True yeast intolerance or allergy is surprisingly rare and may in fact be a result of hypersensitivity to specific proteins rather than yeast itself in things like beer and wine. However, sensitivity to yeast can be a factor in irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). If you have been diagnosed with it bread isn’t the only thing to avoid - there are some surprising foods it could be a good idea to take off the menu.
Bear in mind that your gut naturally contains yeasts so, even if you don’t eat foods containing yeast, you may find that certain foods exacerbate symptoms.
Safe foods for people with yeast intolerance
There are some types of foods that you can always eat without worrying.
Vegetables: All vegetables are fine so pile your plate high with a rainbow of different coloured veggies and be sure to to eat at least 5-a-day.
Fruit: Low-sugar fruits such as tomatoes and avocados are ideal. Avoid high sugar fruits, such as those listed in the risky sections, and go for raspberries and blackberries, if you can.
Meat: Protein in the form of chicken, fish, beef or shellfish won’t contain any yeast and will help keep your body strong as well as helping keep you feeling full between meals so you are less likely to reach for sugary snacks, too.
Eggs: No yeast in eggs and they are a good source of protein, too.
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Possibly risky foods for people with yeast intolerance
Prepared fruit and vegetables: Fresh fruit and vegetables are a safe option. However try to avoid processed foods as much as possible.
Similarly dried fruit like raisins or apricots can cause problems as the sugar is concentrated so you may end up eating more than you intend to, causing a flare up of symptoms.
There are also some fruits that contain high levels of sugar, such as dates, figs or grapes, which may worsen your symptoms. Other high-sugar fruits include bananas, cherries, pears, mango and pineapple.
Milk products: Dairy foods contain lactose, which is a form of sugar and can feed the yeast inside your body. But some milk products may actually help – see probiotic yogurt in the Great Foods section, below. Milk is usually fine in moderation, however.
Note: If you decide to avoid diary make sure you meet your daily calcium requirement of 700mg (adults 19+) . Women past the menopause and men aged 55+ are recommended to get 1,200mg of calcium a day. Meanwhile those with coeliac disease, inflammatory bowel disease and osteoporosis are advised to aim for 1,000mg a day.
Fruit juice: While fruits are fine to eat in moderation fruit juice is a highly concentrated form of fruit and so contains more sugar, feeding the yeast in your body.
Nuts: All nuts are fine. However they can be prone to mould so buy in small quantities and eat as soon as possible after purchase.
Beans: They’re not easy for your body to digest so may be best avoided at least to begin with. If you do eat them, do so in small portions and soak and cook your own, to avoid unwanted additives such as sugar or vinegar in tins or jars.
Mushrooms: Some types of mushrooms will help boost your immune system such as shiitake, for example, and so can be eaten in moderation. However, some people may find that their symptoms worsen after eating mushrooms which may be because they are intolerant to fungi in general.
Wholegrains: If you have chronic yeast intolerance, wheat products are best avoided.
Supplements: Check the ingredients label on any supplements you take as they also may contain sugar or yeast.
High-risk foods for people with yeast intolerance
Bread/pastries/pizza: These types of wheat-based foods usually contain yeast. Traditional long-fermented breads such as sourdough are sometimes better tolerated, although the jury is still out on this.
Vinegar: Vinegar goes through a fermentation process meaning that unfiltered vinegar may exacerbate your symptoms so is probably best avoided.
Processed meats: Some hams or salami contain sugar, as well as yeast or MSG (see below). Sausages also often contain bread and with that comes yeast.
Biscuits/sweets/honey or chocolate: Anything that contains such large amounts of sugar is out.
Cereals: While they may not contain yeast they are likely to contain malt, which may trigger flare-ups. They are also often very high in sugar content, which can make them problematic.
Alcohol, specifically beer and wine: Gin and vodka are usually tolerated well by people with yeast intolerance as they’re distilled without the same fermenting process as wine and beer, which are probably best avoided.
Olives: It’s not the olives themselves that are the problem but what they’re in – usually a liquid containing vinegar. If you can get those without, you’ll be fine.
Blue cheese: As this contains mould, albeit a type that most people can eat, people with yeast intolerance should avoid it.
Marmite: Love it or hate it, this yeast-based spread is out.
MSG: Monosodium glutamate is also made via a fermentation process and is included in many foods, so always read the label.
Great foods for people with yeast intolerance
Finding foods that you can tolerate can involve a certain amount of trial and error. However the following are usually fine.
Probiotic yogurt: Eating live yogurt regularly may actually help keep your intestines healthy by helping ‘good’ bacteria flourish and so keep yeast levels lower.
Peppermint tea: This also helps fight excessive yeast production in your body.
High-fibre grains: Buckwheat, millet and quinoa contain more fibre than other grains such as wheat so are a better choice for a yeast intolerance diet.
Note: If you are restricting your diet always consult a registered dietitian or other suitably qualified healthcare professional to ensure your diet contains the right balance of nutrients and you do not develop deficiencies.
Read about Julie Walters' battle with yeast intolerance
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