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5175 Pacific St., Ste B
Rocklin, CA 95677
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(916) 632-2400

Dermatology 101

The Truth About Yeast

Mary Sakai

Do carbohydrates and sugar make yeast worse?

The short answer is yes and no! To understand this, we need to learn a little about yeast.

Yeasts are members of the fungus kingdom and constitute about 1% of all described fungal species. By fermentation, the yeast species Saccharomyces cerevisiae converts carbohydrates to carbon dioxide and alcohols – for thousands of years the carbon dioxide has been used in baking and the alcohol in alcoholic beverages. Other species of yeasts, such as Candida albicans and Malassezia pachydermatis are opportunistic pathogens and can cause infections in humans and animals.

In dogs, the most common species of Malassezia causing skin disease is Malassezia pachydermatis. Unlike other yeasts that use sugars as their food source (Saccharomyces and Candida) Malassezia feeds on fats.  Because Malassezia depends on fats rather than sugars and because it lives on the skin, NOT in the intestines, it is unaffected by sugars and carbohydrates that are consumed in the diet. So, the answer to the first question is NO for Malassezia, but may be YES for Candida. Candida (a common cause of yeast infections in humans) does live on sugars in the intestines and therefore may be affected by carbohydrates and sugars in food.

Malassezia is naturally found on the skin surfaces of animals, including humans. There are many different species of Malassezia yeast. Each animal species (or human) has their own common types of Malassezia yeast. Although a norma inhabitant of skin, Malassezia can cause infections. Malassezia infections can cause changes in skin color- either lighter or darker. Malassezia yeast is a common cause of dandruff and seborrheic dermatitis in humans. The skin rash “tinea versicolor” (pityriasis versicolor) is also due to infection with Malassezia yeast in humans.

Malassezia is a very common cause of skin disease in our pets. Malassezia causes itchiness, redness, dark skin, “elephant skin,” excessive scaling (dandruff), and bad odor. Most often, pets develop Malassezia infections due to underlying allergies (such as flea allergy, food allergy or environmental allergies). However, people and pets can develop allergies to their own normal Malassezia yeast flora (the yeast population that normally lives on their skin).

It is essential to completely control Malassezia infections. Cytology is needed to confirm the presence of yeast on the skin. Typically, a combination of oral and topical therapies will be recommended to treat the infections.