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How Candida May Trigger Autoimmune Diseases Like Celiac: An In-Depth Look

Written by Portland Clinic of Natural Health on August 14, 2023

Candida is a genus of yeast that naturally resides in various parts of the human body, particularly the digestive tract. While it typically exists without causing harm, under certain conditions it can overgrow, leading to candidiasis. Beyond the immediate symptoms of this condition, there's growing evidence to suggest that Candida may play a role in autoimmune diseases, particularly celiac disease. This relationship is believed to arise from mechanisms like cross-reactivity, molecular mimicry, and homology with transglutaminase. Let's delve deeper into these mechanisms.


Cross-reactivity refers to the idea that the immune system can mistake one substance for another due to structural similarities. In the case of Candida and celiac disease, it's proposed that when the immune system mounts a defense against Candida, it might inadvertently target tissues in the digestive system, thinking they are attacking the yeast. (1)

Molecular Mimicry

Molecular mimicry is a phenomenon where a foreign antigen shares sequence or structural similarities with self-antigens. The immune system, while attempting to combat this foreign invader, can mistakenly attack the body's own tissues. It’s suggested that peptides present in Candida can resemble those in the human body. When the immune system recognizes these Candida peptides, it may also target similar structures in the gut, leading to autoimmune reactions. (2)

Homology with Transglutaminase

One of the most compelling pieces of evidence linking Candida with celiac disease is the observed homology between Candida proteins and tissue transglutaminase (tTG). tTG is an enzyme targeted by the immune system in celiac patients. Studies have shown that antibodies produced in response to Candida proteins may also bind to tTG due to these structural similarities, thereby exacerbating or potentially triggering celiac symptoms. (3, 4)

Intestinal Permeability

Commonly known as "leaky gut," increased intestinal permeability allows larger molecules, including undigested food particles and microbes, to pass through the intestinal lining and enter the bloodstream. Candida overgrowth can damage the tight junctions between intestinal cells, increasing permeability. Once these molecules or antigens enter the bloodstream, they can trigger immune responses. This mechanism is thought to be a contributing factor in the development of various autoimmune conditions, including celiac disease. (5)

Candida: A Multifactorial Etiology in Autoimmune Diseases?

The role of Candida in autoimmune diseases is complex. While the above mechanisms provide compelling evidence, it's crucial to remember that autoimmune diseases are multifactorial. Genetic predisposition, environmental triggers, and other factors play a role in their onset and progression. (6)

However, understanding the potential relationship between Candida and autoimmune diseases like celiac is vital. It paves the way for novel therapeutic strategies and offers patients another avenue to explore in managing their conditions.

The Interplace Between Candida and Celiac Disease

The interplay between Candida and celiac disease through mechanisms like cross-reactivity, molecular mimicry, and its relationship with transglutaminase opens new horizons for understanding autoimmune diseases. While more research is necessary to establish a definitive link, it's evident that our gut health and its microbial inhabitants play a significant role in overall health and the potential onset of autoimmune conditions. Taking a holistic approach to health, focusing on maintaining a balanced gut flora and being aware of potential triggers, is essential in the pursuit of optimal health.


  1. Aaron L, Torsten M. Candida albicans in celiac disease: A wolf in sheep's clothing. Autoimmun Rev. 2020 Sep;19(9):102621. doi: 10.1016/j.autrev.2020.102621. Epub 2020 Jul 18. PMID: 32693029.
  2. Corouge M, Loridant S, Fradin C, Salleron J, Damiens S, Moragues MD, Souplet V, Jouault T, Robert R, Dubucquoi S, Sendid B, Colombel JF, Poulain D. Humoral immunity links Candida albicans infection and celiac disease. PLoS One. 2015 Mar 20;10(3):e0121776. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0121776. PMID: 25793717; PMCID: PMC4368562.
  3. Al-Janabi AAHS, Mohammed MJ. Correlation of Celiac Diseases with Candida Spp. Based on Anti-gliadin Antibodies. Kurume Med J. 2023 Jul 3;68(2):63-68. doi: 10.2739/kurumemedj.MS682018. Epub 2023 May 12. PMID: 37183018.
  4. Nieuwenhuizen WF, Pieters RH, Knippels LM, Jansen MC, Koppelman SJ. Is Candida albicans a trigger in the onset of coeliac disease? Lancet. 2003 Jun 21;361(9375):2152-4. doi: 10.1016/s0140-6736(03)13695-1. PMID: 12826451.
  5. Renga G, Bellet MM, Stincardini C, Pariano M, Oikonomou V, Villella VR, Brancorsini S, Clerici C, Romani L, Costantini C. To Be or Not to Be a Pathogen: Candida albicans and Celiac Disease. Front Immunol. 2019 Dec 5;10:2844. doi: 10.3389/fimmu.2019.02844. PMID: 31867008; PMCID: PMC6906151.
  6. Humbert L, Cornu M, Proust-Lemoine E, Bayry J, Wemeau JL, Vantyghem MC, Sendid B. Chronic Mucocutaneous Candidiasis in Autoimmune Polyendocrine Syndrome Type 1. Front Immunol. 2018 Nov 19;9:2570. doi: 10.3389/fimmu.2018.02570. PMID: 30510552; PMCID: PMC6254185.

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