I was thinking recently about the primary reason that people contact me to create a healthy diet for their pet, and the hands-down “winner” is gastrointestinal conditions. Issues such as diarrhea, vomiting, colitis and acid reflux affect not only people, but also our four-legged companions. This is especially true of dogs and cats with diagnosed or undiagnosed food sensitivities or even pets who are frequently prescribed antibiotics. One of the first recommendations I typically make is the addition of a high-quality probiotic to the diet. As I have previously discussed, probiotics are an integral component of creating a healthy digestive system. But, I always love learning new information, and I recently uncovered impressive research regarding a particular type of probiotic known as Saccharomyces boulardii. I am excited to share this information with you today and specifically how it can benefit your dog or cat.
What is Saccharomyces Boulardii?
Saccharomyces boulardii is different from other common probiotics, as it is a actually a yeast, which is a type of fungus, as opposed to bacteria. So, what’s the difference?
First, let’s talk about what a probiotic is. “A probiotic is defined as a live microorganism which confers a health benefit on the host.” (1) While most probiotics are bacteria-based, strains such as Saccharomyces boulardii can come in the form of beneficial yeast.
While bacteria-based probiotics most definitely hold digestive and other health benefits, the bacteria are at a higher risk of being destroyed by the acids in the stomach. Another differentiating factor between a probiotic that is bacteria-based and a probiotic such as Saccharomyces boulardii is the ability to take it with antibiotics. Since Saccharomyces boulardii is yeast-based, it’s not affected by antibiotics. While antibiotics serve a purpose and help rid the body of pathogenic bacteria, they destroy the good as well as the bad. Giving your dog or cat Saccharomyces boulardii while they take a round of antibiotics could help keep pathogenic microbes from intruding the body opportunistically, keep the healthy bacteria in the gut happy and avoid antibiotic-induced diarrhea.
Benefits of Saccharomyces Boulardii
While we have discussed the benefits of probiotics before, Saccharomyces Boulardii holds unique benefits. It has been shown to reduce the symptoms as well as the frequency of diarrhea related to inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) as well as antibiotic-associated diarrhea. These results were proven in numerous clinical studies.(2)
Unfortunately, chronic diarrhea in dogs and cats can have devastating outcomes. They can become quickly dehydrated, or they may even suffer from maldigestion or malabsorption if the problem is left untreated.
I am always talking to clients about foods and supplements to help with these issues, and Saccharomyces boulardii is now a supplement on the top of my recommendation list.
Saccharomyces boulardii Research
Before I recommend a product, I always like to have evidence to back it up, and Saccharomyces boulardii doesn’t fall short in the evidence department. Evidence points towards this beneficial yeast’s ability to successfully treat a variety of stomach conditions. Let’s take a look at what some of the clinical trials are saying.
- “Numerous clinical trials, as well as experimental studies, are strongly suggesting Saccharomyces boulardii as a biotherapeutic agent for the prevention and treatment of several gastrointestinal diseases.” (3)
- This particular probiotic mediates responses resembling protective effects of normal as well as healthy gut flora.
- Many clinical trials have shown positive effects of Saccharomyces boulardii’s use in both acute as well as chronic gastrointestinal diseases.
- Research has shown Saccharomyces boulardii to be particularly helpful in gastrointestinal diseases linked to inflammation. This probiotic is thought to help interfere with cellular signaling pathways that are common is inflammatory conditions.
- A control study in human adults found that 80% of participants given Saccharomyces boulardii to prevent antibiotic-associated diarrhea showed significant results in preventing diarrhea from occurring.
Clinical trials have proven the effectiveness of using Saccharomyces boulardii in the prevention and treatment of a variety of gastrointestinal diseases.
Choosing the Right Supplement
I always like to share tips on how to find the best product for your dog or cat. After all, quality makes a big difference in how well the product is going to work. When it comes to Saccharomyces boulardii, there are a couple of different things that come into play:
- Intrinsic properties of the yeast
- Product variation
- Number of strains used in the product
- Dose of the probiotic used
The stability of the product is a major factor in determining how well the product will work overtime. Stability can determine how quickly the probiotic will lose potency.
Here are some other key factors to keep in mind:
- Many probiotic supplements are offered in capsules, lyophilized (freeze-dried) or heat-dried preparations. Lyophilized probiotics tend to be stable at room temperature, which makes these products easier to store and more transportable if ordering online.
- Heat-dried preparation have to be refrigerated, as they are not stable at room temperature.
- Lyophilized products were found to outperform heat-dried Saccharomyces boulardii products in terms of pharmacokinetics as well as viable cells in a clinical study.
No matter what product you select, it’s important to follow the storage directions. If the probiotic is not stored properly, there’s a good chance it will no longer be effective.
Saccharomyces boulardii Strains
All of the randomized control studies used single-strain Saccharomyces boulardii preparations, and no control studies have been done to find that mixed strains are superior to single. However, there have been pre-clinical studies in animal models which have shown some success in using mixed strains containing Saccharomyces boulardii.
Saccharomyces boulardii Cautions
As with most anything, there are cautions that need to be mentioned regarding Saccharomyces boulardii. Critically ill individuals, those with a severely weakened immune system or those who are taking medications that alter the immune system may be at increased risk of developing a yeast infection that spreads to the bloodstream when using Saccharomyces boulardii and can be very dangerous.(4)
Individuals with a yeast allergy should also avoid Saccharomyces boulardii, as it is a yeast and could trigger an allergic reaction in those who are susceptible.(4)
Since Saccharomyces boulardii is a fungus, anti-fungal medications can reduce its effectiveness. Anti-fungal medications include fluconazole (Diflucan), terbinafine (Lamisil) and itraconazole (Sporanox).(4)
Researchers have used the following oral doses of Saccharomyces boulardii in human research. Please be certain to appropriately adjust these dosages down to your dog’s weight.
- Antiotic-associated diarrhea: 250-500 mg of Saccharomyces boulardii two to four times a day.
- Diarrhea caused by Clostridium difficile: 1 gram of Saccharomyces boulardii daily for 4 weeks along with antibiotic treatment.
- Crohn’s disease: 250 mg of Saccharomyces boulardii three times daily has been used for up to 9 weeks. 1 gram of Saccharomyces boulardii daily in combination with usual treatment has also been used.
- Ulcerative colitis: 205 mg of Saccharomyces boulardii three times daily.
- Treatment of infections due to the ulcer-causing Helicobacter pylori bacterium: a dose of 5 billion colony-forming units (CFUs) of Saccharomyces boulardii daily in addition to usual treatment.(5)
If your dog or cat suffers from chronic GI issues or is on long-term antibiotics and does not have a contraindicating condition and is not on an anti-fungal medication, research supports the benefits of Saccharomyces boulardii. So, the next time you are searching for an effective solution to your dog or cat’s gastrointestinal issues, consider Saccharomyces boulardii.
As always, I hope that you found this article helpful and that it serves to help you and your four-legged companion enjoy many healthy, happy years together.Do you have something to add to this story? Voice your thoughts in the comments below!