Candida albicans is the most common type of fungus or yeast found in the human body. It normally exists on many surfaces of the body, including the skin and the gastrointestinal tract, coexisting with other microorganisms like bacteria and other types of fungi. When present in small numbers, yeast cells do not pose any harm to the host (the human individual) because the presence of other "good" bacteria such as Lactobacillus acidophilus balances the acidity of the microbial environment, preventing the occurrence of infection. There are certain conditions, however, that cause an imbalance in the chemical and biological environment in the body, allowing the overgrowth of yeast and the disappearance of "good" bacteria. This imbalance leads to yeast allergy or an increase in sensitivity to the presence of large numbers of yeast.
Other forms of yeast may also be found in many food products like bread, milk products, beer, peanuts, and nutritional supplements. It is used for fermentation and preparation of many common foods. Unfortunately, some people are highly sensitive to these microorganisms and develop allergic reactions to these foods. It is estimated that one in three Americans experience yeast allergy symptoms after being exposed to the proteins in yeast. These occur after the body produces antibodies and histamines to neutralize the foreign proteins from yeast, triggering the allergic reaction.
Causes of Yeast Allergy
Yeast allergy may be triggered by eating certain foods containing yeast. Many common foods in the home contain yeast, known as Saccharomyces cerevisiae including:
- Peanuts and other nuts
- Dried fruits
- Tomato sauce
- Condiments like vinegar, ketchup and soy sauce
On the other hand, symptoms of yeast allergy may also be caused by an infection of large numbers of yeast called Candida albicans, which causes candidiasis or moniliasis. This may occur in various parts of the body where yeast can proliferate, such as the mouth, the skin, or the intestines.
Overgrowth of yeast cells may occur due to various factors, such as hormonal changes, use of birth control pills, antibiotic intake, or even low vitamin D levels. People who have high blood sugar levels (diabetes) are also more prone to yeast allergy, as well as patients who are undergoing steroid or cancer therapy (radiation and chemotherapy). These conditions increase one's risk for acquiring yeast infection or allergy.
Symptoms of Yeast Allergy
Yeast allergy may be manifested early as digestive problems such as:
- Abdominal disturbance or pain
Some people develop a leaky gut syndrome, where the yeast is able to penetrate through the intestinal walls and travel through the bloodstream, causing generalized symptoms, such as:
- Shortness of breath
- Joint pains
- Muscle pains
Yeast infection can affect the mouth, causing a condition called oral thrush, and this may be seen as a white spots in the mouth and a white tongue.
Yeast can also affect the skin, causing skin rashes, such as those found in diaper rash. Other forms of fungal skin infection include dandruff, athlete's foot, and jock itch. These are characterized by itchiness, redness, and inflammation.
Other problems may also be associated with yeast overgrowth, such as ear problems, bladder infection, infertility, and psoriasis. Vaginal yeast infection is also a common type of yeast infection and manifests as vaginal itchiness and abnormal vaginal discharge.
Treatments for Yeast Allergy
Most symptoms of yeast allergy are relieved with medical treatment using antifungal drugs which may be taken orally. However, antifungal creams and other skin products may also be used for skin problems such as rashes. Vaginal yeast infection can be treated with antifungal vaginal suppositories or creams. These antifungal preparations are available as over-the-counter products in pharmacies or groceries, but some may need a medical prescription.
Probiotic supplements. In addition to antifungal medications, one will also benefit from taking probiotic supplements which contain "good" bacteria such as Lactobacillus acidophilus. These supplements may come in the form of probiotic food products like yogurt, which contain live cultures of bacteria. These bacteria, when ingested, can increase the number of "good" bacteria in the intestines and restore the balance of microorganisms in the body, thus helping to eliminate yeast. These food products are widely available in groceries and health food stores, and may help promote health in many ways.
Foods to avoid. People who suspect that they are allergic to yeast should avoid sugary foods and carbohydrate-rich foods, because these serve as the food for yeast and encourage their growth. Other foods that contain yeast must be avoided, and these include:
- Milk and milk products like cheese
- Vegetables like potatoes, mushrooms, corn, sauerkraut, yams, and parsnips
- Condiments like soy sauce, tomato sauce, vinegar, and tomato paste
- Pickles or pickled vegetables which contain vinegar
- Breads with yeast, sourdough, doughnuts
- Fermented beverages like beer, root beer and wine
- Salad dressing, mustard and relishes containing vinegar
- Processed meats like sausages, luncheon meat, ham, bacon, corned beef
Yeast-free food alternatives one can take include:
- Home-baked breads, cakes and biscuits which use yeast-free, non-enriched flours and baking powder
- For salad dressings, try using lemon juice and olive oil
- For fruit juices, use your own produce
- For spices, use fresh or frozen not dried
- Read labels in buying your multivitamins, making sure they are yeast-free
When to See a Doctor
Yeast allergy may be a sign of a weak immune system or may be associated with other diseases like diabetes. If yeast allergy symptoms occur repeatedly or recur often and are associated with other symptoms, it is best to consult a doctor for adequate diagnosis and medical treatment. The underlying problem, such as diabetes or immune disorder must be treated in order to improve yeast allergy symptoms.
People who suffer from recurring symptoms of diarrhea, abnormal vaginal discharge, sinusitis, chronic cough, sore throat, nervousness, or insomnia should consult their doctor for yeast overgrowth. Skin conditions due to yeast allergy often manifest as unexplained rash which does not go away with conventional treatment. These indicate that one needs to see a doctor for proper treatment.