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Yeast is a microscopic fungus made of singular oval cells that can change sugar into alcohol and carbon dioxide. It multiplies by budding and is used as a fermenting agent in different quantities to prepare food items and beverages. It helps to raise bread dough and ferment beer.
What is Yeast Allergy?
Candida albicans is a yeast type of fungus that causes yeast allergy and is a part of food allergy. However, a negative reaction to yeast is not always an allergy; it can also be due to a yeast build up or yeast intolerance. Hence, it is important to know what each of the conditions mentioned above means to be able to identify them correctly.
Yeast Intolerance is less severe as compared to yeast allergy and they usually result in gastrointestinal symptoms. In other cases having excessive amounts of yeast in the body can cause a fungal infection which is curable along with symptoms of an allergy. However, a yeast allergy is dangerous and causes long-term detrimental effects on the body. The immune system reacts against a foreign body that is not harmful to the body. It leads to skin reactions, widespread body aches, and mood swings.
Common Food Sources that Cause Yeast Allergy
- Most breads
- Baked goods – croissants, cinnamon rolls, muffins, biscuits, etc.
- Gravies, stocks, premade stocks
- Aged olives and meats
- Synthetic cream
- Soy sauce
- Dried fruits
- Vinegar & food items containing vinegar (pickles, salad dressing, etc.)
- Fermented foods – ripe cheese, sauerkraut
- Citric acid
- Items that have been opened and stored for a long period
- Allergic reaction – Large quantities of certain types of yeast such as Candida albicans can be present in the body. They can be consumed in the form of food and may trigger an allergic reaction leading to thrush and vaginal yeast infections. This overgrowth of yeast in the body can be due to use of birth control pills, deficiency of vitamin D, hormonal changes, etc. Excessive growth of fungus can also occur if antibiotics kill the bacteria that are responsible for keeping fungal growth under control.
- Yeast intolerance – People who experience problems whenever they consume food or beverages containing yeast may be intolerant towards it. Consumption of yeast results in allergies, discomfort, etc. Symptoms of yeast intolerance and allergy may be similar, but they are not the same.
- Immune system – The type of yeast found in baker’s yeast and brewer’s yeast is the kind that the immune system is sensitive to most often. The immune system perceives the proteins contained in the yeast as foreign bodies and reacts against it to defend the body from any illness. The immune system produces histamines to fight them triggering the allergic reaction, although it is unnecessary as these are not harmful.
Yeast Allergy Symptoms
- Abdominal swelling
- Difficulty in breathing
- Joint pain
- Abdominal bloating
- Hay fever
- Runny nose
- Sore throat
- Watery and itchy eyes
Risks Associated with Yeast Allergy
Anyone can develop a yeast allergy, but certain people are more prone to such kind of an allergy as compared to others. People with other members of their family who have suffered from yeast allergies are more likely to fall prey to such a situation. Also, even if they may not be allergic to yeast, there is a high possibility of them being allergic to other things. Other people at the risk of developing this allergy are those who have diabetes mellitus or those with a weakened immune system.
Tests For Yeast Allergy
- Food Challenge Test – This is considered as a definitive test for most food allergies. It involves a clinician observing the individual for an allergic reaction while the person is given high amounts of the allergens that are suspected to cause the allergy.
- Skin Prick Test – A needle is used to push a small drop of the suspected allergen through the first layer of the skin to find out the specific kind of allergy that one is dealing.
- Elimination Diet – The individual withdraws consumption of the suspected allergen from his/her diet. After a period, the allergen is re-introduced into the system at a slower pace to note any symptoms that may occur as reactions.
- Blood Test – The test measures the level of immunoglobin antibody in the blood. An indication of an allergy is understood if high levels of immunoglobin antibodies, specific to an allergen source are observed.
- Intradermal Skin Test – A syringe is used to inject the suspected allergen into the tissues beneath the skin known as the dermis.
Understanding the Difference between Gluten Sensitivity & Yeast Allergy
Because both gluten and yeast are present in common food items and similar symptoms are triggered in case of gluten sensitivity and yeast allergy, people may confuse these two conditions for each other. However, the two are different and have different approaches to their treatment.
- Firstly gluten sensitivity is much more common than yeast allergy. If a person is not diagnosed with a celiac disease, he/she may be suffering from non-celiac gluten sensitivity. It can be identified if the symptoms experienced improve when a person resorts to gluten-free diet. Its symptoms include numbness in the fingers, arms & legs, headaches and joint pains.
- Secondly, unlike yeast allergy, minimal intestinal damage occurs in case of gluten sensitivity. However, after gluten has been eliminated from the diet, the damage is resolved.
Yeast Allergy Treatment:
- Avoidance – Consulting a dietician is advisable to make certain changes in the diet to avoid food items that may cause an allergic reaction. Limiting one’s diet to yeast free food can help to curb the symptoms. Sugars should be avoided as it facilitates the growth of yeast and fungi. Consumption of protein-rich foods like fish, eggs, beef, turkey and complex carbohydrates in beans, buckwheat, barley, brown rice, lentil, etc. must be prevented too.
- Medication – Antihistamines such as loratadine and diphenhydramine can be useful in relieving the symptoms. A doctor must be consulted to know which medications would be safe to consume in case an individual is already on medication for a systemic disorder.
- Probiotic Supplements – The allergy usually occurs in people who have a weak immune system. Measures should be undertaken to strengthen the immune system. Intake of probiotic supplements introduces healthy bacteria into the system which aids in proper digestion and makes the immune system stronger.
When to visit a Doctor?
Yeast allergy can affect anyone at any age. It is important to visit a doctor when the symptoms refuse to cease even after a certain period. Medical help is required to rule out any other cause of the allergy and to treat the condition in the best possible way at the earliest to avoid serious health complications in the future.