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Yeast Allergy

Background on yeast allergy

In the late 1970s and 1980s, a pair of doctors in the United States promoted the idea that an allergy to a common fungus, Candida albicans, was behind a host of symptoms. They pinned a long list of symptoms on Candida, including:

  • abdominal bloating, constipation, and diarrhea
  • anxiety and depression
  • hives and psoriasis
  • impotence and infertility
  • menstrual problems
  • respiratory and ear problems
  • unexpected weight gain
  • "feeling bad all over"

According to doctors C. Orian Truss and William G. Crook, it was difficult to find any symptom that couldn't be traced back to Candida albicans. They suggested that 1 out of 3 Americans suffered from a yeast allergy, or “candida-related complex.” An entire supplement industry sprung up around “the yeast problem.”

However, the real problem wasn't yeast — it was that the science behind the allergy turned out to be mostly bogus. State and medical boards began fining and suspending the licenses of the doctors involved in promoting and treating Candida allergy.

Does that mean yeast allergies don't exist? No, they do — they're just not nearly as common as these doctors proposed.

How common are yeast allergies?

According to the American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology, over 50 million Americans have some type of allergy. Only a small portion of allergies are food allergies, and yeast allergies make up only a tiny fraction of food allergies.

Learn more: Food allergy causes »

Sources of a yeast allergy may include:

  • most breads and some baked goods, such as muffins, biscuits, croissants, or cinnamon rolls
  • cereal products
  • alcohol, especially beer, wine, and ciders
  • premade stocks, stock cubes, and gravies
  • vinegar and foods containing vinegar, such as pickles or salad dressing
  • aged meats and olives
  • mushrooms
  • fermented foods such as ripe cheeses and sauerkraut
  • dried fruits
  • blackberries, grapes, strawberries, and blueberries
  • buttermilk, synthetic cream, and yogurt
  • soy sauce, miso, and tamarind
  • tofu
  • citric acid
  • anything that has been opened and stored for an extended period of time
Common allergens
These 8 types of foods are responsible for 90 percent of food allergies:
  • milk
  • eggs
  • tree nuts
  • peanuts
  • fish
  • shellfish
  • wheat
  • soy

When someone is having a negative reaction to yeast, they need to determine whether they have a yeast buildup, yeast intolerance, or yeast allergy.

Yeast buildup

In some cases, having an abundance of yeast in the body can result in a fungal infection. This will cause many of the same symptoms as an allergy, with the difference being that the infection can be cured.

Yeast intolerance

A yeast intolerance generally has less severe symptoms than a yeast allergy, with symptoms largely limited to gastrointestinal symptoms.

Yeast allergy

A yeast allergy can affect the entire body, leading to skin reactions, changes in mood, and widespread body pain. Allergic reactions can be dangerous, and can cause long-term damage to the body.

Symptoms

Symptoms of a yeast allergy can vary from person to person, but they may include one or more of the following:

  • abdominal swelling
  • breathing difficulties
  • dizziness
  • joint pain

There is a common misconception that a yeast allergy is the cause of the red, blotchy skin that some people develop after drinking alcoholic beverages. This rash is actually most often related to sulfur dioxide. Sulfur dioxide is a common ingredient in alcohol, which may activate reactions to other allergens such as wheat and sulfites. Sometimes histamines and tannins will trigger rashes as well. A yeast allergy will typically not cause a rash.

Risk factors for a yeast allergy

Anyone can develop a yeast allergy, but certain individuals are more likely to than others.

One of the most common risk factors for developing a yeast allergy is a weakened immune system. People with diabetes are also at a higher risk.

Those with a family history of a yeast allergy are at increased risk. And if you have a food allergy, there is an increased likelihood that you’re also allergic to something else.

Testing for allergies

There are several tests available to confirm allergies to yeast or to other foods.

TestHow it works
Skin prick testA small drop of the suspected allergen is placed on the skin and pushed through the first layer of skin with a small needle.
Intradermal skin testA syringe is used to inject the suspected allergen underneath the skin.
Blood or RAST testThis test measures the amount of the immunoglobin E (IgE) antibody in the blood. High levels of IgE are indicative of an allergy.
Food challenge testA person is given increasing amounts of a suspected allergen as a clinician watches for a reaction. This is considered the best way to test for most food allergies.
Elimination dietA person stops eating the suspected allergen for a period of time and then slowly introduces it back into the diet while recording any symptoms.
 

Gluten intolerance vs. yeast allergy

Gluten allergies (or celiac disease) and gluten sensitivities may be confused with yeast allergies. Gluten is a mixture of proteins, found in grains such as wheat, rye, and barley. It’s often added to processed foods.

Because many of the foods that contain gluten also contain yeast, celiac disease is commonly diagnosed when a yeast allergy might actually be at fault. If you’ve been diagnosed with celiac disease or a gluten intolerance but still experience side effects after cutting gluten from your diet, consider eliminating yeast.

Learn more: Symptoms of celiac disease, wheat allergy, and non-celiac gluten sensitivity: Which is it? »

Complications

Other allergies
Yeast allergies are often confused for gluten or wheat allergies, and are misdiagnosed as such. They have many overlapping symptoms, and yeast and wheat may be found in many of the same items, including breads, some baked goods, soy sauce, and beer.

If someone continues to consume yeast when they’re allergic, it can cause an array of symptoms, such as difficulty concentrating, mood disorders, ear infections, and more. Long-term malnourishment and gastrointestinal damage may also occur.

Yeast allergies may be related to a weakened immune system or diabetes. These underlying causes will need to be treated on their own.

Foods to eat

Items that you can eat or drink freely include:

  • soda breads, which are typically yeast-free
  • fruit smoothies
  • protein, such as unprocessed meat and fish
  • skim milk
  • green vegetables
  • beans
  • potatoes
  • squash
  • grains, such as brown rice, corn, barley, and rye
  • oats

However, you should always check the label.

Outlook

Yeast allergies are not very common and there isn’t a lot of scientific research behind them. However, some people do experience reactions. Talk to your doctor if you think you may have a yeast allergy. They can refer you to an allergist who can properly diagnose and confirm the allergy. The main treatment for any food allergy is to avoid the food causing the reaction. Your doctor and allergist can help you find healthy ways to remove yeast from your diet.

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