Could it be yeast rather than wheat that is the cause of so many cases of apparent food intolerance?
Mary Roe is a nurse and a food intolerance tester who has worked for many years with eczematous and intolerant patients. Click here for her article on treating eczema with diet. She ask whether the current accusatory finger being pointed at wheat should not, instead, be pointed at yeast?
I was interested to belatedly read your article of October last year, ’When is a wheat allergy not a wheat allergy?. I suspect that there are, as you suggest, many people who are just eating too much of the grain, but I also suspect that there are other reasons.
I am a registered nurse who for the last 15 years has been a food intolerance tester. I have always wondered about the numbers of people who consider that they have a wheat intolerance, in my view fuelled by the plethora of magazine articles which always suggest removing wheat from the diet in order to reduce symptoms, especially those of IBS. I have a few theories as to why this might be the case.
You mentioned in your article the FAIR research. (Basic allergy training for practice nurses which involved putting self diagnosed food intolerants on a 'healthy eating' diet for two weeks, followed by, if their symptoms had not resolved, a wheat and dairy-free diet.)
Is wheat really the main problem?
In 2003 I conducted a survey of the intolerances of 364 clients. In percentage terms the results were as follows:
80% Cows milk products
Key symptoms were:
I started another study in December, one which I hope to conclude this summer.
I find that a lot of my clients suspect that their problem is wheat, but when I test them, we find that the main problem is yeast. I would like to explain why I think that the perceived wisdom regarding wheat intolerance has come about, and why, if people during the exclusion phase of the FAIR diet avoid wheat rather than yeast, the symptomatic relief that they experience will be much lower than it might be.
Yeast – not wheat
I always find that when yeast is a problem, cheese and yogurt are too. There also seems to be a link between yeast and malt. I do not have precise figures yet, but suspect that around 15% of people have a ‘spin-off’ intolerance to malt.
So what might happen is that a person thinks that wheat is a problem because they get symptoms after eating bread, pizza, pasta, some biscuits and some breakfast cereals – all of which contain wheat.
But – all of the these foods contain yeast or malt, and / or might be eaten with cheese or yogurt.
• Bread contains yeast
If a person is advised to avoid wheat, when the problem is actually yeast, they are unlikely to see symptomatic improvement if:
• they use breads made from other grains than wheat, as these will still contain yeast;
With regard to the FAIR study, results must have shown that in the second phase (excluding wheat and dairy), significant numbers of people felt better when excluding cows milk products and wheat.
The ‘gold standard’ in food intolerance has always been the exclusion diet.
I routinely test brewers yeast, and very rarely find that clients of mine who have a yeast intolerance also have one to brewers yeast. I suggest that those people who introduced yeast in the form of brewers yeast will have thought that yeast was not a problem to them.
You can find Mary at www.maryroefoodintolerancetesting.com
First published in May 2012
In response to a reader's question about yeast intolerance Mary wrote the following:
I am happy to explain my theory, which was initially just an anecdotal hunch between 15 and 18 years ago, but is now is based on on going analysis of my results starting in 2001/2, when out of 364 clients, there were 50 who were yeast intolerant. 49 of those were intolerant of cheeses and yogurt also.
Click here for more articles on yeast intolerance