Causes, Symptoms, and Treatments for Yeast Allergy

Causes, Symptoms, and Treatments for Yeast Allergy

A yeast allergy can certainly be an unpleasant thing to have to deal with, and while there are times that some of these yeast allergens can be difficult to avoid, there is some good news in that these allergies are not nearly as common as they were once believed to be. There appeared to be quite a number of symptoms that could seemingly be traced back to an allergy of one type or another, particularly to a Candida albicans allergy or infection. Such is not the case however. Food allergies in general make up only a small percentage of all allergies, and yeast allergies account for only a tiny percentage of food allergies. That good news may be of little help to you if you have, or suspect you may have, a yeast allergy. If that is the case, the information provided below regarding the causes, symptoms, and methods of treatments, including home remedies, will hopefully prove to be helpful and of some value to you. There are five areas that you will want to look into, but first there is the question of whether or not you actually are allergic to the fungi. Answering that question can also be of some importance, even though the answer may not readily be forthcoming.

Is It a Yeast Allergy, Buildup, or Intolerance?

If you are allergic to a certain type of food, it is because it contains something that your immune system reacts unfavorably toward. That ‘something’ is called an allergen. An allergen is quite often a harmless substance or chemical – that is, harmless to most people, but not to you. When your immune system senses the presence of that ‘something’ in your body, it treats it as a foreign invader intent on doing harm. The immune system springs into action and fights off the invader by releasing histamines, and you and your body sometimes pay the price.

It’s not always clear why or how the immune system reacts to yeast, if it reacts at all. After all, there are a number of different types of yeast in the body. Most of those yeasts, or fungi, do useful work. Some do not. These fungi are normally kept under control. If one of them however is allowed to multiply and get out of control, you can end up having a fungal infection, which is not necessarily the same as having an allergy, but can sometimes contribute to one.

Some Possible Causes of a Yeast Allergy

There are at least three schools of thought on what might cause you to have a yeast problem. The first school of thought is that an allergic reaction to yeast happens when you have an excess of a particular type of fungus in your body, such as Candida albicans, the fungus that causes both thrush and vaginal yeast infections. If your body is hosting too much yeast, any you may have consumed could potentially cause an allergic reaction. There are several things that can cause an overgrowth of yeast cells in your body, including hormonal changes, vitamin D deficiency, high sugar levels, and birth control pills. Antibiotics can contribute to an overgrowth of these fungal cells as well if they kill off bacteria that help to keep the fungi under control.

The second school of thought is that the immune system is sensitive to certain common types of yeast; the most common types of yeast that are found in foods are baker’s yeast and brewer’s yeast. If this assumption were true, being allergic to yeast could simply be looked at as being not much different from a specific food allergy. It is the proteins in yeast that are usually responsible for any allergy problem you may encounter, as their presence causes your immune system to release the histamines that initiate your allergic reaction.

The third school of thought suggests that if eating foods that contain yeast gives you problems, you may not have an allergy at all, but rather an intolerance to yeast. Some, but not all, of the symptoms of a food intolerance can be similar to the symptoms of a food allergy, although the two are not the same thing.

To confuse matters even more, allergies to food or yeast are often referred to as hypersensitivities. This means you can be allergic to, intolerant of, or hypersensitive to yeast. Whichever is true, it is no fun to have to live with.

In any event, if you experience problems when eating something with yeast, there are several things you can do to help yourself. If your symptoms are severe and difficult to avoid, you should of course seek medical help or advice.

Yeast Allergy Symptoms

The symptoms you may experience will depend to some degree upon whether you already have an overabundance of the fungi in your system, whether your immune system is reacting to yeast you have just consumed, or a combination of both. It’s not always possible to predict when these symptoms might appear, making it difficult sometimes to pinpoint the source of the problem.

  • Early signs of an allergy may manifest themselves as various digestive problems such as gas or bloating, diarrhea, and constipation – hardly the symptoms that are commonly associated with an allergic reaction. These early signs may also include heartburn and even abdominal pain.
  • These early signs are sometimes followed by additional symptoms, which still give little – if any – indication as to what the cause might be, and include dizziness, fatigue, shortness of breath, and muscle or joint pains.
  • All of the above symptoms could mean almost anything, or they could mean very little. In many cases, you are left with little idea as to what could have triggered these symptoms unless you are keeping track of which foods you are eating and when you are eating them. It may be only then that a meaningful pattern or correlation might become apparent.
  • A more certain sign that an allergy is involved is if one or more of the above symptoms are accompanied by a rash or some form of fungal skin infection. You may also experience symptoms like those associated with hay fever, such as runny nose, sneezing, sore throat, and itchy, watery eyes.

Once your symptoms begin to point in the direction of an allergic reaction, the next step of course is to find the culprit, hoping it will not be one or more of your favorite foods. It should be noted however that most yeast allergies do not cause a rash, and if a rash is present, it may be due to some other allergy or some other food allergy.

Testing for Possible Allergens

If you have an idea as to what food might be causing the problem, one way to treat the allergy yourself is to go on an elimination diet. If more than one food item or type is involved, such a diet may become a lengthy process of elimination, but still might be worth pursuing. Another approach would be to seek help from a doctor or dietician, as there are several tests that can be taken to determine what might be behind your allergy.

There are at least five different types of tests that can be taken to determine if you are allergic to yeast:

  • An intradermal skin test, which involves injecting a small amount of a suspected allergen under the skin to see if there is a reaction.
  • A skin prick test, which is somewhat similar, but instead of using a syringe to inject the allergen, it is injected through the first layer of the skin using a needle.
  • A blood test, called radioallergosorbent test (RAST), which can be taken to measure the amount of immunoglobulin E (IgE) in the blood. IgE is the antibody that is responsible for the ‘classic’ or atopic allergic reactions, especially those reactions that are immediate.
  • A food elimination diet in which a food suspected of harboring an allergen is withdrawn from the diet for some time and then is slowly reintroduced. This is to see if either the withdrawal or the reintroduction causes an allergic reaction.
  • A food challenge test in which increasing amounts of a suspected allergen are consumed. Reactions are monitored by a clinician, who then determines the best way to continue testing. A food challenge test is considered by many to be the best approach to testing for yeast or other food allergies.

Foods that May Be Suspected of Harboring Yeast Allergens

  • The more common of suspicious food items would be those containing baker’s yeast. These include breads, biscuits, muffins, and pasta, including pizza crust. Most cakes you would purchase on the market would also contain baker’s yeast.
  •  Food items that contain brewer’s yeast consist mostly of beverages and would include beer, some wines, malt vinegar, and barley malt. Alcoholic drinks in general contain very low levels of yeast allergens, and if there is an allergen in one of these beverages, that allergen might be either wheat or a sulfite that can be activated by the sulfur dioxide found in many alcoholic beverages.
  •  Mushrooms are an excellent candidate and worth checking out since they could be considered to be the fruit of a fungus.
  • Some dairy products contain yeast strains, and any product containing lactose should be considered, as lactose is used as food by some types of fungi.
  • Sugars also are a food supply for yeasts and fungi. Fresh fruits should not be a problem, but dried fruits may contain strains of yeast and many dried fruits have relatively high sugar content. This is also true of some berries, ciders, jams, and jellies.

Other potential sources of allergens are aged meats, black tea, and any food containing monosodium glutamate (MSG). MSG by itself acts as an allergen to some people.

Treating the Allergies

  • The best treatment is one of avoidance. This will often involve making a few changes in your diet, which is something you can do yourself if you know what foods you’re allergic to or you can enlist the help of a dietician to plan your new diet. If you still get an occasional allergic reaction, an antihistamine such as diphenhydramine or loratadine may relieve the symptoms. If you are on any medication or have any type of a systemic disorder, it would be best to consult with your doctor to see which symptom-relieving medications would be safe to take and which might not be.
  • Another course of action would be to limit yourself to yeast-free foods. These would include fresh vegetables; protein-rich foods like beef, turkey, fish, and eggs; and foods rich in complex carbohydrates such as brown rice, beans and lentils, buckwheat, and barley. It’s always a good idea to wash fresh vegetables before eating them. Sugary foods should be avoided. It was noted above that most yeast and fungi rely on sugars as food.
  • You don’t have to go without eating bread. You can purchase bread that does not contain baker’s yeast (check with your local bakery), or you can make your own bread using yeast-free, non-enriched flour.
  • Anything you can think of that might improve the health of your immune system can be helpful, especially if you suspect or know that for some reason it has become weakened. A weakened immune system is more susceptible to potential allergens, and if strengthened, the symptoms you experience may become less severe and even tolerable.
  • You can also take probiotic supplements such as Lactobacillus acidophilus, which is found in yogurt. These supplements will increase the number of helpful bacteria in your body that serve to balance out your body’s microorganisms and reduce or even eliminate problem-causing fungi.

Finding out whether or not you have a yeast allergy may not always be easy, although one or more of the aforementioned tests may help. If you have yeast intolerance, the course of treatment may be different, and if what you have is actually a yeast infection, your treatment will be different still. Plan a healthy diet, get enough exercise, follow your doctor’s advice, and if needed take probiotic supplements. Over time, your allergy, if you indeed have one, will be something you can easily manage.

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