Written by: Dr. Eric Bakker, ND
Gluten Intolerance and Candida: What’s the Connection?
One of the first things I do when treating patients with Candida is put them on a strict antifungal diet. The goal is to restore immune function while eliminating any potential allergens, later adding foods back one at a time to find out which cause reactions. It’s not too surprising to find that a lot of my patients, while struggling to treat their yeast infections, also become gluten intolerant.
Why Do Gluten Intolerances Develop in Patients with Candida?
As you already know, a wide variety of commonly used grains – like barley, wheat, rye, oats, and spelt (amongst others) – contain gluten. Gluten is a protein, but it’s one that is very difficult to digest. Therefore, if the intestines aren’t functioning optimally, the process of trying to digest gluten can cause damage to the intestinal tract.
Those who are suffering from Candida already have desensitized immune systems and their intestines are already damaged by the Candida albicans organism itself. The problem is that the Candida albicans cell contains a protein that allows it to attach to the cell walls within the intestines. This protein in Candida is very similar to the protein in gluten. When the Candida cells attach to the intestinal walls, change, and send out new spores, the immune system tries to respond. It not only begins attacking the protein in the Candida cell, but it begins to attack the protein in the gluten cells.
In other words, your immune system eventually gets to the point where it can’t tell the difference between the Candida and gluten proteins. The immune system goes into overdrive and you eventually begin to have allergic reactions to gluten products. Your body then tries to develop an auto-immune response, like celiac disease.
In short, there is always an explanation for relatively healthy people suddenly developing allergies and food sensitivities to items that never, ever bothered them in the past.
Treating Gluten Intolerance and Candida
While treating my clients with Candida, I often ask them to avoid all gluten products. I ask them to instead lean towards safer grains like quinoa, millet, buckwheat, and amaranth. A lot of Candida diet programs stress avoiding all grains, but I find that there are only a few very extreme cases (maybe 2% of all I’ve seen) where avoiding grains altogether is a necessity. As long as you’re avoiding gluten, usually for several months, you should respond well to your anti-Candida regime.
Focusing on Quinoa
If I had to choose one grain for you to focus on, I’d pick quinoa. Quinoa looks like a little white seed and it puffs up a bit when cooked. Unlike most other grains, quinoa is considered a complete protein because it contains all of the essential amino acids your body needs on a daily basis. It’s also a fantastic source of fiber, which is also incredibly important while you’re working to cure your yeast infection.
Quinoa is pretty versatile, too. If you’re cooking it as a grain, you’ll want to wash it thoroughly first to get the soapy saponins off before you cook it. Use a fine mesh strainer or a cheesecloth and run cold water over and through the grains. If you forget, your cooked quinoa may and up tasting pretty soapy.
Quinoa is great served with vegetables, cooked and eaten like you would eat oatmeal, or mixed with beans. You can also get quinoa flour and make your own pastas.
A lot of my Candida patients find, after completely eradicating their yeast infections, that they are no longer sensitive to gluten. Many go back to eating gluten grains, in moderation, while others simply prefer non-gluten grains for health or preference reasons. There will be exceptions to the rule, of course, and some people are genuinely allergic to gluten and will have to avoid it forever. You’ll still be amazed at the number of people who can reverse the immune response once their bodies are healed!
About the Author: Eric Bakker, ND is a naturopathic physician from New Zealand. He’s spent the past 25 years of his career studying Candida while developing treatment protocols. Visit him at yeastinfection.org to learn more about how Candida can impact your health. You can also find him on Candida Crusher youtube channel.