Brewer’s Yeast and Nutritional Yeast

256px-S_cerevisiae_under_DIC_microscopyWow! Contradictory statements abound out there about brewer’s yeast and nutritional yeast.  Why does there have to be so much contradictory information?  (Topic change:  This makes me think fondly of my dad.  My dad would answer, “Just to make you ask stupid questions.”  Anyone else get that line as a kid?)  I had to try to sort this supplemental yeast thing out for myself, and I thought I’d type it up.  The next post or two will be about brewer’s yeast and nutritional yeast supplements.  I have not blogged for the last month due to a wonderful family vacation and due to the vaccination wars, which caused me to continue reading on vaccines.  If you think you have vaccines all figured out, whichever side you are on, you are sadly mistaken.  The lines are gray.  Or is it grey?

What are brewer’s yeast and nutritional yeast?

Usually, in health circles, when people talk about brewer’s yeast and nutritional yeast, they are talking about yeasts which have been grown, inactivated and ground up specifically for use as a supplement.  They are typically distributed in powder form to sprinkle on food and drink, but they can also be used in pill form.  Proponents of nutritional yeast seem to argue that nutritional yeast is a distinctly different entity from brewer’s yeast.  Historically, from a nutritional standpoint, that idea has some truth.  However, in today’s world, I would argue that the lines have become crossed, tangled, and blurred, and this statement is false.  Microbiologically, they are one and the same.

I became interested in supplemental brewer’s yeast and nutritional yeast when I read Minding Your Mitochondria by Terry Wahls, MD and also when I read up on folate and methyltetrahydrofolate reductase (MTHFR) disorders, which actually are pretty common in the general population.  These supplemental yeasts are powerhouses of vitamins and minerals in food-like form.  Did you read that?  Food-like form.  Aaaah.  Food.  Anytime you don’t have to pop a pill and can eat food instead is nice.  But let’s carry on.  Even if they are not pills, they are still supplements which should be examined for their risks and benefits.  (Don’t use anything in this post or on this blog for medical advice.  Run everything by your doctor to make sure it will not harm you.  Supplements, even natural ones, can be harmful.)

Anecdotal Medicine

It is VERY fun to read anecdotes on the internet.  People are generous with their comments and reports.  When I start researching a supplement or topic, I like to read Amazon reviews, visit forums, and scour blogs to read all the reports and information (and MIS-information) out there.  I read the five stars and the one stars and all the stars in-between stars and the weird and sketchy stuff (what I love to call “the voodoo”).  I try not to accept any of this information as truth or non-truth until I have done my research, even if I read it in Wheat Belly and Grain Brain (where it’s all correct, you know)  or on Dr. Oz (where it’s all wrong, you know).  As I read the anecdotes, I explore all around and see what primary research exists to substantiate and refute some of these stories.   Sometimes, in opposite fashion, I see a supplement in a primary research article which then sends me to forums, blogs, and Amazon reviews.  My research usually (maybe always) requires me to brush up on some “basic science” (chemistry, microbiology, physiology, plant biology, and so on).  Anyhow, the point of this is to tell you what I found for anecdotes when I browsed around the internet regarding nutritional yeasts and why I even read them.  Anecdotes often give me super leads to buried research that already exists, and in the case of supplemental yeasts, my findings were NO different.

Internet anecdotes:  Who reported using brewer’s yeast and nutritional yeast and why?

Upon skipping through the halls of the internet, I found that users of supplemental yeasts were:

  • People who wanted a strong source of B vitamins and minerals in a “food-type form” rather than a synthetic vitamin.
  • People who were vegan and wanted vitamin B 12. (Please note now, and I will elaborate later, that not all supplemental yeasts contain vitamin B 12.  Read all your labels.)
  • People who were diabetic and wanted chromium to help regulate blood sugars.
  • People who wanted their hair and/or fingernails to grow and shine.
  • People who wanted their pets’ fur to grow and shine.
  • People who wanted more energy.
  • Lactating women who wanted to improve milk production.
  • People who wanted to repel mosquitoes, fleas, and ticks naturally—both away from them and from their animals.
  • People who were looking to get more amino acids and protein.
  • People who wanted to relieve acne.
  • People who were sick often and wanted to support their immune system.

Today’s Closing Thoughts

I never thought I’d be researching this kind of stuff. Mosquito repellant?  Isn’t that Deep Woods Off?  Relieve acne?  Isn’t that Retin-A cream?   Control blood sugar?  Isn’t that insulin?  The idea of “supplements” gives me two feelings:  1)  That I’m becoming my grandma and 2) That I’m some kind of health freak.  I never wanted to be a health freak.  I just wanted my GI tract to move and my head to be clear and not achy (after I realized those tension headaches were related to food).  But let’s move on.  On we will move.  Next post I will type up more details on brewer’s yeast and nutritional yeast for those who want to get to the bottom of the contradictory posts elsewhere on the internet.

Have a great day!  Help someone today, including yourself!  And never forget that there are two sides to every story.  Always make it such that you are informed enough to “walk around the elephant.”


23 thoughts on “Brewer’s Yeast and Nutritional Yeast

  1. agmorze

    Great post! I’m anxiously awaiting more 🙂 It makes me not feel so inept when I’m trying to sift through all the information online and figure out what’s legitimate and not…it’s so frustrating AND time consuming! I’ve been hesitating on trying this so I can’t wait to hear more. Hope you and your family are staying warm!! …AND I would love to hear your thoughts on the vaccine wars…some day 🙂 AGAIN so so confusing.

    1. thehomeschoolingdoctor Post author

      I look forward to sharing what I’ve learned. It is a good supplement in so many regards, but I think there are several areas where people with certain disorders need to move cautiously, not at all or really, really do their homework (celiac, gluten sensitivity, glutamate sensitivity, yeast sensitivity, those who want/need to avoid synthetic vitamins, etc).

      We are staying warm. Thank you. I hope you are too!

      There are more reasons to not vaccinate besides autism that receive little press. There are. On the other hand, fatal outcomes to these diseases which we vaccinate for exist. They do. If your child gets seizures from a vaccine, it’s hard to console yourself that you “did the right thing.” If your child gets measle’s encephalitis or chicken pox encephalitis, leaving your child with mental retardation, it’s hard to deny that you’d probably do things differently. We do the best we can as parents. The government needs to do a better job at addressing concerns, not just a blanket statement of, “Oh. They’re perfectly safe. There is NO reason to not vaccinate.” Nothing in life is perfectly safe. Not even water. People want to hear all sides, and they want to know what is being done to make vaccines as safe as possible. Well, maybe not. I think they just want to shout at each other.

  2. Jhanis

    People who wanted their hair and/or fingernails to grow and shine <– read this and I go I want this too! 🙂 I'm one of those who read reviews and believe everything they say. 😀

      1. Jhanis

        Only once in a blue moon! I talk about beer and wine on the blog a lot but the last time I had alcohol in my body was first week of January. 😦 Hopefully this Valentine’s if I get lucky! hahaha!

      2. thehomeschoolingdoctor Post author

        All is not lost, eh!? Anyhow, keep the dessert posts coming. They sell better than vegetables. And most of them fit our diet plan well, with some minor tweaks. Just saw the sweet plantain one! Looks good to me!

  3. kasenyabogg

    Terri, love your posts and have missed them! Am really interested to hear what you have to say about nutritional yeasts/ brewers’ yeast and hair and nails. I’ve had alopecia totalis since I was a teenager and am always looking to see what nutritional/medical information is out there. Loved reading about your research method too.

    1. thehomeschoolingdoctor Post author

      Why, thank you so much! The hair and nails anecdote is definitely the one with the least science info (except maybe the mosquito and flea one!) I came across. I’ll see what I can do! It just takes one search term I hadn’t thought to use, and bammo—a whole mash of journal articles appear! Thanks for reading!

  4. Rachael @ mummyflyingsolo

    I use nutritional yeast for cheesy flavour!

    Sadly I will have to disagree about vaccines and the grey line. I have done loads of research myself and all the anti vax stuff seems like scare mongering and psuedo science to me. I never found a protest that science couldnt explain. Do some people have reactions to vaccines? Yes. But some people react to antibiotics, dairy, gluten, pollen etc. It does not mean that they aren’t effective and safe for the majority of the population. Scienctists have worked hard to eradicate disease and have been so successful. It makes me sad that people are so ready to poo poo that based on information from people who aren’t remotely trained in the field.

    Does this mean I believe we won’t find out something awful about them in the future? No. There is always that possibility with anything. New discoveries surprise us all the time. In the meantime I decide vaccines are better than a severe case of measles in my house 🙂 (and yes I do know you can still get measles even when vaccinated…strain dependent blah blah).

    Anyway despite all that if you do post on the topic I will read with interest 🙂

    1. thehomeschoolingdoctor Post author

      Hi Rachael! Wondering if you were actually able to notice any effects from the yeast? Any of those anecdotal things? Would be so fascinating if you had!

      I had good friends with pertussis, despite their vaccinated state, this summer when I was pregnant. It was frightening knowing that pertussis was circulating in our small community and I getting ready to have a newborn.

      Heading into a weekend here! Hope you have a good one!

    1. thehomeschoolingdoctor Post author

      I didn’t realize it would be so complicated when I read about it in Minding Your Mitochondria by Wahls. She just has a blurb about it in there. So I decided to check it out, and I felt like I entered a house of mirrors! (And I still do, with GMOs, synthetic vitamins, etc.) Thank you, My Journey Thru ME!

  5. Pingback: Bibliography for Posts on Supplemental Yeasts (Brewer’s Yeast and Nutritional Yeast) | The HSD

  6. Linda

    Just found your blog – going to give me lots of good reading! I appreciate your balanced perspective and also how diligent you are with verifying your conclusions with valid research. I have a question that I think you have answered but just want to double check! I love using nutritional yeast as a flavoring (especially good on kale chips!) but our whole family has had several food sensitivity tests done and bakers and Brewers yeast are quite high and therefore I should avoid it right? I had thought because it was deactivated it was ok:(. Also my father has just had a severe case of septic gout and I notice that with gout you should avoid both forms of yeast….right? Ahhh why is that you think you are doing such healthy things for yourself and your family when in fact I may be killing them??!!!:)
    Thanks so much for your time –

    1. thehomeschoolingdoctor Post author

      Dear Linda,

      Long answer as always. Sorry. 🙂 Forgive me!

      1. I have been reading on this. Most alternative health docs think that if you test sensitive to substances then you need to eliminate those substances for a time, work on healing your gut, then retest. They feel the offending agents will interfere with healing by allowing inflammation to continue. If you test negative, then you may proceed with re-introduction. With a good gut, re-introduction may be possible.

      What I like about this is the concreteness of the idea. We all love a yes or no answer. What I don’t like is that sometimes you can test positive to everything, then really guys, what are you supposed to do? Or you can test negative but know that you can’t tolerate that food/substance due to another mechanism.

      For me, I’ve done an elimination diet and know “my” diet (it’s not Paleo, it’s not GAPS, it’s not Wahls, it’s not The Candida Diet—LOL!! It’s “MY” diet) and usually I feel pretty good. So I can then introduce these things and observe for a few days. Brewer’s yeast, for me, just hasn’t quite made the cut. I want it to, but it hasn’t. So I rarely use it. I’m dedicated to getting this “leaky gut” of mine fixed, and so I don’t throw it out yet. 🙂 It is tougher in kids because they aren’t reliable historians (although some are!) to be able to track their responses to the yeast products.

      Probably safest to remove it if people aren’t doing well right now. However, these yeasts are in SO much! Then you have to ask yourself how far are you going to go? Vinegar. Things pickled in vinegar like olives. Certain vitamins are made from yeasts. Soy sauce. Aged cheeses. Wine. Processed ketchups which contain vinegar. Kombucha. Etc. Obviously “normal” bread. Any processed foods with “yeast” extract. So lots of stuff.

      Was that an answer or did it just make it worse?

      2. The way I understand it is that the deactivation may still allow for select strings of peptides to be present and react.

      3. Because the brewer’s yeast (and other yeast products to a lesser extent) will be “high” in the genetic material (DNA) of the yeast cells that have been broken down, it is best for people with gout to use great caution with brewer’s yeast consumption. Why? DNA is made up of “purines” and purines are metabolized to uric acid, which is what forms crystals in the joints of gout sufferers. However, we don’t really know what kind of diet is best for gout patients. But if I was an uncontrolled gout patient, I would eliminate brewer’s yeast. Georgia Edes, MD has an interesting post on gout, not pertaining too much to yeast, but interesting:

      4. And lastly, I know what you mean about “healthy” things! LOL! We’re killing them! Aaah! I tell my husband not to get too set on a dish I prepare that he likes—because I may decide next week it’s NOT GOOD FOR US. Aaaah! But seriously, I’m constantly tempering my brain. I really feel if our guts are solid, then we should be able to tolerate most things, maybe not all things and/or some things in moderation or limitation, but most things. The question I then have is–how do you get a gut there? When I can eat eggs again, I’ll let you know. 🙂

      I wish you health! And I do love questions. Hope it helped or made you more curious. Bottom line is, I’d probably take it out until everybody was feeling great then regroup if you’d done some gut healing. The septic gout–I’d be very nervous on that one in giving “concentrated doses” of DNA-rich yeast.

      Have a great week!


  7. Anonymous

    Thank you Terri so much for your very comprehensive answer! It was very helpful, clarifying a little, a rather blurry road map at times😥! Ha ha I know EXACTLY what you mean after finding a good recipe only to find in a week, month, year … can’t eat it!
    Wishing you every blessing!


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