This article was written by Sally Spicer. 

Sally Spicer is a nutritional therapist who studied at the College of Naturopathic Medicine (CNM, Kings cross). Registered with the British Association for Nutrition and Lifestyle Medicine (BANT), she now runs her own wellness business - Touch of Vitality.  Sally's holistic approach to healthcare aims to help her clients achieve the feeling of total wellness that lasts a lifetime and not just the length of a prescription medication.

What is Saccharomyces boulardii?

Saccharomyces boulardii is a strain of non-pathogenic yeast and is not a bacteria, unlike most friendly bacteria supplements. Non-pathogenic means that it is unable to cause disease, this deems it to be friendly and can work in our benefit.

This particular strain of yeast has been widely researched and clinically tested on humans for its beneficial effects on our gut’s microbiome. It was first discovered by a man named Henri Boulard in 1920 when he was travelling in Indochina. He observed that people who drank a special drink, made from the skin of lychees and mangosteen, did not get diarrhoea unlike those who did not. S. boulardii has a relatively high acid tolerance which means it has a positive chance of survival after passing through stomach acid.

What do studies show about the effects of S. boulardii?

Numerous studies show the effects of S. boulardii for the prevention, treatment and recovery of diarrhoea, reducing the gastrointestinal side effects of antibiotic use, supporting the elimination of H. pylori, working to alleviate symptoms and prevent relapse in those with IBD and helping restore the guts microbiome with friendly bacteria.

It has been shown to have two effective modes of action. One of these is to stick to bad bacteria or toxins and assist them in leaving our bodies. It can also choose to stick to the intruder and break it down completely so it can no longer cause harm.

Its other beneficial mode of action is to work as an anti-inflammatory, support the immune system and help to rebuild gut lining as well as the mucus lining that protects us from harmful substances.

We know that’s a lot so let’s break it down.

S. Boulardii and Irritable Bowel Disease (IBD)

IBD effects around 1 in 250 people in the UK. Common symptoms include persistent diarrhoea, abdominal pain and discomfort, gassiness, rectal bleeding, weight loss and fatigue. These symptoms often cause a negative effect on everyday life. Mesalamine is a common treatment for those with IBD, it works to sooth inflammation but is often accompanied by side effects which include nausea, vomiting, abdominal discomfort, gassiness and fatigue.

Multiple studies have been carried out using S. boulardii to support IBD patients also taking mesalamine. These studies conclude that the patients on mesalamine alone experienced a higher change of relapsing whereas the patients taking both mesalamine and S.boulardii had a much lower chance of relapse. The S. boulardii + mesalamine groups also experienced elimination or significant reduction of IBD symptoms.

S. boulardii and Diarrhoea

Diarrhoea can be the not so charming result of a few things. Whether it’s brought on by antibiotics, travelling, some suspicious sushi you got from the petrol station, IBD or IBS, we’ve all been there.

When we have diarrhoea, the enzymes in our gut that absorb nutrients and water from food are damaged or killed off. When new enzymes step up to replace them, they may not yet be mature enough to work as well as the previous ones which can lead to nutrient malabsorption and increase the risk of dehydration. S. boulardii works to support the turnaround time of these enzymes as well as efficiently restoring balance to our friendly bacteria and stabilizing our symptoms. 

Those who suffer from IBS with diarrhoea (IBS-D), may sometimes be treated with mesalamine to help reduce the levels of inflammation. Studies have shown that like IBD treatments, IBS-D patients who take mesalamine alongside S. boulardii showed a higher level of symptom reduction. 

S boulardii and H. pylori

H. pylori infects around 50% of the population and can occur as a result of antibiotic usage or contaminated food/water. One of the main medications used to treat H. pylori is called clarithromycin. Side effects from this treatment include diarrhoea, vomiting, abdominal discomfort and even black hairy tongue. Over time, H. pylori has grown more and more resistant to this medication meaning its success rate in the elimination of H. pylori infection has become poor. However, there is hope!

Studies have shown that using S. boulardii alongside treatment provides a higher rate of H. pylori eradication, including a reduction in the severity of side effects or incidence of symptoms completely!

Overall, the S. boulardii strain proves itself to be of huge benefit for multiple conditions and illnesses. The strain can be used alongside medication to support recovery as well as reduce side effects associated with either the condition or medication.

If you'd like to learn more about S. boulardii and gut health, why not book a free 1:1 consultation with our nutrition team? We can recommend diet and lifestyle changes that can make a big difference. To book, simply click here.