Brewer’s yeast, also known as
, is commonly used in baking and the fermentation of beer; hence, the common name. Brewer’s yeast is rich in nutrients like
, B vitamins, protein,
. It is the byproduct of beer brewing and can be grown on hops. Hops are the dried flowers that give beer its bitter taste. The yeast is separated from the beer after fermentation and processed. Aside from hops, the yeast can also be cultivated on other plants, like sugar beets.
Brewer’s yeast, along with its close cousin
, is considered a probiotic. Probiotics are foods or dietary supplements that contain organisms, like bacteria or yeast, which provide health benefits for humans. Along with brewer’s yeast, another example of a probiotic is yogurt with live and active bacteria cultures.
Bacteria and yeasts naturally live in our bodies, mainly in the digestive tract. Probiotics contain “good” bacteria or yeasts that keep our digestive tract functioning properly, as well as keeping the population of harmful or “bad” organisms low.
The probiotic activity of
in particular has been studied in the treatment of a number of conditions including:
2,3,8 Antibiotic-associated diarrheaTraveler’s diarrheaAcute diarrhea from any causeIrritable bowel syndromeClostridium difficile colitisLactose intolerance
In addition to its probiotic benefits, Brewer’s yeast has been used as a protein supplement and is promoted as an energy and immunity enhancer.
This article covers both
Brewer’s yeast is usually sold in the form of a powder, flakes, liquid, or tablets. It
can also be found as part of other food products, like fermented milks.
For adults, brewer’s yeast can be taken at a dose of 1-2 tablespoons per day. The powder
form can be added to food or mixed with water or juice.
Probiotics, in general, should have several billion microorganisms per dose. This makes
it more likely that the bacteria or yeasts will grow in the gut.
A standard dose of
is 500 mg (milligrams) twice a day. This
provides around 3 x 10 10-colony-forming units per gram. If taken to prevent
antibiotic-associated diarrhea, for example, the yeast should be taken before and a few days
after using antibiotics. The same is true for traveler’s diarrhea.
The strongest evidence supporting the benefits of brewer’s yeast is for
studies have shown brewer’s yeast to be effective in preventing antibiotic-associated
diarrhea, as well as relapsing colitis caused by the bacterium
may fight this form of diarrhea by making enzymes
that counteract the effect of toxins produced by
Since brewer’s yeast is a rich source of the mineral chromium, it has been studied for
its ability to improve blood sugar control in patients with diabetes.
There has also been interest in studying the effectiveness of brewer’s yeast for
preventing colds and flu
. However, it is still uncertain
whether it is effective in these situations.
Determining the effectiveness of brewer’s yeast, as well as other probiotics, is
hampered by the fact that many studies use combinations of differing bacterial and yeast
strains. This makes it difficult to know whether only one or all of the components are
needed for a beneficial effect. Nevertheless, a number of studies focusing only on
have shown beneficial effects.
Numerous studies have investigated the benefits of
in antibiotic-associated diarrhea and traveler's diarrhea in adults.
A mathematical analysis of ten randomized, controlled studies found
to be effective for the prevention of antibiotic-associated diarrhea.
In a controlled, double-blind study involving 3,000 Austrian tourists traveling
through hot climates, researchers found that
started five days
before departure and continued through the duration of travel significantly reduced the
incidence of traveler’s diarrhea compared to placebo. The effectiveness was dependent on
the dose given and its preparation.
A systematic review of studies focusing on the effectiveness of
infection (the bacteria that causes
antibiotic-associated diarrhea), found that the yeast may be effective in protecting
against reoccurring infections, but not necessarily first-time infections.
Other studies have also shown that
may reduce the
duration of diarrhea in children.
, a common bacterium present
in the stomach and upper intestines of some people, is associated with an increased risk
of peptic ulcers. Treatment for
usually involves more than one antibiotic to suppress the
bacteria. While there is little evidence that
can help treat
, it may effectively reduce
the side effects associated with standard treatment for this condition.
One clinical trial, for example, compared two groups of children aged 3-18 years
infected with the
bacteria. One group
was given medicines to treat the infection plus
. The other group was given medicines plus
a placebo. The group who took
with their medicines had fewer side effects compared to the
Side effects included bloating, taste problems, and nausea.
A large, randomized trial found a positive effect for brewer’s yeast in preventing
colds and seasonal influenza (flu). In the study, 116 adults who had received a flu shot
were given either 500 mg of a brewer’s yeast product called EpiCor or placebo for 12
weeks. Researchers found that those who received Epicor had fewer colds and flu. And those
on Epicor who did get a cold or flu were sick for a shorter length of time compared to
participants taking placebo.
Far more research is required before brewer’s
yeast can be routinely recommended for the prevention of colds and flu.
Brewer’s yeast, along with other probiotics, is generally considered safe. Some people
may experience bloating or gas when taking probiotics.
Those who should practice caution when using probiotics include people who are severely
sick, have immune system issues, or those who have central venous catheters.
People allergic to yeast or who are more likely to have yeast infections should not take
brewer’s yeast. Also, people with
should talk to their doctor before taking
brewer’s yeast, since it can interact with their medicines and cause lower than expected
Always talk to a doctor before taking any supplement or medicine.
People taking any of the medicines listed below should exercise caution when taking
Monoamine Oxidase Inhibitors (MAOIs)
Brewer's yeast has a substance called tyramine in it. Tyramine can interact with
very high blood pressure
which can be dangerous (hypertensive crisis). This can
lead to a
Taking brewer’s yeast while taking Demerol may cause hypertensive crisis.
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Last reviewed September 2014 by EBSCO CAM Review Board
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