Candida Albicans is a yeast-like fungus that is present naturally in the body. They are generally present in the gastrointestinal tract, mouth, and vagina. Usually, it is harmless and does not pose any threat to the health of a person. However, sometimes it can become responsible for certain infections, especially in children and elderly who have a compromised immune system. This causes rashes in the mouth and throat, a medical condition called thrush. It can also cause sexually transmittable diseases in males and females. This yeast infection can lead to potentially serious complications if it enters the bloodstream and infects it. However, in majority of the cases the immune system of the body is capable enough to handle this yeast and prevents it from causing any infectio.[1, 2, 3, 4]
It has been observed by some scientists that candida infection either in the past or currently is far more common in people with certain psychiatric disorders like schizophrenia than those without any mental condition. This conclusion was arrived at based on a study done on a group of males with a known diagnosis of schizophrenia and a group of females with this condition with additional memory issues.[1, 2, 3, 4]
The study was done by researchers from Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore. The researchers were a part of a group that was exploring a potential link between various pathogens present in the environment and mental disorders like schizophrenia. Even though the researchers found a possible link between these two, they do not mention that any of the pathogens actually cause these mental disorders.[1, 2, 3, 4]
A thorough analysis of lifestyle factors, immune system, and connections between the brain and the gut can shed more light into the cause of these associations. However, the lead researcher mentions that physicians should be on the lookout for these infections when treating people with mental disorders like schizophrenia.[1, 2, 3, 4] This article sheds some more light on the association between yeast infections and possibility of schizophrenia.
Can Yeast Infection Cause Schizophrenia?
In order to assess the possible link between yeast infections and mental disorders like schizophrenia the researchers took blood samples from about 800 people aged 18-65 looking for evidence of any previous or current yeast infection. Among the participants, about 250 people had a known diagnosis of schizophrenia, 270 had bipolar disorder, and 270 people without any mental disorders. Data was also taken of about 140 people who were recently diagnosed with schizophrenia and had not started treatment for it.
After taking all factors into account like age, gender, health status, and overall economic status of the participants the researchers explored the link between yeast infection and mental disorders. In general, they were not able to identify any link between these two entities. To make the research more thorough, the researchers started to analyze the data separately for males and females. It was then that they started to seen certain patterns.
It was observed that 26% of males with a diagnosis of schizophrenia had a prior history or currently were having candida infection compared to only 14% of males who did not have a mental disorder. This number was more in females but the difference between females with schizophrenia who had candida infection and females who had candida but no history of mental disorders was quite small.
With regard to bipolar disorder as well it was the males who had high rate of candida infection when compared to people with candida but no history of mental disorders. On closely analyzing the data, it was revealed that the link between mental disorders, like bipolar, in males and candida infection was high more likely due to homelessness; however, no such relation was found in males with schizophrenia.
Additionally, the participants of the study were also asked to attend a mental ability test to test for short term memory, delayed memory, attention span, and visuospatial skills. The mental skills of males and females who had a current or prior yeast infection and a diagnosis of schizophrenia were pretty much equal to those who had candida but did not have any mental disorders.
However, on the memory front, females with candida and schizophrenia had much lower memory than females without infection. The researchers were not able to establish a direct link between yeast infection and brain processes but the results clearly showed that there was something connected to the yeast infection that impaired the memory of females with schizophrenia and this calls for further research and study.
The only point that the researchers believe was the weakling in their study was the fact that they did not know which part of the body was affected by the yeast infection and whether the participants had the infection at the time of the study or they had a past history of it. The lifestyle habits of these participants were also not known to the researchers at the time of study.
One of the possible reasons given for the association of yeast infection with mental disorders is that yeast like candida are naturally present generally in the gut. It may sometimes impair the gut-brain axis. This along with not fully functional immune system tends to impair the processes in the brain associated with memory. The researchers now plan to study the gut-brain connection more thoroughly using mouse models to identify whether there is a causal link between yeast infection and memory problems along with mental disorders like schizophrenia.