How Effective Or Ineffective Is Brewers Yeast In Lactation?

How Effective Or Ineffective Is Brewers Yeast In Lactation?

One of the biggest concerns parents have is making enough breast milk for their baby. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends exclusive feeding of breast milk for the first six months of life and continued breast/chest feeding along with some complementary foods through the first year of life or longer. WHO recommends breast/chest feeding be continued until two years old. Babies need the appropriate amount of breast milk to gain weight but also to grow their brains and reach their developmental milestones. 

  • Your baby’s brain will double in size in the first year of life
  • Baby’s weight will double by 5 -6 months of age and will triple by the time they reach one year old
  • Baby’s length from birth to one year old increases by about 10 inches as an average.(8)

Frequent milk removal in the early days of breast/chest feeding triggers the hormones involved in making milk and tells the cells to refill with milk as the milk is removed by your baby or pumping. This is crucial to the establishment of milk supply. When milk is not removed, it signals the body to cut back on production and some of the milk making cells shut down. Although hormones continue to play a role in making milk, around 8-12 weeks the process is based more on supply and demand. 

Our diet impacts the quantity and quality of the milk we make. Focusing on whole foods that are all the colors of the rainbow helps ensure we get the vitamins and nutrients for our milk supply and for overall wellness. Supplements can be a helpful bridge to better nutrition, but do not replace a healthy diet. 

What is Brewer’s Yeast?

There are a few different types of yeast. Each one has a different use. Let’s look at the differences. 

You are probably familiar with Baker’s yeast. It is used in the kitchen for bread baking. Active dry yeast is a form of Baker’s yeast. It helps baked goods to rise.

Nutritional yeast comes in a powder and flakes. It is a rich source of protein and contains B vitamins. When used in recipes, it has a “cheesy” flavor to it. It can be fun to experiment with this ingredient if you do not eat dairy cheeses.

Brewer’s yeast has historically been used for making beer, bread and other fermented beverages. It is from Saccharomyces cerevisiae which is a one-celled fungus. It is commonly grown on wheat, barley, corn or rice. The yeast is then used during the fermentation process. Brewer’s yeast is no longer an active yeast and is typically sold in powder form.(1)

Brewer’s yeast does have:

  • selenium
  • Protein
  • Potassium
  • Chromium
  • Iron
  • Zinc
  • Magnesium

The minerals in Brewer’s yeast can depend on how it was grown. Although Brewer’s yeast has several benefits, there are some cautions to be aware of as well.

Brewer’s yeast contains many B vitamins. It does not contain vitamin B12 which impacts our nerves and our mood. B 12 deficiency can make you feel weak and tired and can be a factor in depression.(2) 

It is important to remember that more is not always better. Although B vitamins are very important, overdoing it on vitamin B6 has been shown to decrease milk supply.(3) Taking a B complex vitamin is safer unless specified by your healthcare provider.

Chromium is effective at lowering blood glucose. Elevated blood glucose can be a contributing factor to low milk supply. Breastfeeding increases insulin sensitivity making the cells more receptive to insulin. Brewer’s yeast can cause blood sugar levels to drop which can be dangerous for people with diabetes or on medications for blood sugar. 

Tyramine is an amino acid in Brewer’s yeast. It aids in regulating blood pressure. Some depression medications (MAOIs) can not be combined with Brewer’s yeast. The tyramine interacting with the medication can cause a severe increase in blood pressure causing a hypertensive crisis. It is very serious and can cause a heart attack or stroke.(4)

Brewer’s yeast has a bitter taste that some parents report also affects the taste of their breast milk. The bitter taste can seem to make some babies fussy while they are feeding. Uncomfortable gas, bloating and headaches are symptoms some people have experienced when taking brewer’s yeast.  

Some brewer’s yeast is not gluten free and needs to be avoided by people with Celiac Disease and gluten sensitivity. Unless a product specifies that it is gluten free, it probably isn’t. Most brewer’s yeast has been produced as a byproduct of beer making and was grown on barley which is not gluten free.(5)

Irritable Bowel Disease is chronic inflammation of the digestive tract. Crohn’s disease and Ulcerative Colitis are examples of IBD. Studies show that people with Crohn’s disease or other symptoms or diagnosis of IBD should avoid Brewer’s yeast. It can make gastrointestinal symptoms worse.(7)

Some parents do report a boost in milk supply from using it as a supplement. However, there is not a lot of scientific evidence to show this. Human studies have not shown it’s effectiveness for people and increasing breast milk supply. There have been studies in ruminants that have shown milk supply is increased from taking Saccharomyces cerevisiae.(6)

Are there other options/brewer's yeast substitutes to increase milk supply? 

Herbs! Many herbs have been used throughout history in all cultures for healthy lactation. Each herb will work in a unique way to boost nutrition and contribute to breast milk supply. Interestingly, a lot of herbs for healthy lactation are also supportive of the digestive system. Herbs are often most effective when they are combined.(9) Below are a few of the many herbal options.

Goat’s Rue can be helpful at increasing glandular tissue and milk. It is known for lowering blood glucose. People with insufficient glandular tissue or PCOS may benefit from using Goat’s Rue. It is also helpful if a parent experienced challenges in the beginning of their breast/chest feeding journey which impacted their overall milk supply. Never eat it in it’s fresh state. You will want a tincture or capsule like in Liquid Gold and Lechita.

Shatavari is an adaptogenic herb. It helps to balance out hormones. It is used to boost fertility as well as milk supply. It increases prolactin levels which is the hormone responsible for stimulating milk production. It can also help tame stress and anxiety as it soothes the nervous system.

Black seed which is a galactogogue that can help people who want to increase how quickly their breast/chest refills with milk. We are never truly empty, but some people experience slower rates than others of feeling their breasts are full with milk from when they last pumped or nursed. It is a great source of unsaturated fatty acids and amino acids, too.

Moringa is packed with vitamins, minerals and protein. It is an anti-inflammatory and can help with retention of fluids after birth. It promotes hair growth and nourishes your skin. Moringa is well known for boosting milk supply. In some studies it has been shown to double milk supply.(10) 

It is important to use organic herbs that are from a reputable source. If you are unsure what might be best for you to try, talk with your IBCLC who can help you decide based on your needs and health history.

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