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By Joe Yachimec

So, you thought you were safe, eh? Free to make noises of commiseration to your girlfriend (or perhaps an overly talkative co-worker) as they regaled you with horror stories of fungal attack and counterattack. Free forever from the roads and ways of a secret and apparently dangerous land. Well, you were wrong. There is a beast out there, stalking darkly through the secret forests of us all.

Candida Albicans, the kind of yeast that causes infections in people, is a part of the human ecosystem, one of a garden of microflora which are traveling with us everywhere and at all times. This includes men, even though infections are more commonly associated with women.

“It can be like a ping-pong thing,” says Carla Ritchie, a student in Ryerson’s Primary Health Care Nurse Practitioner program and a nurse for over 20 years. “A couple will give it back and forth to each other through sexual contact.”

Human yeast, specifically, is “gut flora–” it lives in our mouths and our gastrointestinal tracts, where it hangs out in a single-cell form. When in this form, yeast isn’t dangerous, but it can be activated through environmental changes. Once activated, yeast changes and becomes multicellular, like a gross version of Optimus Prime.

Transformed, the yeast becomes aggressive and belligerent before proceeding to infect tissue. This is where you and your penis come in. Penile yeast infections are marked by itchiness, redness, and soreness, and come with small red lesions, cracked skin, and discharge. They’re transmitted (or activated) in a number of different ways.

It can also spread to your mouth, where it becomes thrush, an opportunistic infection that is common among sufferers of AIDS. If you need more motivation to be careful, look up “thrush” in Google Images.

Men with diabetes are also at risk, as Candida Albicans, like most yeasts, feeds on sugar. Elevated blood-sugar levels, common among diabetics, cause a sort of yeast fiesta, Not diabetic? That’s okay, everybody’s invited to the fiesta.

“Guys, especially guys that aren’t circumcised, are at risk,” Ritchie says. “You need to make sure of good hygiene, and ensure good airflow.” Hygiene and airflow will always help, but your body is a complex ecosystem, and like any ecosystem, it can be unbalanced through outside interference. Antibiotics used over a long period of time can destroy the organisms that would regularly keep yeasts in check, which opens up the body to attack and infection.

Other medicinal agents, such as the fairly common spermicide Nonoxynol-9, can do the same thing.

To defeat yeast, trust the people who know it best, and learn to fight it like a woman. Swallow your pride when you see the symptoms, and go to a doctor. Oral antibiotics are the fastest way to combat an infection, and over-the-counter drugs work, as well.

There’s a system developed to fight this stuff, and from there it’s a simple matter of following instructions.

Please don’t buy anything with an applicator and a lozenge because you just aren’t built that way.

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