Using a beneficial yeast as a probiotic

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Probiotics are often thought of as live bacteria that have health benefits by improving our natural intestinal microbial balance. We typically consume probiotics either from fermented foods, or take them as a supplement.

Probiotics are receiving more and more attention and studies are revealing their effectiveness in a number of areas. One probiotic is actually not a bacteria at all though. Saccharomyces boulardii is a well studied microorganism that has probiotic benefits, but it is actually a yeast.

The French scientist Henri Boulardi first isolated this species in 1923 after he observed some of the tribal natives of Southeast Asia chewing on the skin of lychee and mangosteen fruits. He notices they were also not succumbing to the outbreak of cholera happening at the time.

S boulardii, while a yeast, has the ability to beat back Candida which is a pathogenic yeast found in our digestive system. We all have it but some people can have an overgrowth that moves beyond healthy levels.

A candida overgrowth can happen when we tend to eat a lot of foods with sugar, fruits, and drink too much beer. Antibiotics and a weak immune system can contribute to a yeast imbalance. Even stress and a lack of sleep can be factors.

Besides inhibiting yeast overgrowth, S. boulardii has also been shown to be effective in the treatment of antibiotic induced diarrhea, traveler’s diarrhea, and other inflammatory bowel conditions.

I’ve been reading research showing that it may have the potential for boosting our immune system. These factors make it a very useful probiotic when taking a round of antibiotics.

Antibiotic-associated diarrhea, called AAD, can arise in as many as 25 percent of individuals taking an antibiotic. This is more prevalent in hospital patients. The most prevalent cause is due to an overgrowth of Clostridium difficile in the intestinal track and can continue even after the antibiotic is finished.

Because S. boulardii is resistant to most antibiotics, it can be used at the same time in order to help prevent diarrhea and support a healthy gut microbial balance. And in the case where problems have arisen in the past with antibiotics, taking S. boulardii has been shown to help decrease reoccurrence.

These benefits may not just be specific to problems when taking an antibiotic. There is good indication that individuals with chronic diarrhea from Crohn’s disease were seeing improvements as well.

S. boulardii tends to survive well when travelling through out digestive track, passing by the stomach acids and bile acids. While this can also be improved by the use of protective capsules, it generally is found to make it pretty well into the small and large intestine.

While it may still be helpful to take bacteria based probiotics during a round of antibiotics, adding in the S. boulardii species can bring added benefits. It seems to strengthen the immune system’s response to a bought of C. difficile.

Another potential benefit of S. boulardii comes in relation to a Helicobacter pylori infection. It appears that it may induce changes in the H. pylori cells that will lead to cellular damage.

I do like this probiotic in general even when there is not an existing issues. This is because it acts to enhance the overall microbiome by encouraging good bacteria to flourish and crowding out more damaging strains and candida.

It also can strengthen the gut lining and support the prevention of leaky gut. Overall, I do see S. boulardi as a well studied and effective probiotic for those with a compromised gut and for those wanting optimal digestive performance. Come on down and we can talk more.

Scott Porter, a functional medicine pharmacist, is the director of the Center for Functional Nutrition at Sandpoint Super Drug.

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