Is It Possible to Have a Yeast Allergy?
Yeasts are a group of microorganisms that belong to the fungus kingdom. Many species of yeasts are commonly found in foods and some of them are used in baked goods, as well as in beer and other brewed alcoholic beverages. They are normally harmless for human health, but there are people who claim to have a yeast allergy.
In fact, yeast hypersensitivity (or allergy) has been quite a controversial topic since 1980s, when some researchers linked a range of symptoms to this condition for the first time. The researchers also suggested that an allergy or sensitivity to yeast was common among people.
On the other hand, experts at the American Academy of Allergy and Immunology were not even sure that such a hypersensitivity actually exists, as the research mentioned above had a number of scientific limitations. What is more, according to some experts, hypersensitivity syndrome is not necessarily related to an allergy, and it’s important to distinguish between the two.
Nevertheless, the topic is still discussed and studied by today’s researchers, in spite of remaining controversial. One thing is clear though: if you have a severe allergy to yeast, you may need to refrain from eating out at all.
What Are the Symptoms of a Yeast Allergy?
A true allergy to yeast is extremely rare and may cause symptoms ranging from mild to severe.
People with this type of allergy are mostly develop some gastrointestinal symptoms like nausea, bloating, stomach pain or diarrhea as a result of eating yeast. Skin rash or irritation is also possible.
Severe allergic reactions such as anaphylaxis are less likely to appear in yeast-allergic individuals. The symptoms commonly associated with anaphylaxis can be life-threatening and include: swelling of the throat, difficulty breathing, low blood pressure, and others.
In case of a severe reaction, an immediate medical help is required. The treatment involves an injection of epinephrine (adrenaline) and a follow-up care.
Yeasts and other types of fungi like mold reproduce through airborne spores which may also trigger respiratory symptoms in an allergic person. However, reactions to inhaled allergens are unlikely to be severe, according to the ACAAI (American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology).
The symptoms to inhaled yeast or mold usually include nasal congestion, breathing problems, and hives. In rare cases, people may experience an asthma attack.
Even if you are severely allergic to yeast in food, you may still inhale its spores without developing a reaction.
How Is a Yeast Allergy Diagnosed?
If you think that you might be allergic to yeast, you should consult with a specialist. Based on your symptoms, medical history, history of food allergies, and the results of allergy testing, a professional allergist will make a diagnosis.
Allergy testing often involves a skin prick test, in which the doctor pricks your skin and applies a tiny amount of an allergen to the skin. If the affected area of the skin develops a reaction, you do have an allergy.
Another type of allergy testing – blood testing – can also help to identify antibodies in your blood that are related to a food allergy.
In case of a severe allergy to yeast or any other food allergen, your allergist may recommend that you undergo a more detailed testing, in order to determine other potential allergy triggers.
When it comes to alternative medicine, some practitioners tend to diagnose yeast hypersensitivity, only based on a person’s symptoms.
How Do You Treat a Yeast Allergy?
If you have a known allergy to yeast, the best way to prevent the reaction is to avoid yeast in foods.
Sometimes, food products containing yeast may cause you to experience mild allergic reactions (e.g. skin rash or hives). In this case, antihistamines can help to reduce the symptoms.
People who have experienced anaphylactic reactions after yeast consumption may need to carry an epinephrine auto-injector with them, in case of an emergency.
An alternative therapy practitioner may also suggest that you use antifungal medications like nystatin to treat yeast hypersensitivity. However, experts don’t recommend these medications to people without fungal infections, as there is a lack of scientific evidence of their efficacy.
How Can You Avoid Yeast?
Yeast is found in many foods. If you need to avoid it in your diet, make sure to read the ingredients labels carefully.
Food products that will most likely contain yeast include baked goods (such as cakes or sourdough breads), alcoholic beverages, and certain yeast-based spreads (e.g. Marmite or Vegemite).
In baked goods, yeast helps to leaven foods, while in alcoholic beverages it is used for fermenting sugar.
If you have an allergy to fungi, you may also be allergic to molds, as they belong to the fungi family. Talk to your allergist about additional allergenic foods you may need to avoid.
Who Is at Risk for a Yeast Allergy?
An allergic reaction is a result of the immune system’s response to a normally harmless substance. When an allergen gets into the body, the immune system releases antibodies to fight the invader, which leads to the development of allergy symptoms. It is not completely clear why some people have allergies, while others don’t. Various factors, including the environment and genetics, may contribute to the risks.
Speaking of yeast allergies, there is still a lack of research concerning the risk factors. If you notice having abnormal symptoms after eating yeast-containing foods, you may need to visit an allergist.
People with food allergies and other types of allergies are usually at a higher risk of developing additional allergies. Especially, when it comes to people with a history of anaphylactic reactions.
The Bottom Line
Because of the lack of research and scientific evidence, a hypersensitivity to yeast remain a controversial topic. A true yeast allergy is a very rare condition. If you think that you might be affected by either disorder, you should consult with a specialist.
Remember that self-diagnosis and self-treatment may lead to unwanted consequences. Make sure to receive a professional diagnosis, before taking any measures to avoid yeast-containing foods. If you have a known severe allergy to yeast, you may need to always carry an epinephrine auto-injector with you.