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Brewer’s Yeast

What is brewer’s yeast?

Brewer’s yeast is an ingredient used in the production of beer and bread. It is made from Saccharomyces cerevisiae, a one-celled fungus. Brewer’s yeast has a bitter taste.

Brewer’s yeast is also used as a nutritional supplement. It’s a rich source of chromium, which may help your body maintain normal blood sugar levels. It is also a source of B vitamins.

Brewer’s yeast is considered a probiotic and is used to aid digestion.

What does brewer’s yeast do?

Brewer’s yeast contains small organisms (microflora) that help maintain the proper functioning of the digestive tract.

Brewer’s yeast is a nutritional supplement and may enhance energy levels and strengthen the immune system. It’s a rich source of:

  • chromium
  • protein
  • selenium
  • potassium
  • iron
  • zinc
  • magnesium

It is also a great source of B vitamins that provide:

  • thiamine (B-1)
  • riboflavin (B-2)
  • niacin (B-3)
  • pantothenic acid (B-5)
  • pyridoxine (B-6)
  • folic acid (B-9)
  • biotin (B-7)

What are the benefits of brewer’s yeast?

The probiotic characteristics of brewer’s yeast may make it an effective way to prevent diarrhea. It has been used to treat other disorders of the digestive tract, including:

Brewer’s yeast can provide energy and may help maintain healthy skin, hair, eyes, and mouth. It may be effective at supporting the nervous system and enhancing the immune system.

The chromium in brewer’s yeast may help control sugar levels for patients with type 2 diabetes by improving glucose tolerance.

What are the side effects of brewer’s yeast?

You should speak with your healthcare provider before taking brewer’s yeast. Supplements such as brewer’s yeast can interact with certain medications.

The side effects of brewer’s yeast are generally mild. The most common side effects are excess gas, bloating, and migraine-like headaches.

Stop taking brewer’s yeast and contact your healthcare provider immediately if you experience chest pain, throat or chest tightness, or difficulty breathing. These side effects may indicate an allergic reaction to brewer’s yeast.

Brewer’s yeast is a source of B vitamins but it does not contain B-12. Inadequate amounts of B-12 can cause anemia, so it’s important to make sure you have sources of B-12 in your diet.

How is brewer’s yeast administered?

Brewer’s yeast is available as a powder, flakes, liquid, or tablets. It is also an ingredient in beer and some kinds of bread.

The average adult dosage is one to two tablespoons daily. It can be added to food or mixed with water, juice, or shakes.

What are the risks of brewer’s yeast?

Consult with your healthcare provider before taking any supplements such as brewer’s yeast. No specific preparation is necessary to take brewer’s yeast. The powdered form can be taken alone or added to food or beverages.

Your doctor may recommend that you initially take smaller doses of brewer’s yeast in order to check for possible side effects.

Brewer’s yeast can interact with several different types of medications. Talk to your doctor before taking brewer’s yeast if you use:

  • monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs): These include tranylcypromine, selegiline, and isocarboxazid. This type of medication is used for treating depression. The large amount of tyramine in brewer’s yeast can cause a hypertensive crisis when mixed with MAOIs. This reaction is an immediate and dangerous increase in blood pressure. It can cause a heart attack or stroke.
  • meperidine: This is a narcotic pain medication. A hypertensive crisis can occur when brewer’s yeast interacts with this narcotic.
  • diabetes medications: Brewer’s yeast may lower blood sugar levels. Taking it in combination with diabetes medications can place you at higher risk for lower than optimum blood sugar (hypoglycemia).

Consult your healthcare provider before taking brewer’s yeast if you are pregnant or breastfeeding. You should also use caution if you have a central venous catheter or any of the following conditions:

You may find it helpful to make a list of any conditions you have and medications you take in advance of visiting your healthcare provider. That way you can work together to determine whether brewer’s yeast is a good fit for your health needs. 

You asked, we answered

  • I am taking 40 mg of gliclazide and my sugars are still too high. Would brewer’s yeast help me?- Anonymous Healthline reader
  • There is some good evidence that brewer’s yeast, added to your diabetes treatment plan, may help. This is something that needs to be discussed with your doctor first. We need more studies to better understand dosage and possible side effects. One of the problems identified is related to uncertain dosages of brewer’s yeast. Sudden and emergency-level low blood sugars have been reported when brewer’s yeast is used with a prescribed hypoglycemic. If this is something you decide is a good choice for you, start with low doses, and monitor your blood sugars very carefully.

    - Debra Rose Wilson, PhD, MSN, RN, IBCLC, AHN-BC, CHT

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