Are you bloated and desperately trying to find the cause of your discomfort? Bloating can be caused by various factors, such as trouble digesting certain foods, consuming too much fibre and FODMAP foods, overeating, menstruation and swallowing air.But can a yeast infection cause bloating? Unfortunately, it can. In this article, we’ll take a deep dive into what a yeast infection is, what the symptoms are, and what you can do to treat it to ultimately reduce bloating.
Yeast is a fungus that isn’t only used in bakeries to make bread rise or to make alcoholic beverages. Yeast can also be found in your body, and having too much of it can result in problems like bloating, skin irritation, and vaginal yeast infections.
You may have heard of the gut microbiome (the trillions of tiny organisms, including bacteria, fungi, and viruses that live in the gut), but perhaps you haven’t heard of the gut mycobiome, which consists of the fungi in your microbiome. The gut mycobiome is crucial for your overall health, but things can go wrong when the wrong type of fungi starts to get out of control and overgrowth occurs. (1, 2, 3)
A yeast infection is caused by an overgrowth of yeast in the body. You can get yeast overgrowth in your digestive tract, on your skin, in your mouth, on the penis, and in the vagina (vaginal yeast infections are probably what most people think about when they hear the term “yeast infection”).
Just as yeast can make bread rise, it can make your stomach rise with bloat. Too much yeast in the digestive system can ferment, thereby causing Small Intestinal Fungal Overgrowth (SIFO) and leading to gas build-up and bloating. Too much yeast can also ferment carbs and sugars in the gut, further causing bloat.
One type of yeast you need to know about when it comes to your digestion is Candida, the most common fungus found in the body. Candida overgrowth is actually very common and many find that their bloating problems disappear or drastically improve once they resolve their Candida overgrowth problems. If you have excess Candida in the body, it can cause other gastrointestinal diseases like Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis to flare up. (4, 5, 6)
Here are some terms you may need to know:
- Candidiasis: a fungal infection caused by an overgrowth of the Candida (7)
- Invasive candidiasis: an infection in the body that can affect other parts of the body, including your internal organs like kidneys, brain, and heart. (8)
- Fungemia: when yeast or fungus is found in the bloodstream. (9)
- Candidemia: when Candida is found in the bloodstream. It is the most common type of fungemia and the most common reason for bloodstream infections in people that are hospitalised. (10)
- Acute hematogenous candidiasis: when a Candida infection spreads through the bloodstream and goes to other organs in the body. Meningitis occurs when it spreads to the brain. (11)
What Are Other Symptoms of Yeast Overgrowth in the Digestive Tract?
Bloating isn’t the only symptom that is associated with yeast overgrowth. Here are some more symptoms to look out for to see if a yeast infection can be what’s making you bloated (12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19):
- A white coating on your tongue
- Urinary tract infections, as well as genital infections that keep occurring
- Recurring sinus infections
- Joint pain
- Digestive problems
- Oral thrush
- Brain fog
- Itchy scalp
- Fungal infections on your skin and nails
It’s important not to diagnose yourself with a yeast overgrowth based on the list of symptoms above. These symptoms can also be caused by diseases other than yeast infections. It’s best to consult with your doctor and get a proper diagnosis. If your doctor confirms that you do in fact have a yeast overgrowth that is making you bloated, you can then start to take steps to treat it. The last thing you want to do is waste your time trying to fix a suspected yeast overgrowth when your digestive problems are caused by something else. It can just end up being a waste of time.
What Causes Yeast Overgrowth in the Body?
The truth is that there isn’t only one potential cause you need to be aware of. Some of the causes include:
- Having too much bad bacteria and not enough good bacteria in your gut
- Taking antibiotics
- Eating a lot of refined carbs, sugar and fruit (which can ferment in the gut)
- Consuming a lot of alcohol and other fermented drinks like beer, wine, champagne, and even kombucha
- Eating foods that contain yeast like baked goods, which will automatically increase the amount of yeast in your body
- Taking oral contraceptives
- Having a weak immune system
- Having diabetes
- Being under a lot of stress
- Using harsh soaps — what you put on your body can affect what’s inside your body. The body absorbs a lot of what you put on your skin into the bloodstream through what is known as dermal absorption. If you’re constantly using harsh soaps and things like sanitiser, it can disrupt your gut microbiome and kill some of the good bacteria in your gut. (20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28)
Candidiasis is often associated with deficiencies in important nutrients like vitamin B6, magnesium and essential fatty acids. (29)
There are also some foods containing yeast you might want to limit in your diet if you suspect you have a yeast overgrowth that’s making you bloated:
- Fermented beverages like kombucha and many alcoholic beverages
- Baked goods like bread, pizza, cakes, cookies, pretzels, and foods that are fried with breading around them
- Nutritional yeast
- Foods that contain yeast or yeast-like substances (due to their nature and how they are prepared) like black tea, mushrooms, sour cream, pickles, olives, sauerkraut, cheese, citrus fruit juices (freshly squeezed should be fine), soy sauce, dried fruit, vinegar and condiments like barbecue sauce, salad dressing, mayonnaise, and tomato sauce. (30, 31)
There are also supplements and medications that are derived from yeast, including:
- Antibiotics made from mould cultures like Penicillin and chloromycetin
- Vitamin B supplements — many vitamin B supplements are made using yeast (32, 33)
How Is Yeast Overgrowth Diagnosed?
To diagnose if you have an overgrowth of candida in your body, your doctor can do a visual examination, scrape cells from the suspected infected area to examine under a microscope, and do blood tests. If the yeast infection is in your digestive tract, blood tests can show if the body has started producing antibodies in response to an infection caused by Candida. Your doctor can also take a stool sample to test if there is yeast present in your stool. (34, 35)
So what can you do if you do have yeast overgrowth in your body? While your doctor can prescribe topical creams if your yeast infection is on the skin or genitals or give you medication to take orally to treat the yeast infection internally, there are some other steps you can take to cure a yeast infection in your digestive tract that’s making you bloated.
Changing your diet is one of the most important things you can do in the fight against yeast overgrowth.
Follow a diet low in sugar and avoid foods containing yeast (as listed above) as much as possible.
You need to follow a diet that starves the bad bacteria and promotes the growth of good bacteria. Avoid foods that encourage the growth of bad bacteria in the gut, such as foods containing processed carbs and sugar, highly processed foods, artificial sweeteners and fried foods. Instead, eat foods that promote the growth of good bacteria like those containing probiotics.
Also make sure to include prebiotics in your diet, as they help feed the good bacteria and help them grow. Prebiotic foods include garlic, leeks, onions, bananas, chicory root, dandelion greens, asparagus, apples, burdock root and seaweed. You can also take a prebiotic supplement.
If you’re going to correct a yeast overgrowth problem, it’s important that you promote the growth of good bacteria. This can be done by taking a high-quality probiotic supplement. It can take months of supplementing with a good probiotic to see a noticeable improvement and repopulate your gut with good bacteria.
It’s important to not just grab any probiotic you find on the shelf. Not all probiotic supplements are created equal. The probiotics in the supplement can actually die even before you take them if they’re not stored in the right conditions. The PH, as well as the temperature and moisture level of the environment, can affect the survival of the probiotics. The wrong environment can mean that the probiotics die before you even take them. (36)
It’s also important to check if the probiotics you bought need to be refrigerated. Certain probiotic strains need to be refrigerated in order to survive. If you buy ones that are stored in the refrigerator in the store, you need to store them in the refrigerator at home. This will ensure the quality of your probiotic supplement stays good and that you will get the benefits you’re after from your probiotic supplements. (37)
Some varieties of probiotics that are shelf-stable are actually freeze-dried and come in packaging that’s designed to help the probiotics stay protected against moisture and heat, and therefore don’t need to be refrigerated. (38, 39, 40, 41)
There are medical situations—like a postoperative period during a bacterial infection—where taking antibiotics is absolutely necessary. However, many doctors will prescribe antibiotics when they’re not 100% needed, often because patients insist on taking them.
Though it may be tempting to pop in a few antibiotics when you have flu symptoms in case it’s an infection, you should avoid this for the sake of your gut health. Only take them when they truly are needed for recovery.
Antibiotics can be life-saving, but they can also cause a lot of damage to your gastrointestinal tract. They don’t only kill the bad bacteria, but the good bacteria too. Once the good bacteria are gone, yeast overgrowth can occur.
In fact, it can take months to over a year of supplementing with probiotics and a good diet to properly repopulate the good bacteria in your gut and correct an imbalance after a single course of antibiotics.
Correcting a yeast overgrowth in the digestive tract can take time, but while you wait, there are other things you can do to get relief from bloating in the meantime:
- Drink enough water to help your body get things moving along in your digestive tract.
- Avoid eating too much fibre, as it can ferment and cause bloating
- Consume smaller meals, as being too full can cause bloating and slow down digestion.
- Don’t drink beverages that are too cold. Opt for ones at room temperature or warm drinks.
- Identify any food intolerances, like gluten or dairy, that can cause bloating and avoid them.
- Move your body and get exercise daily. Exercising can help reduce bloating by getting the bowels to move more frequently. Going for walks after eating can be particularly helpful.
- Try bloating-relief aids like ginger and peppermint. You can drink it as a tea or take a supplement.
- Massage your abdomen.
- Avoid carbonated drinks.
- Don’t chew gum and chew your food properly.
- Avoid tight-fitting clothes.
- Avoid foods that are known to cause bloating like broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, brussels sprouts and beans.
While there are many things that can cause bloating, a yeast overgrowth is definitely one of them. If you struggle with bloating and suspect yeast might be to blame, speak to your doctor for a proper diagnosis. Once you know, you can start to take steps to fix the problem and hopefully soon, your bloating problem could be a thing of the past.
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