Yeast infections—which are caused by a treatable overgrowth of a certain type of naturally-occurring fungus called Candida in your body—can be a real b*tch. Hello itchy, burning lady parts. Most often we hear about yeast infections occurring vaginally, but you can actually get the same type of bacterial infection in your skin, nails, or mouth. Even men aren't immune, and yeast infections can be transmitted sexually. Not cute. (Check out The 5 Biggest Yeast Infection Myths—Debunked.)
But people prone to these types of infections might have more to worry about than just the embarrassment of the gross, painful side effects, according to new research
Researchers from Johns Hopkins analyzed the anti-Candida antibodies in the blood samples of over 800 participants between the ages of 18 and 65. Of this group, 277 had no history of mental disorders, 261 had a history of schizophrenia and 270 people had bipolar disorder, and they study found that there was a significant correlation between yeast infections in men and mental disorders. The correlation wasn't found in women. (Whew!)
Yeast infections did, however, seem to matter for women when it came to memory loss. The researchers tested participants for the neurological effects of Candida by having them complete a 30-minute cognitive assessment that tested their memories. And women with a history of yeast infections performed worse on average. (Psst... Find out why you can't remember anyone's names anymore.)
These findings don't mean that there's cause-and-effect relationship—just because you have the occasional yeast infection does not mean that you're going to be diagnosed with schizophrenia or start forgetting your friends' names. What it does mean, according to the researchers, is that certain lifestyle factors, immune system weaknesses, and gut-brain connections that could be playing a role in both the yeast infection and the neurological conditions.
The second piece of good news: Yeast infections are fairly easy to control by switching to a low-sugar, low-carb diet or by getting meds from the doc. If you're prone to getting these nasty and annoying infections, talk to your gyno about what lifestyle changes might need to be made. (Asking for a Friend: What's Causing My Itchy Vagina?)