Published September 14 2015
Saccharomyces boulardii is a nonpathogenic yeast that has numerous benefits. Although S. boulardii doesn’t have a known direct effect on thyroid health, it can benefit many people with thyroid and autoimmune thyroid conditions indirectly. In this article I’ll discuss many of these benefits.
Before talking about some of the benefits of S. boulardii I’d like to talk about some of its characteristics. As I just mentioned, S. boulardii is a type of yeast. It is acid-resistant, and since it is a yeast it is not negatively affected by antibiotics. Many people are familiar with Saccharomyces cerevisiae, also known as brewer’s yeast. Some claim that S. boulardii is similar to S. cerevisiae, but they are both genetically and functionally different from one another. This is important to understand, as some research studies have shown that anti-saccharomyces cerevisiae antibodies are common in numerous autoimmune conditions (1) (2), including those with Graves’ Disease and Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis (3). Although most healthcare professionals don’t commonly have their patients go through this type of testing, there are some healthcare professionals who do test these antibodies, and if the patient comes back positive they will recommend for them not only to avoid S. cerevisiae, but S. boulardii as well. But according to the research I’ve done it doesn’t seem as if people with antibodies to S. cerevisiae will have problems taking a supplement with S. boulardii.
What I’d like to do now is discuss some of the many benefits of saccharomyces boulardii.
Reduces Inflammation. S. boulardii can help to reduce inflammation. It does this by reducing pro-inflammatory cytokines (4) (5) (6). It also can increase secretory IgA levels (7), which in turn can provide a protective effect against pathogenic infections.
Decreases Intestinal Permeability. Many people with thyroid and autoimmune thyroid conditions have an increase in intestinal permeability, which is also known as a leaky gut. And there are numerous studies which show that S. bouldardii can help to decrease intestinal permeability. One study involved 34 patients with Crohn’s disease, and the authors concluded that S. boulardii added to the baseline therapy improved intestinal permeability, although complete normalization was not achieved (8). Another study showed that S. boulardii decreases the endotoxin levels and pro-inflammatory cytokines, which in turn is associated with a decrease in intestinal permeability (9). I think it’s safe to say that taking S. boulardii alone probably isn’t going to heal a leaky gut, but it might be beneficial to take along with other gut healing agents such as L-glutamine.
Candida. Candida albicans is an opportunistic pathogen that causes intestinal infections in patients with a weakened immune system, and numerous studies show that S. Boulardii can be beneficial in people with a Candida infection (10) (11). It appears that S. Boulardii affects the adhesion of Candida to epithelial cell lines, and also reduces the person’s inflammatory response associated with the candida infection (11). Another study showed that S. boulardii secretes capric acid, which is responsible for preventing the adhesion of Candida to the cells, and also helps to inhibit biofilm formation (12). A biofilm is a protective layer that can make microorganisms such as candida resistant to both natural and prescription antifungals.
Parasites. A few studies show that Saccharomyces boulardii may be beneficial in those with parasitic infections. One study looked to compare the efficacy of antibiotics therapy alone with antibiotics combined with S. boulardii in the treatment of acute amebiasis (13). The study showed that adding S. boulardii to the antibiotics decreased the duration of clinical symptoms and cyst passage. Another study showed that S. boulardii can have beneficial effects in children with Blastocystic hominis infection (14). Yet another study showed that some patients with giardiasis don’t respond to Metronidazole due to drug resistance, but combining this treatment with S. boulardii can increase the effectiveness (15).
Other Pathogens. In addition to helping people with Candida and parasitic infections, S. boulardii can help with other pathogenic infections as well. For example, a few studies show that S. boulardii can used to treat and prevent Clostridium difficile-associated diarrhea and colitis by inhibiting toxin A-receptor binding (16) (17). Another study showed that S. boulardii can inhibit the toxicity of E. coli surface endotoxins (18). A study on mice showed that S. boulardii can prevent hepatic injury caused by Salmonella infection (19). S. boulardii doesn’t significantly increase the eradication rate of H. Pylori, which is commonly found in those with autoimmune thyroid conditions, although it can significantly reduce the incidence of stomatitis, constipation, and diarrhea during treatment (20) (21).
Diarrhea. A few studies have shown that S. boulardii can significantly reduce the frequency of acute diarrhea (22) (23). The dosage given was 250 mg twice per day. Another study showed that S. boulardii can be useful in the management of persistent diarrhea in children (24). S. boulardii can also significantly reduce the incidence of traveler’s diarrhea (25) (26).
Crohn’s Disease, Ulcerative Colitis, and Irritable Bowel Syndrome. S. boulardii seems to play a role in the prevention and treatment of certain gastrointestinal conditions. For example, numerous studies have shown that S. boulardii can be effective in the prevention and treatment of Crohn’s disease (27) (28) (29). A small pilot study showed that S. boulardii can be effective in the treatment of ulcerative colitis (30). The gut microbiota seems to play a role in the pathogenesis of irritable bowel syndrome (31), and S. boulardii can improve the quality of life in patients with this condition (32).
So How Can S. Boulardii Help With Thyroid Health?
Although S. boulardii doesn’t directly affect thyroid health, after reading some of these benefits you should have a better understanding as to how it can help some people with thyroid and autoimmune thyroid conditions. For example, people with Graves’ Disease and Hashimoto’s usually have an increase in pro-inflammatory cytokines, and many times they will have a decrease in secretory IgA. As mentioned earlier, S. boulardii can reduce these pro-inflammatory cytokines and increase secretory IgA levels.
Many people with these conditions also have a leaky gut, and a few studies have demonstrated how S. boulardii can help to decrease intestinal permeability. Some people with thyroid and autoimmune thyroid conditions have infections such as a candida infection, or parasites, and you learned that S. boulardii can also benefit people with these and other pathogens. So taking a supplement with S. boulardii can help to heal the gut and correct intestinal dysbiosis, which are factors in most, if not all autoimmune thyroid conditions.
In summary, Saccharomyces boulardii is a nonpathogenic yeast that can benefit many people with thyroid and autoimmune thyroid conditions. S. boulardii can decrease inflammation by reducing pro-inflammatory cytokines. It can also increase secretory IgA levels. It can help people who have a candida infection, and can also be beneficial in those with other types of pathogenic infections. Some studies show that S. boulardii can help to decrease the intestinal permeability, and can also be effective for acute, persistent, and Traveler’s diarrhea.