Yeast infections are fungal infections that typically occur on the skin or mucous membranes and are caused by the fungus Candida albicans. Many factors can contribute to developing a yeast infection, and drinking beer and alcohol may be one.
Beer is made by brewing and fermenting starches, mainly derived from cereal grains. Yeast is an essential ingredient in making beer. It begins the process of converting sugars into alcohol while also releasing CO2.
Since beer contains both yeast and sugar, consuming it can increase the risk of developing a yeast infection—especially if consumed in large amounts.
To understand how beer can cause a yeast infection, let’s look at how yeast infections occur in the first place.
Yeasts are single-celled fungi, many of which exist both in and on the human body. Usually, the yeasts in our body do not cause us any issues. They may even play an essential role in a healthy microbiome.
Populations of yeast are kept at a low number by beneficial bacteria in our bodies. They prevent the yeast from growing out of control and causing an infection. However, when dietary, lifestyle or environmental factors reduce our numbers of beneficial bacteria, yeasts will seize this opportunity to grow and take over, resulting in a yeast infection.
Yeasts require a food source to grow. The primary food source for all yeasts—as well as all types of fungi—is sugar. So, when we consume sugar, yeasts can use this sugar as fuel to grow. Unfortunately, this can make yeast infections challenging to treat, as sugar (in the form of glucose) is our primary fuel source.
Beer can contribute to yeast infections in several ways:
- The alcohol in beer can kill the beneficial bacteria in the gut that help to keep yeasts like Candida under control.
- The alcohol in beer can also weaken our immune system, which plays an essential role in fighting infections.
- The sugar in beer can act as a food source for Candida, allowing it to grow and colonize the gut.
Occasionally drinking beer or other alcoholic beverages is unlikely to result in a yeast infection if you are a healthy individual and have a relatively balanced gut microbiome. However, drinking beer can significantly increase your risk of developing a yeast infection. And even one drink can enhance your risk of developing a yeast infection if your gut health is already compromised.
Suppose you consume beer or other alcoholic beverages and are concerned about developing a yeast infection. In that case, there are a few steps you can take to reduce your risk:
- Drink occasionally and be moderate with your drinking. Avoid drinking alcohol every day, and when you do drink, be moderate with how much alcohol you consume.
- Avoid alcoholic beverages that are high in sugar. Alcohol and sugar are a terrible combination when it comes to yeast infections. Alcohol weakens immunity and kills beneficial gut bacteria, while sugar feeds yeast and allows it to grow.
- Focus on improving your gut health and immune health. If you have a healthy gut full of beneficial bacteria, you will be less likely to develop a yeast infection. The same is true for immune system health. Gut and immune health go hand-in-hand as up to 70% of the immune system is located in the gastrointestinal tract.
While drinking beer may increase your risk of developing a yeast infection, you do not have to completely cut it out of your life. As long as you are moderate in your drinking and have an otherwise healthy gut, you will be better able to prevent a yeast infection from developing.