Brewer's Yeast

What other names is Brewer's Yeast known by?

Baker's Yeast, Dried Yeast Fermentate, Faex, Faex Medicinalis, Levadura de Cerveza, Levure, Levure de Bière, Levure de Bière Inactive, Levure de Boulangerie, Levure Fermentée, Levure Médicinale, Levure Sèche Déshydratée, Medicinal Yeast, Saccharomyces cerevisiae, S. cerevisiae.

What is Brewer's Yeast?

Brewer's yeast is a kind of yeast that is a by-product of brewing beer. Dietary supplements containing brewer's yeast often contain non-living, dried yeast. People use brewer's yeast to make medicine.

Brewer's yeast is taken by mouth for respiratory problems, including the common cold and other upper respiratory tract infections, influenza, seasonal allergies, and swine flu. Brewer's yeast is also taken by mouth for diarrhea, swelling of the colon (colitis) due to the bacteria Clostridium difficile, high cholesterol, loss of appetite, acne, premenstrual syndrome (PMS), recurring boils on the skin (furunculosis), and type 2 diabetes. It has also been used as a source of B vitamins, chromium, and protein.

Insufficient Evidence to Rate Effectiveness for...

  • Hay fever (allergic rhinitis). Early research shows that taking 500 mg of a specific brewer's yeast product (EpiCor by Embria Health Sciences) for 12 weeks reduces nasal symptoms associated with seasonal allergies during high pollen counts. However, the product doesn't seem to improve eye symptoms. Also, it doesn't seem to improve nasal or eye symptoms during allergy season if the pollen count is lower.
  • Swelling of the colon (colitis) due to the bacteria Clostridium difficile. There is a report that taking brewer's yeast by mouth for 4 months along with vancomycin for 30 days may help treat colitis caused by the bacteria Clostridium difficile and prevent recurrence.
  • Diabetes. Early research suggests that taking brewer's yeast containing chromium by mouth for 8 weeks can reduce blood sugar levels in people with diabetes. It may also reduce the need to use certain diabetes medications.
  • High cholesterol. Early research suggests that taking brewer's yeast containing chromium by mouth for 8 weeks decreases blood levels of total cholesterol and increase levels of high-density lipoprotein (HDL or "good") cholesterol in people with high cholesterol.
  • The common flu (influenza). Some early research shows that taking a specific brewer's yeast product (EpiCor by Embria Health Sciences) for 12 weeks reduces the possibility of getting the flu in people who have not received the flu vaccine. But it doesn't seem to reduce the duration or severity of flu symptoms in these people who do get sick. However, other early research shows that taking this same brewer's yeast product reduces the risk of the common cold or flu and helps symptoms resolve faster in healthy people who recently received flu shots.
  • Premenstrual syndrome (PMS). Taking a specific brewer's yeast preparation (Sillix Donna by Giuliani) that also contains vitamins and minerals by mouth might decrease distress symptoms of PMS.
  • Acne.
  • Boils.
  • Diarrhea.
  • Loss of appetite.
  • Other Conditions.
More evidence is needed to rate the effectiveness of brewer's yeast for these uses.

Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database rates effectiveness based on scientific evidence according to the following scale: Effective, Likely Effective, Possibly Effective, Possibly Ineffective, Likely Ineffective, and Insufficient Evidence to Rate (detailed description of each of the ratings).

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How does Brewer's Yeast work?

Due to the chromium content of brewer's yeast, there is interest in using it for lowering blood glucose in people with diabetes. Chromium may help the body use insulin more effectively. This can lower blood sugar levels.

Additionally, brewer's yeast seems to stimulate chemicals (intestinal enzymes) that could help relieve diarrhea.

Brewer's yeast also might help fight bacteria that cause infections in the intestine, as well as improve the body's defenses against viral lung infections such as flu and the common cold.

Brewer's yeast is a source of B vitamins and protein.

Are there safety concerns?

Brewer's yeast is POSSIBLY SAFE for most people when taken by mouth short-term. A specific brewer's yeast product (EpiCor by Embria Health Sciences) has been safely used in doses of 500 mg daily for 12 weeks. In some people, brewer's yeast can cause headache, stomach discomfort, and gas (flatulence).

Not enough is known about the safety of long-term use of brewer's yeast. Stick with short-term use.

Special Precautions & Warnings:

Pregnancy and breast-feeding: There is not enough reliable information about the safety of taking brewer's yeast by mouth if you are pregnant or breast-feeding. Stay on the safe side and avoid use.

Yeast allergy: People who are allergic or sensitive to yeast might experience itching and swelling.

Crohn's disease: Brewer's yeast can make Crohn's disease worse. Don't use brewer's yeast if you have Crohn's disease.

Diabetes: Taking brewer's yeast that contains chromium can lower blood sugar levels. If you have diabetes and take medications to lower your blood sugar, adding brewer's yeast might make your blood sugar drop too low. Monitor your blood sugar carefully.

Are there any interactions with medications?



Medications for depression (MAOIs)
Interaction Rating: Major Do not take this combination.

Brewer's yeast contains a chemical called tyramine. Large amounts of tyramine can cause high blood pressure. However, the body naturally breaks down tyramine to get rid of it. This usually prevents the tyramine from causing high blood pressure. Some medications used for depression stop the body from breaking down tyramine. This can cause too much tyramine in the body and dangerously high blood pressure.

Some of these medications used for depression include phenelzine (Nardil), tranylcypromine (Parnate), and others.



Lithium
Interaction Rating: Moderate Be cautious with this combination.
Talk with your health provider.

Some brewer's yeast contains lithium. Taking brewer's yeast along with lithium might increase how much lithium is in the body and result in serious side effects. Talk with your healthcare provider before using this product if you are taking lithium. Your lithium dose might need to be changed.



Medications for diabetes (Antidiabetes drugs)
Interaction Rating: Moderate Be cautious with this combination.
Talk with your health provider.

Brewer's yeast might decrease blood sugar. Diabetes medications are also used to lower blood sugar. Taking brewer's yeast along with diabetes medications might cause your blood sugar to go too low. Monitor your blood sugar closely. The dose of your diabetes medication might need to be changed.

Some medications used for diabetes include glimepiride (Amaryl), glyburide (DiaBeta, Glynase PresTab, Micronase), insulin, metformin (Glucophage), pioglitazone (Actos), rosiglitazone (Avandia), chlorpropamide (Diabinese), glipizide (Glucotrol), tolbutamide (Orinase), and others.



Medications for fungal infections (Antifungals)
Interaction Rating: Moderate Be cautious with this combination.
Talk with your health provider.

Brewer's yeast is a fungus. Medications for fungal infections help reduce fungus in and on the body. Taking brewer's yeast with medications for fungal infections can reduce the effect of brewer's yeast. However, this is probably not a big concern.

Some medications for fungal infection include fluconazole (Diflucan), terbinafine (Lamisil), itraconazole (Sporanox), and others.

Dosing considerations for Brewer's Yeast.

The appropriate dose of brewer's yeast depends on several factors such as the user's age, health, and several other conditions. At this time there is not enough scientific information to determine an appropriate range of doses for brewer's yeast. Keep in mind that natural products are not always necessarily safe and dosages can be important. Be sure to follow relevant directions on product labels and consult your pharmacist or physician or other healthcare professional before using.
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Last Editorial Review: 3/29/2011

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