The Health Benefits of Brewer's Yeast

An inactive form of yeast may help treat diabetes and IBS

Brewer's yeast is a type of yeast created during beer brewing. It is often used in alternative medicine to aid digestion. It's also used to treat a number of health conditions, including colds, flu, diarrhea, and diabetes.

Brewer's yeast is the dried, deactivated cells of the fungus Saccharomyces cerevisiae. It is a rich source of B vitamins, protein, and minerals. Brewer's yeast contains the mineral chromium, which might help your body better control blood sugar. 

Also Known As

  • Baker's yeast
  • Dried yeast fermentate
  • Medicinal yeast

Brewer's yeast is not the same as the yeast used for making beer or baking. These types of yeast are active. The cells in brewer's yeast are not living. They can't be reactivated.

Saccharomyces cerevisiae is also different from Saccharomyces boulardii, a type of yeast used as a probiotic.

This article explains some of the health benefits of brewer's yeast. It also describes some of the possible side effects, as well as the ways brewer's yeast could affect other medications you may be taking.

possible side effects of brewer's yeast
Verywell / Gary Ferster

Health Benefits

There isn't much research to support the health benefits of taking brewer's yeast. Even so, alternative health experts claim the nutrients in brewer's yeast can help with:

Here is some of what the current research says.

Diarrhea

There is not much proof that brewer's yeast can relieve diarrhea. Researchers once thought it might treat diarrhea caused by the bacterium Clostridium difficile (also known as C. diff).

However, more recent research has found that only S. boulardii, a different type of yeast, is effective against C. difficile infection.

Irritable Bowel Syndrome

Brewer's yeast may help with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). IBS is a digestive disorder that often causes abdominal pain, gas, diarrhea, and constipation.

According to a 2017 review of studies in the World Journal of Gastroenterology, people with IBS who took brewer's yeast were 51% more likely to have at least a 50% reduction in IBS symptoms compared to placebo. A placebo is a treatment that contains no active ingredients.

It's important to note that this research review included only two trials and 579 participants total.

Upper Respiratory Tract Infections

Some people use brewer's yeast to treat the common cold, flu, and other upper respiratory tract infections.

It isn't clear how brewer's yeast fights these infections. Some proponents claim brewer's yeast boosts the immune response in a way that helps the body "treat itself." There is some evidence of this effect, but it isn't very strong.

A 2012 study from Utah reported that women who took a daily brewer's yeast supplement called Wellmune had 60% fewer upper respiratory tract infections after 12 weeks than women who took a placebo.

There is also some evidence that brewer’s yeast supplements may make upper respiratory tract infections less severe in those who are already ill.

Diabetes

Brewer's yeast contains a form of chromium called glucose tolerance factor (GTC). GTC has been shown to improve the insulin response. Insulin is a hormone that helps your cells use sugars to create energy.

GTC may make it easier for your body to absorb the insulin in your blood. This action may help people with insulin resistance, a condition that can lead to diabetes.

A 2013 study in the International Journal of Preventive Medicine reported that adults with type 2 diabetes who took 1,800 milligrams of brewer's yeast per day had a 9% drop in their blood sugar after 12 weeks. People who took a placebo had a 7% increase in their blood sugar levels.

A 2015 study found that brewer's yeast had a small positive effect on blood sugar in people with type 2 diabetes.

A 2013 study from Iran showed that taking 1,800 milligrams of brewer's yeast per day improved blood pressure in people with type 2 diabetes. Their systolic (upper) pressure dropped an average of 4.1 mmHg. Their diastolic (lower) pressure fell 5.7 mmHg.

Possible Side Effects

Brewer's yeast is generally considered safe for short-term use. In some people, brewer's yeast may cause headaches, stomach upset, and gas.

Brewer's yeast isn't right for everyone, though. Here are some factors to consider:

  • Brewers yeast should not be used if you have a yeast allergy.
  • Brewer's yeast should be avoided if you take diabetes medications. It may cause blood sugar to drop too low (hypoglycemia).
  • Some research suggests that brewer's yeast may make conditions like ulcerative colitis or Crohn's disease worse.
  • Brewer's yeast may harm people with weakened immune systems, such as organ transplant recipients and people with advanced HIV. It may trigger a fungal infection.
  • There isn't much safety research on brewer's yeast, so children and people who are pregnant or breastfeeding should probably avoid using it.

Brewer's yeast may raise risks for women with recurrent yeast infections. The chances are small. Still, you may want to avoid brewer's yeast if you have an active yeast infection.

Drug Interactions

Brewer's yeast may interact with certain medications. For example, it may interact with monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs) used to treat depression. These include:

  • Marplan (isocarboxazid)
  • Nardil (phenelzine)
  • Emsam (selegiline)
  • Parnate (tranylcypromine)

MAOIs work by preventing the body from breaking down a substance in foods called tyramine. Brewer's yeast has large amounts of tyramine. Taking brewers yeast with an MAOI could lead to a spike in tyramine and cause a sudden rise in blood pressure, known as a hypertensive crisis.

A hypertensive crisis may also occur if you take brewer's yeast with the narcotic Demerol (meperidine) used to treat moderate to severe pain.

Brewer's yeast may also interfere with antifungal drugs such as Diflucan (fluconazole) Lamisil (terbinafine), and Sporanox (itraconazole) use to treat fungal infections.

Dosage and Preparation

Brewer's yeast is available in tablet and powder forms. Tablets often come in doses of 250 milligrams to 1,000 milligrams. There are no set guidelines on how to use brewer's yeast safely or effectively.

Brewer's yeast powder is usually mixed with water or other beverages. Most manufacturers recommend 1 to 2 tablespoons daily. Because brewer's yeast has a bitter flavor that some people don't like, it often helps to mix it into a smoothie or juice.

It's a good idea to start with smaller doses and gradually increase over several days or weeks. Never use more than the recommended dose on the product label.

What to Look For

Not all brewer's yeast products are created equal. This is especially true of powdered brewer's yeast, which varies from brand to brand. Powders may be cheaper than tablets, but the nutrient content may be higher in the tablet. Check the label to be sure.

Try to choose 100% brewer's yeast without any fillers, additives, or sweeteners. Check to see if the packaging lists all the nutritional information, including the daily value (DV) of vitamins, minerals, protein, fiber, and fat. Many products don't.

You can find brewer's yeast online and at many health food stores.

Other Questions

Is brewer's yeast the same thing as nutritional yeast?

Brewer's yeast is made from Saccharomyces cerevisiae . It is the byproduct of beer-making. The yeast cells are removed, pasteurized, and deactivated.

Nutritional yeast is also Saccharomyces cerevisiae, but does not come from brewing. Rather, it is grown on corn, rice, or other types of grain.

Although they are almost the same thing, brewer's yeast has a bitter flavor. Nutritional yeast has a nutty, cheesy taste and a flakier texture. Vegetarians and vegans often sprinkle it on pasta like parmesan cheese or swirl it into a cream or cheese sauce.

How can you tell beer yeast from brewer's yeast?

Brewer's yeast is available in drugstores and health food stores. Beer yeast is usually only found in businesses that serve the beer brewing industry.

Even so, beer yeast is often labeled as "brewing yeast." Unlike brewer's yeast, it is still active and can be bloomed (grown) to give beer its yeasty taste and fizzy carbonation.

The same applies to the term "baker's yeast." Some people use that term to describe brewer's yeast. Others use it to refer to active dry yeasts used to make bread rise.

Because the names can be confusing, store your brewer's yeast with your vitamins and medicine rather than in the pantry or spice cabinet.

If you consume beer yeast or active dry yeast, you may have digestion problems as the yeast cells start to grow and produce gas. If you accidentally eat either of these, call your healthcare provider immediately.

Summary

Brewer's yeast is an inactive form of a fungus used in beer making. It isn't the same as the active form of yeast used in baking and beer making.

Some health experts recommend taking brewer's yeast in tablet or powder form to help with illnesses that cause digestive problems, such as IBS and diarrhea, or infections such as colds, the flu, and hay fever. Some people also use it to treat long-term health problems such as diabetes and high blood pressure.

There isn't much evidence to support using brewer's yeast as a medical treatment. And it's important to keep in mind that brewer's yeast can interact with some medications in ways that can cause dangerous side effects.

If you're thinking of trying brewer's yeast, it's important to talk about it with your healthcare provider first. That way, you can be sure that the benefits outweigh the risks involved.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Is the yeast that causes yeast infections the same type that is in brewer's yeast?

    No, most yeast infections are caused by an overgrowth of Candida albicans. Brewer's yeast is Saccharomyces cerevisiae.

  • Can brewer's yeast cause weight gain?

    At only 60 calories per 2 tablespoons, brewer's yeast alone probably won't cause weight gain. It can be used as a protein supplement and energy booster, and may help you maintain a healthy weight.

  • Can brewer's yeast aid in milk production for breastfeeding women?

    Possibly. There are personal reports and animal studies that suggest the strain of yeast in brewer's yeast can aid in milk production. But human studies haven't been done to confirm it.

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11 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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