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 used as a nutritional supplement. It is 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.

    As a nutritional supplement, brewer’s yeast may enhance energy levels and strengthen the immune system. It is a rich source of chromium, protein, selenium, potassium, iron, zinc, and magnesium. It is also a rich source of B vitamins that provide:

    • thiamine (B1)
    • riboflavin (B2)
    • niacin (B3)
    • pantothenic acid (B5)
    • pyridoxine (B6)
    • folic acid (B9)
    • biotin (B7)

    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:

    • diarrhea caused by antibiotics
    • traveler’s diarrhea
    • irritable bowel syndrome
    • clostridium difficile colitis
    • lactose intolerance

    Because of its nutritional value, 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 (University of Michigan Health System).

    What Are the Side Effects of Brewer’s Yeast?

    Patients should speak with a healthcare provider before taking brewer’s yeast. Supplements such as brewer’s yeast can interact with some medications.

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

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

    Though brewer’s yeast is a source of B vitamins, it does not contain B12. Assuming that brewer’s yeast provides all necessary B vitamins can place a patient at risk for a diet with inadequate amounts of B12, which can cause anemia.

    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 breads.

    The average adult dosage is 1 to 2 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. In powdered form, it can be taken alone or added to food or beverages.

    When starting to take brewer’s yeast, patients may take a smaller than recommended dose to test for 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 tranylcyporomine, selegiline, and isocarboxazid. They are used to treat 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 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 can place a patient at a higher risk for lower than optimum blood sugar, or hypoglycemia, when combined with these medications.

    Consult your healthcare provider before taking brewer’s yeast if you are pregnant or breastfeeding, if you have a central venous catheter, or if you have any of the following conditions:

    • diabetes
    • Crohn’s disease
    • frequent yeast infections
    • yeast allergies
    • weakened immune system