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Published July 07, 2013, 11:40 PM

Sensitivity to yeast: Drastic diet changes improve area woman’s health issues

WALCOTT, N.D. - Nina Stone walked into the grocery store and felt like she was going to faint.

By: Tracy Frank, INFORUM

WALCOTT, N.D. - Nina Stone walked into the grocery store and felt like she was going to faint.

The 46-year-old Walcott woman passed out getting her hair cut several hours after giving blood.

Her ears hurt, and she dealt with sneezing and watery eyes even though she was taking allergy medication.

She had thyroid issues, but doctors couldn’t figure out what was wrong with her, the Walcott woman says.

Stone, who works in West Fargo, thought she might be gluten intolerant, so in February she went to Catalyst Medical Center in Fargo for allergy testing. Instead, she found out she has a sensitivity to yeast.

Yeast intolerance is said to affect very large number of people. However, it is not yet an accepted medical condition, according to MD-Health.com, an online health information center.

Dr. Susan Mathison of Catalyst says it’s a controversial topic because it’s hard to get good data on the subject.

Proponents of candida hypersensitivity say it can affect as many as one in three people, but Mathison says that would be hard to prove, and she thinks the number is far lower.

“My approach is to evaluate for all environmental inhalant allergies and suggest a healthy diet, focusing on good quality protein, fresh fruits and vegetables,” she said. “If patients are still struggling, we dig deeper into possible food issues, and yeast sensitivity is really part of this.”

For 30 days Stone eliminated yeast and sugar from her diet. She couldn’t eat sugar because yeast feeds on sugar, she said.

“It was really eye-opening for me the things that have yeast or yeast extract or sugar in them,” Stone said.

Aside from the obvious foods like bread and sweets, she couldn’t eat anything processed, fruit juices, mushrooms or uncooked cheese. She couldn’t eat dairy because of the processing. Canned soups and condiments were also forbidden. And all leftovers had to be frozen after 24 hours.

“I went through my kitchen cupboards and got rid of everything,” Stone said.

What she could eat was a lot of fruit and vegetables, she said.

Her symptoms drastically improved.

She wasn’t light-headed anymore, her ears stopped ringing and she felt more energetic.

She had been on Weight Watchers and exercising for more than a year with no success. But once she found out about her yeast sensitivity and eliminated the foods that were harmful to her, she lost six pounds, Stone said.

When Stone does get off track with her diet, she suffers through itchy, dry skin, a dry mouth, scalp issues and exhaustion, she said.

Typical symptoms of yeast sensitivity include difficulty breathing, wheezing and blood pressure drops that could lead to death, Dr. Mathison said.

Yeast sensitivity can be an intolerance to Saccharomyces cerevisiae, the yeast most often used for baking and brewing beer, Mathison said. Brewer’s and baker’s yeasts are different strains of the species, she said.

Saccharomyces ellipsoideus, or S. Minor, is a wild yeast found on fruits, especially grapes and grains, and is used for making sourdough bread.

A person can be tested for yeast sensitivity with a blood test.

In some people, chronic yeast sensitivity manifests as repeated vaginal yeast infections, Mathison said.

Yeast sensitivity is most often treated with dietary modification, but in rare cases, mostly when an infection occurs, medications are used, she said.

Mathison said some say antibiotics, birth control and a diet high in processed foods, breads and sugars can cause yeast sensitivities.

Mathison pointed out that Stephen Barrett of Quackwatch, a website that focuses on health-related frauds and myths, has written that yeast allergies and hypersensitivities are dubious.

The American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology has strongly criticized the concept of “candidiasis hypersensitivity syndrome” because it’s unproven and its symptoms are essentially universal, Barrett writes on his website that.

One of the medications some doctors prescribe to treat yeast sensitivity issues is ketoconazole, which can cause liver toxicity, Barrett wrote. The drug has been responsible for several deaths, he said, and should be prescribed only for serious infections.

For those who do choose to modify their diets to deal with symptoms, yeast can sometimes be reintroduced into their diets. After four to six months, some people can reincorporate yeast on a rotational basis, such as once every four days, Mathison said.

But Stone said it’s difficult to follow her still very restrictive diet.

“There are some days if I’m hungry or if I’m running late and going somewhere, to get something to eat I usually make choices that aren’t as good for me,” she said.

She’s learned to plan ahead, bringing lunch and snacks to work, she said.

“I crave sugar, cake and stuff I shouldn’t eat,” she said, adding that she really misses being able to eat a hamburger and ice cream.

Going out to eat or eating at someone else’s house is especially difficult, she said. And grocery shopping now takes twice as long because she has to read through ingredient lists carefully.

While there are a lot of cookbooks and other resources for people who can’t eat gluten, a protein found in wheat, there’s not much out there for people with yeast sensitivities, Stone said.

“I don’t think it’s well-known,” she said.

Stone said it would be nice to find others so they could swap recipes and talk about how they substitute the foods they can’t eat for foods that won’t harm their bodies.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Tracy Frank at (701) 241-5526

Foods containing yeast

- Foods containing baker’s, brewer’s or wild yeasts

- B Vitamins, unless stated that they are not from yeast

- Barley malt

- Beer

- Blackberries

- Blueberries

- Buttermilk

- Canned or bottled juices

- Cheese (all kinds)

- Cider

- Citric acid (this used to be made from citrus juice, but is now made from fermented corn)

- Dried fruits such as apricots, figs or raisins

- Flavor enhancer (usually MSG, though it may also be yeast extract)

- Ginger ale

- Grapes

- Jams/jellies

- Lactic acid (generally made from fermented corn or potatoes)

- Liquor

- Malt

- Mushrooms

- Aged meats (sausage, bacon, etc.)

- Black tea

- Malted barley flour

- Olives

- Peanuts and peanut products

- Preserved or pickled foods

- Root beer

- Soy sauce, miso, tamari

- Strawberries

- Tempeh

- Vinegar (and foods containing vinegar, such as mustard and ketchup)

- Wine

- Yeast extract (autolyzed, hydrolyzed)

- Yeast spreads such as Vegemite or Marmite, etc.

Source: Dr. Susan Mathison, Catalyst Medical Center