Saccharomyces Boulardii: Uses, Benefits and Potential Side Effects

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lychees and mangosteen

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  • Saccharomyces boulardii is a fungus extracted from lychee fruits that’s incorporated into capsules or added to probiotic mixes
  • It may be beneficial for addressing diarrhea and delivering anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial and antitoxin effects
  • Oral intake of Saccharomyces boulardii causes very few side effects among healthy people. At the very least, patients can experience stomach discomfort or gas after taking products containing this fungus. If you have a yeast allergy, refrain from using Saccharomyces boulardii products because they may cause allergic reactions

If you’ve been reading my health articles, you’re certainly aware that I recommend boosting your gut health by eating probiotic-rich foods or, if that isn’t possible, taking a high-quality probiotic supplement. There are many types of probiotics incorporated into supplements, and one example is Saccharomyces boulardii, a type of fungus that can act as a yeast probiotic.1

Discovered in 1923 by a French pharmacist named Henri Boulard,2 Saccharomyces boulardii is different from bacteria probiotics in terms of its size and physiologic structure. It also has a tendency to avoid antibiotic or antifungal resistance and development of antibiotic-resistant genes.3 That’s not all it has to offer, though, as research has attributed more benefits to Saccharomyces boulardii.

What Is Saccharomyces Boulardii?

Saccharomyces boulardii is a nonpathogenic and noninvasive fungus4 that develops in a high-temperature environment (98.6 degrees F or 37 degrees C). It’s a close relative of Saccharomyces cerveciae, another fungus known as brewer’s or baker’s yeast.5

According to the book, “Vitamins and Minerals,” Saccharomyces boulardii’s effects begin in your intestines, where it can work in multiple ways, depending on the type of infectious agent or inflammation affecting the intestinal cells.6 There are three main ways S.boulardii can exert health benefits:7,8

  • Luminal action — Saccharomyces boulardii can disrupt pathogens’ actions (particularly attachment), retain cellular physiology, interact with your microbiota, regulate immune cells or help optimize short-chain fatty acid levels.
  • Trophic action — It boosts the mucosa’s metabolic function and releases polyamines that are known to stimulate your colonic mucosa’s enzymatic activity. S.boulardii also prompts the release of secretory IgA (sIgA) that may boost your gut’s immunity toward harmful pathogens.
  • Mucosal anti-inflammatory signaling action — A 2010 World Journal of Gastroenterology article highlighted that S.boulardii may work on cellular signals and reduce synthesis of inflammatory cytokines.

Food Sources of Saccharomyces Boulardii

There aren’t a lot of known food sources of Saccharomyces boulardii. It can only be extracted from lychee fruits9 and possibly mangosteen fruits, as highlighted when Boulard himself discovered this fungus.

The Frenchman successfully isolated S.boulardii from these fruits after noticing that Southeast Asia natives were chewing on the fruits’ skins or drinking a tea made with them to reduce cholera symptoms or lower their risk for the disease.10,11

3 Health Benefits of Saccharomyces Boulardii

Most of Saccharomyces boulardii’s benefits pertain to its potential to improve digestive and gut health. Studies found three particular areas where this fungus may be particularly helpful:

  • Alleviating diarrheaSaccharomyces boulardii was revealed to help reduce incidence of traveler’s diarrhea,12,13 lower the risk for antibiotic-associated bacteria14 and improve conditions of people with diarrhea caused by the cancer drug irinotecan.15 S.boulardii may also be helpful for children with rotaviral diarrhea or diarrhea due to acute gastroenteritis,16 amebiasis or giardiasis,17 or in reducing their risk for diarrhea altogether.18
  • Eliminating pathogens — Saccharomyces boulardii was also found to assist in preventing growth of pathogens like Candida albicans, Salmonella typhimurum, Yersinia enterocolitium and Aeromonas hemolysin.19 An article published in the World Journal of Gastroenterology in 2006 showed that Saccharomyces boulardii is able to release a 54-KDa protease that may neutralize bacterial toxins.20
  • Promoting good gut flora — Oral supplementation of Saccharomyces boulardii may positively impact your intestinal anaerobic microflora, promote an increase in three types of short-chain fatty acids (acetic, propionic and butyric acid), normalize quantities of bacterial cellular fatty acids for patients with enteral nutrition and aid in preventing diarrheal diseases.21

Other preclinical and experimental studies have revealed that Saccharomyces boulardii has anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, enzymatic, metabolic and antitoxinic capabilities.22

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Saccharomyces Boulardii's Uses

Saccharomyces boulardii is often used for medicinal purposes. It’s found in different probiotic products, particularly in capsule form (either lyophilized or heat-dried) or added to probiotic mixes in capsules or beverages.23 In some cases, you may encounter capsules labeled Saccharomyces boulardii Iyo 17.24

Aside from alleviating numerous types of diarrhea, this fungus may work as a probiotic that may improve your gut microflora health and combat bacteria and yeast residing in your gut.25 I also recommend using Saccharomyces boulardii or sporebiotics after taking antibiotics, if you already have a condition that cannot be alleviated by natural remedies and would already require antibiotic use.

Studies on Saccharomyces Boulardii

Saccharomyces boulardii has been well-studied, and published research articles support claims regarding its potential benefits toward certain illnesses, infections and pathogens. Here are some examples:

Candida albicans — A 1982 study revealed that Saccharomyces boulardii exhibited preventive and curative antagonistic effects against three fungi strains: Candida albicans, Candida krusei and C. pseudotropicalis.26 Another study, this time published in 2010, highlighted that Saccharomyces boulardii and its extract prevented Candida albicans from attaching to epithelial cell lines and in decreasing inflammatory host responses caused by cytokines.27

Clostridium difficile infection — Saccharomyces boulardii greatly helped rats with this bacterial infection by preventing development or reducing severity of lesions on the small and large intestinal mucosa, and promoting overall survival in 70 percent of infected mice. However, while S.boulardii wasn’t able to lessen the amount of Clostridium difficile bacteria in the animals, it assisted in reducing the amount of toxins A and B in the mice.28

Cholera — According to a 1999 animal study, Saccharomyces boulardi assisted in preventing secretions caused by cholera toxins in signaling pathways inside the body.29

Trehalose intolerance-caused digestive symptoms — Study authors noted that oral intake of Saccharomyces boulardii may help patients with digestive symptoms triggered by intolerance30 to trehalose, a type of 1-alpha (disaccharide) sugar.31

Helicobacter pylori infections — Authors of this 2005 article concluded that Saccharomyces boulardii may help inhibit a Helicobacter pylori bacterial infection among colonized people.32

Crohn’s diseaseThis study showed that S. boulardii helped lessen bowel movement frequency and assisted in improving BEST index scores among subjects. At the same time, researchers didn’t notice any adverse effects.33

Giardiasis — Saccharomyces boulardii, combined with an antibiotic called metronidazole, assisted in addressing giardiasis. Results showed that after two weeks, patients who took both metronidazole and S. boulardii had no cysts in their bodies, while cysts were found in 17 percent of patients who took metronidazole and placebo capsules.34

Saccharomyces Boulardii's Side Effects

In healthy people, Saccharomyces boulardii generally causes very few side effects when taken orally. Some patients may experience stomach discomfort or gas after taking products containing this fungus.35

There’s evidence showing that Saccharomyces boulardii may be safe for children, especially those with diarrhea (as mentioned earlier), provided that parents consult with a doctor before using this probiotic. Ideally, they must have their child examined to know if Saccharhomyces boulardii will be effective in combating the cause of the illness.36

However, if you have a yeast allergy, refrain from using Saccharomyces boulardii products because they may cause allergic reactions.37 One example would be itchy rashes, as seen in the case of an elderly man who was hospitalized after taking Saccharomyces boulardii alongside nifuroxazide.38

Pregnant and breastfeeding women should try to look for other high-quality probiotic sources and avoid Saccharomyces boulardii products, because of the lack of adequate information about this yeast probiotic’s safety in pregnant and breastfeeding women.

The S. boulardii fungus could become dangerous if it’s introduced into the body through other routes. In medical settings, it may cause generalized infections like septicemia or fungemia if it contaminates certain “access lines” like catheters or feeding tubes. Life-threatening septicemia occurs when bacteria enter your bloodstream and rapidly move throughout the body,39 while fungemia is characterized by the presence of yeast in the blood.

The risk for both infections is quite high among the following groups of people:40,41

  • Immunocompromised or very sick people
  • Cancer patients on chemotherapy
  • Patients who underwent organ transplants
  • Patients with catheters
  • Patients being tube-fed
  • Patients treated with multiple antibiotics or antibiotics that target multiple infections

Such infections may arise if Saccharomyces boulardii infects the access lines via the air, environmental surfaces or through contact with hands containing traces of the fungus. For example, a 2003 study published in the Journal of Clinical Microbiology reported an outbreak of S. boulardii fungemia among three intensive care unit roommates of patients who were receiving lyophilized (freeze-dried) preparations of this fungus.42

When Utilized Properly, Saccharomyces Boulardii May Help Improve Overall Well-Being

The fact that more people are aware of the benefits of eating probiotic-rich foods and taking excellent-quality probiotic supplements is a positive sign. This growing consciousness to improve the body’s gut microflora plays an integral role in boosting your health.

While Saccharomyces boulardii is a well-studied probiotic that may be useful in addressing health concerns, please note that it shouldn’t be considered a cure for common health problems — there are better solutions, such as optimizing your diet with wholesome foods like fruits, vegetables, herbs and spices.

Exercise caution when taking Saccharomyces boulardii, since there are instances where it has triggered side effects, especially for people with yeast allergies. Before using Saccharomyces boulardii, ask your physician to learn whether it is safe and beneficial for you to take regularly and learn how you can prevent adverse effects from occurring.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) About Saccharomyces Boulardii

Q: How does Saccharomyces boulardii work?

A: Saccharomyces boulardii mainly works within your intestine43 in three ways: luminal action, trophic action and mucosal anti-inflammatory signaling action.44,45

Q: What is Saccharomyces boulardii used to treat?

A: Saccharomyces boulardii is often recommended to address or lower risk of different types of diarrhea, such as traveler's diarrhea,46,47 antibiotic-associated bacteria48 and irinotecan-caused diarrhea49 in adults, and rotaviral or acute gastroenteritis-,50 amebiasis- or giardiasis-caused diarrhea in children.51

Q: Is Saccharomyces boulardii good for IBS?

A: Results of a 2013 Arquivos de Gastroenterologia study showed that Saccharomyces boulardii, a drug called mesalamine or mesalazine, or a combination of both helped address symptoms of diarrhea-predominant irritable bowel syndrome (IBS-D).52 However, the most favorable results were recorded after the use of only mesalamine or mesalazine, so it would be best to look for other natural remedies for IBS.

Q: Does Saccharomyces boulardii kill Candida?

A: There's not enough evidence to link Saccharomyces boulardii to killing Candida strains, but researchers of a 1982 Annals de Microbiologie study highlighted that it possibly may assist with preventing Candida albicans, Candida krusei and C. pseudotropicalis.53

Q: How do you take Saccharomyces boulardii?

A: Saccharomyces boulardii is available in capsule form (lyophilized or heat-dried), or you may find it added to probiotic combinations in capsules or beverages.54 As for the ideal dosage, talk to your doctor. This way, you can determine if taking Saccharomyces boulardii is suitable for your current condition and whether there are any potential side effects you should be aware of.

Q: Can you take Saccharomyces boulardii with probiotics?

A: There isn't sufficient evidence showing Saccharomyces boulardii can be taken alongside probiotics. While consuming probiotic-rich foods is a good strategy for boosting health, exercise caution if you need to take probiotic supplements together with Saccharomyces boulardii.

I strongly recommend talking to your doctor to know if you can consume high amounts of probiotic-rich foods or take high-quality probiotic supplements along with Saccharomyces boulardii.

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