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It can be easier than you’d think to confuse candida and wheat intolerance. While one is caused by an overgrowth of bacteria, the other is caused by the body’s inability to properly digest a particular food. They can both cause issues, particularly in the gut, but need to be addressed very differently.

 

What is Candida Overgrowth?

Candida overgrowth (often referred to as ‘Thrush’, ‘Candidiasis’, ‘A Candida infection’, ‘A yeast infection’, ‘A fungal infection’) is the overgrowth of a bacteria known as candida. These bacteria can grow all over the body, but overgrowth usually occurs in a warm and moist area, such as the mouth, stomach or vagina [1].

 

There are several factors that can increase your risk of developing candida. Below we’ve listed a few;

  • Taking antibiotics: Antibiotics will work to kill off all bacteria in the gut (good and bad), meaning that after treatment, you’re rebuilding your gut biome from scratch.
  • Eating a diet high in sugar and refined carbs: Some studies indicate that dietary glucose intake is a key determinant of candida’s growth in the gastrointestinal tract [3], meaning it could be what tips the scales into full-blown overgrowth.  
  • High alcohol intake: The sugars present in alcohol could also encourage further growth of candida.
  • Taking oral contraceptives: Research has indicated that taking oral contraception may increase the risk of yeast infections recurring by up to 12% [2].
  • Diabetes: Diabetics are considered at higher risk for fungal infections due to how their body deals with sugar.
  • High stress levels: High stress, especially chronic high stress, can cause your immune system to weaken and make you more susceptible to infections and illness.

 

Symptoms of Candida

The general symptoms of candida can include;

  • Oral thrush
  • Tiredness and Fatigue
  • Recurring Genital or Urinary Tract Infections
  • Digestive Issues
  • Sinus Infections
  • Skin and Nail Fungal Infections
  • Joint Pain

 

So, you’d think that candida and wheat intolerance would be reasonably easy to distinguish, but this isn’t so. The problem with distinction arises when candida of the digestive tract comes into the picture, as this can present some very similar symptoms to those of a wheat intolerance.  

Gut candida symptoms can include;

  • Stomach pain
  • Diarrhoea
  • Constipation
  • Bloating
  • Gas
  • Nausea

 

What is Wheat Intolerance

Wheat intolerance is a condition where the body struggles to properly digest wheat. The cause isn’t entirely known, but it can be brought on through overconsumption of the grain. While the condition is mostly a digestive issue, it can cause non-digestive symptoms such as brain fog and even alter mood. This is because the gut is a crucial part of the body, being responsible for producing and/or secreting a large portion of our hormones and affecting proper absorption of the nutrients we eat.

 

Wheat Intolerance Symptoms

The most common symptoms of wheat intolerance include;

  • Bloating
  • Diarrhoea
  • Constipation
  • Fatigue
  • Migraines
  • Vomiting & Nausea
  • Skin Rashes & Eczema

 

While most of the symptoms of wheat intolerance are digestion related, there are less common potential symptoms which aren’t usually associated with the digestive tract.

 

Telling Them Apart

Because of the crossover between candida and wheat intolerance, it can be difficult to tell the two apart. More specifically, candida of the gut and wheat intolerance can manifest themselves very similarly. Because both issues are within the digestive tract, the symptoms experienced are very similar. So how can we tell the two apart?

The only way to tell for sure which of these two conditions is causing your symptoms is through testing of either (or both) and determining which condition is causing your symptoms this way. Wheat intolerance can be tested through IgG intolerance testing, where a small blood sample is analysed to determine if an intolerance is present. While candida overgrowth can be verified through similar blood testing or stool analysis.

 

Treating These Conditions

Wheat intolerance is relatively easy to deal with. Many individuals who conduct a full 4-week elimination diet find that the intolerance dissipates after ceasing consumption for this length of time. For those who find symptoms persist after the elimination diet is complete, full avoidance of wheat and wheat-containing products is advised. Candida can require more medical intervention, though. For the most severe cases, a series of medications, testing and close monitoring is needed [4].

 

Final thoughts on Wheat intolerance and Candida Overgrowth

Certain kinds of candida overgrowth can seem very similar to wheat intolerance. Especially if you notice symptoms dissipate after avoiding wheat-based foods. But it’s crucial that you determine which of the two is truly the cause of your symptoms, as dealing with either of them can require very different methods. The good news is that for wheat intolerance, you can get a home-to-lab blood spot test which can be done at your convenience.

 

References

[1] NHS Choices (2020). Thrush in men and women. [online] Available at: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/thrush-in-men-and-women/ [Accessed 25 Feb. 2020].

[2] Spinillo, A., Capuzzo, E., Nicola, S., Baltaro, F., Ferrari, A. and Monaco, A. (1995). The impact of oral contraception on vulvovaginal candidiasis. Contraception, [online] 51(5), pp.293–297. Available at: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/001078249500079P?via%3Dihub [Accessed 25 Feb. 2020].

[3] Vargas, S.L., Patrick, C.C., Ayers, G.D. and Hughes, W.T. (1993). Modulating effect of dietary carbohydrate supplementation on Candida albicans colonisation and invasion in a neutropenic mouse model. Infection and immunity, [online] 61(2), pp.619–26. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC302772/ [Accessed 25 Feb. 2020].

[4] Pappas, P.G., Kauffman, C.A., Andes, D.R., Clancy, C.J., Marr, K.A., Ostrosky-Zeichner, L., Reboli, A.C., Schuster, M.G., Vazquez, J.A., Walsh, T.J., Zaoutis, T.E. and Sobel, J.D. (2016). Executive Summary: Clinical Practice Guideline for the Management of Candidiasis: 2016 Update by the Infectious Diseases Society of America. Clinical Infectious Diseases, [online] 62(4), pp.409–417. Available at: https://academic.oup.com/cid/article/62/4/409/2462633 [Accessed 27 Feb. 2020].