An introduction to fungal skin infections
Having a skin infection can be a demoralising and incapacitating experience, especially since the symptoms are usually so visible and difficult to conceal.
One of the more common skin infections that can occur is a fungal infection, which as the name might suggest, arises from a surge in the fungal spores either internally in your digestive tract, or internally breeding on the surface of your skin.
A fungal infection can occur when the Candida albicans strain of fungi, which exist in your gut as yeast, are given optimum reproduction conditions, such as a warm, sweaty, dark or damp environment.
Once they have been given these conditions, these fungal spores then multiply exponentially, feeding off the dead skin tissues on the surface of our skin leading to irritation and visible discolouration and rashes.
Candida albicans is a type of fungus, or yeast that can form an essential part of your gut flora, inhabiting your mouth as well as your digestive tract. Usually this yeast helps to aid the digestive system, and is regulated by the friendly bacteria in your gut.
However if it is given adequate conditions to grow, it can cause a number of systemic problems.
This is because the candida yeast emits a waste product known as acetaldehyde.1 If your liver is unable to break down this toxin, it can cause a lot of problems for your immune system, encouraging the activity of nasty free radicals.
These molecules can cause cellular damage and have been associated with a number of diseases, like Alzheimer’s.
However, the candida yeast also dwells on the surface of your skin, so you are being faced with an attack on two fronts.
Normally Candida albicans exists in small amounts, yet if it is given condition in which it can grow, the yeast can start to feed off keratin, a structural protein found in the epidermis. This then gives rise to the traditional symptoms of dry skin, itchiness and erythema.
Your immune system can be vital when it comes to a candida overgrowth.
Let’s start with your gut yeast first. As we have already mentioned, acetaldehyde is a toxic by-product of the candida yeast which can take a toll on your immune system. When this happens, you may experience symptoms such as poor memory, difficulty concentrating and your digestion may become impaired.
Eventually, your immune system will become exhausted, which will increase the population of bad bacteria in your gut, continuing the conditions that enable the candida yeast to grow.
This can then impact your skin as your immune system will not be able to supply the skin with essential nutrients and will become sluggish at fending off unwanted bacteria and fungi. If you provide the fungal yeast with the correct conditions, it will start to multiple and your immune system will not be able to put up a proper fight, easily becoming overwhelmed.
Your digestive system can also influence the development of the candida yeast. When you experience digestive issues, such as constipation, either due to your diet, stress, or another existing health concern, it can prevent toxins and waste products from being expelled.
This then causes them to linger in your system and can increase the population of unfriendly bacteria found in your gut. Once this happens, it can affect the balance of unfriendly and friendly bacteria, with the population of unfriendly bacteria usually diminishing.
Since this type of bacteria is responsible for regulating the growth of candida, the yeast will start to multiple, uninhibited.
Poor digestion can also be linked to poor liver function, which will then cause problems when it comes to breaking down acetaldehyde. If this toxin is not broken down properly, it can be very damaging for your immune system. When you experience a candida overgrowth, the liver will be required to break down more and more acetaldehyde, until eventually it may be unable to cope with these increased demands.
This is where your skin steps in once more. The skin can also acts as an elimination organ, meaning that if your liver is unable to detoxify the body, then the skin may be obliged to take over this responsibility. This means that a number of impurities may be perspired through your epidermis, some of which will certainly damage your skin and make it more vulnerable to a fungal infection.
The causes of a fungal skin infection
The causes of a fungal skin infection are almost always related to the overgrowth of the candida yeast.
A number of factors can influence how this yeast is able to multiple – your immune system, your diet, your stress levels and even your hygiene habits can have an impact on the candida yeast, either aiding or impeding its growth.
If you want to learn more about the causes of a fungal skin infection, please check out our causes page.
The symptoms of a fungal skin infection
A fungal skin infection can be associated with a variety of unpleasant and unsightly symptoms. How the infection chooses to manifest can vary depending on your outbreak – the symptoms of athlete’s foot are quite different from some of the symptoms found in ringworm that appears on the body. If you want to learn more about the most common and overarching symptoms, please refer to our symptoms page.
The treatment of a fungal skin infection
The treatments for fungal infections are normally aimed at two specific areas – soothing any external discomfort or irritation and then killing fungal spores or bacteria growth. Although fungal infections are not considered to be a serious condition, if they are left untreated it can lead to complications such as cellulitis and even septicaemia.
This is why it is important try and start treating the illness as soon as possible. If you want to become more familiar with some of the home, herbal and conventional treatments available, please check out our treatments page.