Cleo Libonati, RN, BSN

Treating Candida Albicans Intestinal Yeast Overgrowth in Celiac Disease

by Cleo Libonati, RN, BSN on September 10th, 2009


The frequency of intestinal overgrowth by candida albicans is increased in people with celiac disease. In fact, infection by this common organism, also called C. albicans or candida, appears to be a trigger in the onset of celiac disease.1 Candida is yeast, a budding type of fungus, capable of fermenting carbohydrates. Albicans identifies this particular yeast from many others.

Candida albicans usually maintains a tiny appearance in our intestinal tract unless conditions change to favor its growth. It can thrive and invade if the intestinal lining becomes inflamed or damaged, the composition of normal flora becomes disrupted, immune defenses become diminished or malnutrition reduces our health. Candida albicans infection is characterized by superficial, irregular white patches with a red base. Invasion of the bloodstream is possible and would be life-threatening.

Candida albicans contains amino acid sequences composing a protein called hyphal wall protein 1 (HWP1) that are identical, or similar, to known celiac disease related alpha gliadin and gamma-gliadin T-cell epitopes. Gliadin T-cell epitopes are molecules from wheat gluten that trigger antibody formation in celiac disease. The amino acid sequence in Candida albicans is a transglutaminase substrate like gliadin, and is used by Candida albicans to adhere to the intestinal lining. Furthermore, tissue transglutaminase and endomysium components could become covalently linked to the yeast. Subsequently, Candida albicans might function to stimulate antibody formation against HWP1 and gluten, and form autoreactive antibodies against tissue transglutaminase and endomysium. 1

Why Does Candida Albicans Begin to Thrive?

Inflammation of the intestinal lining, disruption of normal flora, lowered resistance to infection, and malnutrition all contribute favorable conditions for candida infection.

Local inflammation, by damaging protective surface cells, provides an opportunity for disease-producing organisms to adhere to the lining. Think of an infected wound.

Disruption of normal flora, called dysbiosis, by reducing beneficial bacteria colonies and populations, allows space for the yeast colonies to grow. Normally, beneficial bacteria colonies cover the intestinal surface, crowding out disease-producing organisms like yeast. In this way, yeast though present, are kept to a minimum. Studies show, however, that dysbiosis exists in celiacs irrespective of the gluten-free diet so that celiacs are at higher risk for flora loss and/or imbalance. Medical therapies such as antibiotics that kill flora as a side effect may have a more pronounced effect on the flora of celiacs than in non-celiacs.

Lowered resistance to infection, by removing natural defenses, allows yeast to take hold and multiply more freely. Stomach acid is a first line of defense against ingested organisms like yeast. Low acid is common in celiac disease and cannot properly kill yeast to prevent them from passing into the intestine. Lack of appropriate nutrients diminish or disable resistance of the intestinal lining to infection. Low spleen function, also common in celiac disease, may not produce adequate antibodies and white blood cells to fight infection.

Malnutrition, by depriving our cells of nutrients, encourages infection. Proteins are needed for tissue regeneration and repair and for producing enzymes needed to properly digest and metabolize food. Iron, zinc, copper, vitamin C and riboflavin are needed for proper blood cell formation and activity needed to fight infection. Vitamin D, omega-3 fatty acids and selenium also plays a role in immunity, while vitamin A and niacin are needed for the integrity of the intestinal lining itself. Invasion of the bloodstream by Candida albicans through the intestinal lining is favored by disordered intestinal permeability or leaky gut syndrome, a part of celiac disease.

What Are Symptoms of a Candida Overgrowth?

It is not easy to identify Candida albicans overgrowth in the intestine. Proliferation of candida reportedly causes sugar and starch cravings because carbohydrates are the foods yeast ferment (feeds on). Fermentation causes bloating as the yeast rapidly give off gases. Diarrhea and/or constipation, abdominal pain and possible food intolerances occur. If the yeast invades the bloodstream, fatigue, anxiety, irritability, depression, difficulty concentrating and lethargy develop that can be extreme and life-threatening.

What Is the Treatment?

Specific anti-fungal medication such as nystatin, diflucan, and sporanox is medically prescribed to kill the yeast. Along with the medication, a strict diet with probiotics and prebiotic food is fundamental to restore health quickly.

The gluten-free diet must exclude carbohydrates (sugars and starches) as much as possible while taking the anti-fungal medication. Sugars include jelly, maple syrup, table sugar, honey, molasses, fructose, soda, fruit and fruit juices. Starches include gluten-free flours, bread, bagel, pizza, pasta, bakery products (cookies, cakes, pies, muffins, brownies), cereals, granolas, energy/ breakfast bars, and chips of any kind. This removes the type of food needed by the yeast to thrive. Other exclusions are mushrooms and other fungi, yeast-raised bread, vinegar, cheese and milk products.

So the diet will consist of meat, fish, seafood, poultry, eggs, nuts, fats, seeds and non-starchy vegetables such as lettuce, endive, escarole, kale, asparagus, Jerusalem artichoke, broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, bok choi, turnip greens, collards, onions, garlic, celery, tomatoes, peppers, fennel, summer squash and cucumbers. These vegetables along with cinnamon, oregano, basil and mint help in the fight against yeast. Lemon and lime juices are OK.

Probiotics foods or supplements with living microbes are needed to restore flora. A study in mice demonstrated that probiotic bacteria can affect the capacity of mice to form antibodies to Candida albicans and showed the usefulness of different probiotic bacteria to produce beneficial health effects in mice.2 Prebiotic foods such as Jerusalem artichokes, asparagus, onion, burdock root, and Chinese chives stimulate the growth of beneficial bacterial species.

Daily vitamin/mineral supplements in normal doses should be taken to provide nutrients for restoring health. Extra zinc and vitamin C during the infection will improve the body’s ability to fight against it.

To sum up, people with celiac disease are always at risk for developing a Candida albicans yeast infection. The best defense is to maintain a strict nutritious gluten-free diet bolstered with probiotic and prebiotic food and a daily 100% vitamin/mineral supplement.

References:

  • Cleo Libonati. “Recognizing Celiac Disease.” GFW Publishing, 2007.
  • Wagner RD, Dohnalek M, Hilty M, Vazquez-Torres A, Balish E. Effects of probiotic bacteria on humoral immunity to Candida albicans in immunodeficient mice. Rev Iberoam Micol.2000 Jun;17(2):55-9
  • Nieuwenhuizen WF, Pieters RHH, Knippels LMJ, Jansen MCJF, Koppelman SJ, "Is Candida albicans a trigger in the onset of coeliac disease?" The Lancet, Volume 361, Issue 9375, 21 June 2003, Pages 2152-2154.Copyright © Cleo Libonati 2007.*Cleo Libonati is president/CEO and co-Founder of Gluten Free Works, Inc. www.glutenfreeworks.com. She is the author of Recognizing Celiac Disease. www.recognizingceliacdisease.com. She can be reached at cleo.libonati@glutenfreeworks.com.

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19 Responses to “Treating Candida Albicans Intestinal Yeast Overgrowth in Celiac Disease”

  1. Brittany says:

    Hi, I was recently diagnosed with Candida on top of needing to go gluten free, no eggs, peanuts, oats, corn all allergies. I felt like my life was turned upside down.. I had an astronomical amount of yeast in my system to where it stopped registering on the charts. My doctor actually had me drink a drink called oxyflush… I ordered it and immediantly started it. I had to order two cycles 8 bottles since mine was outrageous amounts of yeast. This was the best thing I could have ever done. My yeast has been killed off and all my symptoms are gone and I feel like my normal self again… http://www.phoenixnutrionals.com

  2. Chrissy says:

    For those of you who see no real results from going gluten free, I suggest you try eliminating all dairy as well, especially foods with Cashein, that is the milk protein that is in Whey and almost everything dairy. It looks identical to the gluten proteins to your digestive system.

  3. Georgi says:

    Dear Sosick,

    I suggest that you research very carefully into Baking Soda treatments. It is extremely effective against any fungal-based and acid-based health issues.

  4. Karen says:

    I have battled fatigue, allergies, migraines, joint aches
    An irregular heartbeat , obesity, depression and
    Many other celiac/candida related symptsince childhood.
    I have given up going to doctors
    I have started the diet you recommend and after one week I notice the first thing to go was this terrible brain fog

  5. Jason says:

    Just wanted to let everyone know what my research has turned up, I am suffering from this. I had a recently persistant nasal drip. And the light rash on my upper arms and back which is more noticeable more after a hot shower. Makes sense that the nasal drip is the yeast forming up my esophagus. Probably many years now ive felt fatigued and im pretty high strung person, always thought I was just depressed from childhood. Probably am somewhat but Im excited to try my research out, and Ill get back with how it goes. But I got MSM to start with, Then Ill follow with a pure gum sprits of Turpentine Detox. Some grandmothers swore by it for this, I trust them over Big Pharma anyday. And Chicory Root coffee to restore good flora.

    Maybe some of these free words can help you too.

  6. Women are not the only sufferers of yeast infections, men and babies suffer from it as well.

    Pau D’arco (Tabebuia); salve effective against
    Candida(8), or drink two cups of tea daily for two weeks plus finger or sitz baths.

    Probiotics, such as lactobacillus and acidophilus, are healthy strains of bacteria that have a beneficial and symbiotic
    relationship with the body, especially in the gastrointestinal tract.

  7. Jojo says:

    To Matthew… According to my Doctor it can give a false postive. The solution.. do the diet and take the antifungals after 6 months. Repeat. Keep in mind though if eat alot of sugar/starches, then you can get the yeast problem back, which will again cause a false neg. as well as a bunch of symptoms. I am right in the middle of this same exact scenerio and can’t wait to hear those words that I am not Celiac!

  8. Matthew says:

    Thanks for the article.

    Since Candida proteins can trigger the creation of antibodies against gluten, like Celiac, is it possible that a candida overgrowth could produce a false positive Celiac antibody blood test?

  9. rebcasilk says:

    I was diagnosed Celiac over a year ago, and am having issues with eating gluten-free. I work 2 jobs, and go to school full-time, so it is so easy to just go through the drive-thru to get a burger. I was diagnosed with a yeast infection late august- Nearly a week ago I was diagnosed with another yeast infection, and it felt a hundred times worse then the last one. Once they started me on meds, it became a million times worse. Looking for suggestions on what to do…

  10. Ann Trejo says:

    Thanx for your tips! I’m going give your ideas a try. Hopefully they’ll make me feel better as well! Something has to.

  11. Debbie says:

    Jean,
    In response to your email – I was still suffering with many of the same symptoms after starting a gluten free diet. Here are the things that helped:
    1. Started probiotics (which made a huge difference!)
    2. Tried to limit use of antibiotics – I’d get another infection shortly after a round of
    antibiotics – they told me I didn’t have enough “good” bacteria to fight the infections & suggested the probiotics above.
    3. Joined on-line celiac support group and found additional info about items that contained gluten that I thought did not.
    4. Became vigilant with checking ingredients, calling manufacturers, checked all medications & vitamins, etc and finally got ALL gluten out of my diet – Feeling dramatically better.

    Hope this helps!

  12. Kelly says:

    Wow interesting, had never heard this before. I have long had issues with Yeast Infections and usually have my gynocologist write me a prescription for 12 diflucan doses every year so I can just pick it up whenever. I am not clear whether this means that if I get glutened this yeast is there and flares up and should then be treated?

  13. Jean says:

    I began to feel tired again after going on the gluten-free diet and had a complete food allergy test down through Great Smokies Diagnostics Lab. It showed I had become allergic to all the foods I was eating on the gluten-free diet. I think I had leaky gut, so they were all getting into my bloodstream and sending my immune system into overdrive. Three to six months of following their customized Four-Day Rotation Diet gave my immune system a needed rest and brought me out of feeling awful. I think complete food allergy testing should accompany all celiac testing.

    I was not aware there was such a strong connection to gluten problems and Candida. Also helpful in this article was the lists of anti-yeast foods and probiotic foods, plus the symptoms of bloating and carb cravings.

    A product I have found helpful for Candida is called Candex by Pure Essence Labs (wwwlpureessencelabs.com). It is made of enzymes that digest the cell walls of the yeast and fungi, so there are no unfavorable reactions like the other remedies. It’s very gentle, yet effective.

  14. Sosick says:

    thank u so much! i will try this! :)

  15. Sosick says:

    Are there any natural anti-fungals that will kill candida?
    – not only would i not look forward to trying to talk my doctor into prescribing me something like Diflucan, but I’m really sick of medication…. I have been suffering in varying degrees for 8 yrs. due to issues that may be completely caused by Celiac. I basically diagnosed myself and had my doctor test for it a year ago; since then i have been on a 100% G-free diet. However my health has shown little improvement. My whole family has now found that they too suffer from Celiac as well, but none of us from the G-free diet have improved by much.-
    Does anyone have any suggestions or comment or any idea that may help?

    • John Libonati john.admin says:

      I get candida issues when I eat sugary foods or am inadvertantly exposed to gluten in wheat, barley rye or oats. I’ve found brushing my teeth with baking soda and drinking a mix of baking soda/water helps to kill the candida. I use about 1/2 tsp. of baking soda with 4-6 oz. water. I also take probiotics to replenish my good bacteria and leave less locations along my intestinal walls for the candida to attach.

  16. Bacterial Vaginosis Home Remedy says:

    Really, really good information. Thanks for your insight into this difficult subject. I’ve signed up for your feed and looking forward to the next update. Thank You

  17. Aria Beullah says:

    Dear Cleo,

    My doctor just recently placed me on a gluten free diet because of celiac. However my candida has returned due to carbohydrates that tend to be in various g-free things. Therefore, I am going to start the celiac diet. Thank you for just great information.

    Regards,

    Aria Beullah

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