If you’ve ever walked past the yogurt section at the supermarket, you’ve probably heard the term “probiotic.” Probiotics are basically “live bacteria” that exist in certain foods, such as yogurt, as well as in supplements. Don’t let the word “bacteria” scare you. Probiotics fall under the unofficial category of “good bacteria,” because they function like the “good bacteria” that already live inside us. These microorganisms help your body fight off the “bad bacteria” you certainly have heard about. They also help with digestion and make sure the body absorbs the right nutrients from your food.
Saccharomyces boulardii, or S. boulardii, is one type of probiotic out there. But there’s one major difference: it’s not a type of bacteria. It’s a yeast that happens to function like a probiotic in the body. For the past 30 or so years, doctors have recommended it to help patients with diarrhea. It helps to regulate the intestines and protect them from pathogens and other things that can damage the intestinal lining. It also modulates different parts of your immune system and keeps the intestinal barrier function up and running. Doctors have associated defects in the intestinal barrier function with different gastrointestinal diseases.
S. boulardii can treat and prevent a number of gastrointestinal (GI) problems, including a few different forms of diarrhea. Antibiotics are one common cause of diarrhea. Antibiotics prescribed for a bacterial infection in a different part of the body can disrupt the “good bacteria” in your gut, flushing them out of your system along with the “bad” ones. Usually, the diarrhea stops after a few days, but it can lead to colitis or Clostridium difficile (C. difficile) colitis, which requires hospitalization.
Researchers also saw positive results when they used S. boulardii to treat both acute and persistant diarrhea in children. It’s also proved to be beneficial in treating diarrhea associated with the HIV virus.
S. boulardii can also help treat other ailments, such as lactose intolerance, and might even have a future in the treatment of acne, vaginal yeast infections, high cholesterol, fever blisters, and canker sores. It seems to improve the quality of life of people with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), as well as Crohn’s disease.
People usually take S. boulardii in tablet form, but the dose varies depending on the need. To treat diarrhea caused by antibiotics, researchers usually test with four daily doses of 250-500 milligrams (mg), and 1 gram (g) per day for C. difficile.
While it doesn’t cause many side effects, check with your medical provider before you start taking S. boulardii, especially if you have a yeast allergy, are pregnant, or are breast-feeding.
S. boulardii comes in over-the-counter supplements that you can take orally. If you’re looking to add other probiotic foods into your diet, there are other options beyond just yogurt. Kefir, sauerkraut, kombucha, kimchi, and miso are all rich with digestive-supporting probiotics that can help regulate your system.