Brewer's yeast is made from a one-celled fungus called Saccharomyces cerevisiae and is used to make beer. It also can be grown specifically to make nutritional supplements. Brewer's yeast is a rich source of minerals -- particularly chromium, an essential trace mineral that helps the body maintain normal blood sugar levels; selenium; protein; and the B-complex vitamins. It tastes bitter and should not be confused with baker's yeast, nutritional yeast, or torula yeast; all those types of yeast are low in chromium. Brewer's yeast has been used for years as a nutritional supplement.

Brewers Yeast is known as nature’s wonder food, a name that it certainly deserves. It is an excellent source of all the major B vitamins (except B12). It also contains other vitamins, sixteen amino acids and fourteen or more minerals. Brewer's yeast is often used as a source of B-complex vitamins, chromium, and selenium. The B-complex vitamins in brewer's yeast include B1 (thiamine), B2 (riboflavin), B3 (niacin), B5 (pantothenic acid), B6 (pyridoxine), B9 (folic acid), and H or B7 (biotin).

These vitamins help break down carbohydrates, fats, and proteins, which provide the body with energy. They also support the nervous system, help maintain the muscles used for digestion, and keep skin, hair, eyes, mouth, and liver healthy. However, brewer's yeast does not contain vitamin B12, an essential vitamin found in meat and dairy products; vegetarians sometimes take brewer's yeast mistakenly believing that it provides B12, which can be lacking in their diet.

The most common use for Brewer's yeast has been for antibiotic-associated diarrhea (AAD), traveler's diarrhea, rotavirus diarrhea in children, infectious diarrhea such as amebiasis, and general digestive problems including irritable bowel syndrome, lactose intolerance, relapsing Clostridium difficile colitis, and bacterial overgrowth in short bowel syndrome. Evidence for possible effectiveness in diarrhea is more robust for AAD and prevention of relapse of C difficile colitis when used with pharmacologic agents (metronidazole or vancomycin) than for other gastrointestinal indications. Fewer data are available for its other uses, including vaginal Candida albicans yeast infections, high cholesterol levels, premenstrual syndrome, furunculosis, and adolescent acne. It is considered "likely ineffective" for gastrointestinal colonization by C albicans in patients with cystic fibrosis.

Some studies suggest that chromium supplements may help people with diabetes control blood sugar levels. People with diabetes either do not produce enough insulin -- a hormone needed to convert sugar, starches and other food into energy needed for daily life -- or cannot use the insulin that their bodies produce. Chromium may reduce blood sugar levels as well, improving glucose tolerance (reducing the amount of insulin needed). Because brewer's yeast is a rich source of chromium, scientists think it may be effective in treating high blood sugar.

A few studies suggest that brewer's yeast may help lower LDL ("bad") cholesterol levels in the blood and raise HDL ("good") cholesterol levels. Researchers aren't sure whether that is due to the chromium in brewer's yeast or another substance, and not all studies have found the same benefit. Although some studies suggest that chromium may help reduce body fat, the amount of fat lost is not much compared to what can be lost with exercise and a well-balanced diet. However, brewer's yeast is used as a protein supplement and energy booster, so it may help with weight management. At least one study has found that brewer's yeast may improve acne. Another linked it to a reduced risk of a second skin cancer.

The cholesterol-lowering effects of yeast have not been shown in any randomized controlled, double-blinded trials using Brewer's yeast. However, a double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled study of a Chinese red-yeast rice supplement (Monascus purpureus), used in the United States since World War II and for centuries in Chinese medicine, showed significant reduction in total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, and triacylglycerol concentrations in 83 healthy individuals with mild-to-moderate hyperlipidemia, compared with placebo over 12 weeks of treatment. This effect was not accounted for by the low levels of HMG CoA reductase inhibitor mevinolin (also known as lovastatin) found in the red-yeast rice supplement used for this study. Data from controlled clinical trials of Brewer's yeast for treating acne, furunculosis, yeast vaginitis, and irritable bowel syndrome indications are not available.

Brewer's Yeast is also helpful with:

Sleep – It has been shown to help people having difficulty sleeping. This is due to the Niacin and Vitamin B6 present in the yeast, which work together to produce the brain chemical seratonin, which is essential for restful sleep.

Fatigue – It has been shown to help people who feel fatigued, since many of the B group vitamins present are essential in the release of energy from the carbohydrates in the food we consume.

Diarrhoea – It has been used to treat diarrhoea caused by Clostridium difficile.

Brewer's yeast is available in powder, flakes, tablet, and liquid forms. It is best avoided by anyone taking monoamine oxidase inhibitors and people suffering from gout. Brewer's yeast has not been studied in children, so it is not recommended for pediatric use. 1 - 2 Tbsp per day; may be added to food or dissolved in juice or water, or 5 to 6 tablets.

Because supplements may have side effects or interact with medications, you should take them only under the supervision of your health care provider. Side effects from brewer's yeast are generally mild and may include flatulence. People who are susceptible to yeast infections or are allergic to yeast should avoid brewer's yeast. People with diabetes should talk to their doctor before taking brewer's yeast, as it could interact with medication for diabetes and cause hypoglycemia.

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