows on the edge of a parent yeast cell and breaks off, becoming a parent yeast cell itself. If the conditions are optimal, yeast cells can divide as fast as once every 90 minutes.6
Out of the different types of fungi, yeast usually gets the spotlight because it has different uses. But beware: Not all yeasts are actually beneficial.
Learn More About Yeast and the Infection It Causes
Having too much of a particular type of yeast can cause yeast infection, one of the most common forms of fungal infection around the world. The medical term for the disease is candidiasis, which is taken from Candida, the species of yeast responsible for the infection.
According to Fungal Infection Trust, at least 70 percent of premenopausal women develop a yeast infection once at some point in their lives, while 135 million women experience repeat attacks. Oral candidiasis, on the other hand, affects 2 million people worldwide.7 Yeast infection typically affects the female reproductive organs, because a small number of Candida are normally found there.
For men, there's a small chance they may get a yeast infection if they have sexual intercourse with an infected partner. Since yeast feeds on sugar, patients with diabetes tend to be more susceptible to the disease.8,9
Telltale symptoms of a yeast infection in women include vaginal discharge, rashes and itching in the vaginal area and a burning sensation during urination.10 In men, the skin on their penis may be moist, along with redness or a burning sensation.11 In oral candidiasis, which affects both men and women, the mucous membrane in the mouth becomes white and thick. There’s also a chance it can become swollen and slightly red.12
In this guide, you'll learn all about yeast infection: its causes, symptoms and steps you can take to prevent repeat attacks.