While many of my patients are familiar with probiotics and their numerous health benefits, far fewer have heard of the “cousin” of probiotics: Saccharomyces boulardii. Saccharomyces boulardii is actually a specific strain of yeast, but it is considered a probiotic yeast. This supplement is known for its numerous health benefits, particularly in relation to gut health.
While both Saccharomyces boulardii and regular probiotics contain beneficial microorganisms that can support gut health, there are some key differences between them:
- Microorganism Type: Saccharomyces boulardii is a yeast, specifically a non-pathogenic strain of Saccharomyces cerevisiae. Regular probiotics typically contain various strains of beneficial bacteria, such as Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium species.
- Targeted Benefits: Saccharomyces boulardii is particularly well-known for its effectiveness in managing diarrhea, including antibiotic-associated diarrhea, traveler’s diarrhea, and infections. Regular probiotics, depending on the strains they contain, may offer a broader range of benefits, such as supporting overall gut health, immune function, and nutrient absorption.
- Antibiotic Use: Saccharomyces boulardii is often recommended alongside antibiotic treatments to prevent antibiotic-associated diarrhea and maintain a balanced gut microbiota. Regular probiotics can also be used alongside antibiotics, but the strains need to be chosen carefully to ensure they are not killed off by the antibiotics.
- Mechanisms of Action: Saccharomyces boulardii is believed to work by multiple mechanisms, including competing with harmful microorganisms for resources, producing compounds that inhibit the growth of pathogens, and supporting the immune system’s response. Regular probiotics also have diverse mechanisms of action, such as producing beneficial compounds, enhancing the gut barrier function, and influencing the gut microbiota composition.
- Clinical Evidence: Saccharomyces boulardii has been extensively studied in clinical trials, particularly for its efficacy in managing diarrhea of various causes. Regular probiotics have also been studied for their various health benefits, but the specific strains and formulations can lead to varying outcomes.
- Conditions Targeted: Saccharomyces boulardii is commonly used to manage specific gastrointestinal issues, including infections and diarrhea-related conditions. Regular probiotics are used for a broader range of conditions, including irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD), and allergies.
- Recommended Uses: Saccharomyces boulardii is often recommended in cases where there is a need for rapid and targeted relief from diarrhea, such as during travel or after antibiotic use. Regular probiotics are often taken as daily supplements to maintain gut health and support overall well-being.
While both probiotics and Saccharomyces boulardii are considered quite safe, it is always recommended that patients who are trying to treat a particular concern or who are on multiple medications work with their physician to find the best overall treatment protocol and cross-check for potential medication interactions.
Dr. Katie Nuckolls is a naturopathic physician and owner of Thrive GI: Natural Digestive Medicine in Vancouver, Washington. She currently sees patients that live in Washington, Oregon, and Arizona using telemedicine. For more information, visit our contact page or schedule a free 15-minute consultation online.