Problems with Yeast

Hi Steve, 

Thanks for a very interesting talk on YouTube, “Nutrients for Better Mental Performance.”  As I’ve been heading down the paleolithic approach for some time, a lot was familiar.  However, your comment on yeast being a very poor supplement choice has been troubling me.  I have “alcoholic fatty liver” (I’ve only just discovered your hangover-prevention approach!), I’m now on the wagon and working on reversing this condition.  Consequently I’m looking for a good supplemental source of B vitamins.  From wikipedia:

“ B vitamins are found in whole unprocessed foods. Processed carbohydrates such as sugar and white flour tend to have lower B vitamin than their unprocessed counterparts. B vitamins are particularly concentrated in meat such as turkey and tuna, in liver and meat products.  Good sources for B vitamins include kombucha, whole grains, potatoes, bananas, lentils, chili peppers,tempeh, beans, nutritional yeast, brewer’s yeast, and molasses.”

I eat meat and liver, potatoes, bananas, and occasionally lentils, beans, and molasses, though not every day.  I’m avoiding whole grains.  I have taken yeast in the past, with the expected windy after effects!

After reading some bad press on synthetic vitamins, I’ve looked into food-based supplements.  “B Stress Formula naturally contains carbohydrates, lipids, proteins (including all ten essential amino acids), and superoxide dismutase as found in specially grown, enzymatically processed Saccharomyces cerevisiae , Rice bran Oryza sativa, and Alfalfa sprouts & plant Medicago sativa all the nutrients shown above are contained in these foods (some foods contain multiple nutrients). Unlike many so-called “natural” formulas, B Stress Formula is only comprised of foods, contains no synthetic USP nutrients or isolated mineral salts, but only contains foods, food complexes, and food concentrates.”  As you can see, this includes yeast (as most food based B supplements/selenium appear to also).

So my question is “Would “enzymatically processed Saccharomyces cerevisiae” be suitably digestible and if not, what/how would you recommend obtaining supplemental B Vitamins?”

Many thanks, [name omitted due to lack of overt consent]

There are two problems with yeast.  One is digestibility.  Yeast cell walls are as troublesome as gluten to human digestive systems.  The second is allergy.  There are compounds in yeast that stimulate inflammatory reactions (IgG, IgM and IgA) in many people.  Yeast is the fourth most prevalent food allergy (i.e., delayed hypersensitivity), behind wheat (#1), milk (#2) and corn (#3).  It is possible that enzymatically processed yeast may not produce allergy or inflammation.  However, there is a third risk associated with hydrolyzed and predigested yeast that is not present in whole or freeze-fractured yeast:  MSG.  About 10% of the amino acids in meat proteins and vegetable proteins is glutamate (i.e., MSG, glutamic acid), which causes severe reactions in sensitive people, particularly when they are deficient in B vitamins.  In whole proteins, the MSG is released slowly, over hours, as the protein is gradually digested.  The body (liver) handles the slow-release MSG in a fairly controlled manner.  But when the protein is pre-digested or hydrolyzed, the flood of glutamate is quick-release, which can overwhelm the body, cross the blood-brain barrier, and produce excititoxicity symptoms.  These reactions are worse in prople of low basal metabolic rate (hypothyroidism, hypometabolism), people with magnesium deficiency, and people with vitamin D deficiency).

Predigestion of proteins can produce peptides (mini-protein segments of 2-6 amino acids) and free-form amino acids (individual amino acids not bound to any other amino acids).  MSG (monosodium glutamate) is a free-form amino acid.  Free-form amino acids are actively absorbed (requiring one ATP per amino acid absorbed).  Peptides are passively absorbed (no ATP required) through the lumen (gut) lining and quickly broken down in the luminal lining into free-form amino acids, which are rapidly released into the blood stream.  So peptides are no protection from too quick MSG release.

Note:  Predigested collagen protein does not have this concern, because it contains so little glutamate.  But egg, milk (casein and whey), liver, yeast, nut, seed, meat and vegetable proteins have lots of glutamate.

The rapid release of glutamate can be offset by slow consumption.  If you eat your pre-digested protein slowly over two to three hours, the MSG reaction should be no worse than if you ate the raw or whole protein.

Since you have a clear-and-present “digestive challenge,” you can see if this is duplicated by the digested yeast protein.  While the absence of identical symptoms is no guarantee of safety (delayed hypersentitivities, or food allergies, can be hard to notice), if you did have the symptoms, you would know not to use such supplements.

Alternatively, you could “challenge” yourself with a tiny amount of yeast-based supplement after a 2-week withdrawal and see if you react to it.  Increases in pulse rate, mood changes, cognitive and memory problems, or altered perception of the passage of time are indications of possible hypersensitivity reactions.

The food-based vitamin proponents like to think that purified vitamins are synthetic.  This is rarely the case.  Most vitamins are made by fermentation reactions using microbes (bacteria or fungi), from which the vitamins are extracted, concentrated and purified.  The purification step is very important because microbial vitamins tend to vary in structure, and some microbial vitamins are anti-metabolites (anti-vitamins) in human metabolism.  For example, 4-5 decades ago, a large batch of low-purity B6 was sold in 50-200 mg doses which caused peripheral neuropathy (numbness and tingling in the extremities) in some people.  Although the authorities blamed this on the B6 itself (their bias was showing), other higher-purity B6 was being taken in 500, 1000, 2000 and 4000 mg doses without causing even the slightest tingle of peripheral neuropathy in anybody.  In fact, some people were using B6 to treat peripheral neuropathy.  B6 analogs cause peripheral neuropathy by inhibiting the actions of actual B6.  And microbes make a variety of B6 analogs that are quite poisonous to humans when taken in higher-than-background doses.

I do not know that anybody really understands the potential problems with low-dose anti-metabolites derived from gut bacteria.  Although I would trust the maxim that evolutionary adaptation would have us fairly well adapted to the kinds and levels any microbial anti-metabolites produced by our paleolithic gut flora, we definitely do not have paleolithic gut ecology any more.  Modern diets containing 1) refined foods, 2) chronic foods (year-round instead of seasonal foods), 3) regular foods (instead of intermittent foods and periods of fasting), and 4) antibiotics have killed off certain species, diminished the levels of other species, and dramatically increased the levels of non-typical species which may now be producing dramatically higher levels of anti-metabolites, and different kinds of anti-metabolites.

As another departure from paleolithic practice, many parents prevent their children from eating dirt and unwashed foods.  This “sterilization mentality” compromises gut ecology.  In hospitals, the sterilization mentality reaches a Platonic Ideal of obsessive-compulsive behavior, which has the unintended result of making hospitals one of the most dangerous places where an average human can catch an extreme, virulent, and life-threatening pathogen.  The unwashed world of mother nature, rich in microbes in competition with each other, is rather more benign.

Getting back to one of your questions, there are some synthetic vitamins that should be avoided.  Synthetic E, for example, comes in multiple isomers that are not “natural.”  But even 100% natural RRR-alpha-tocoperol has its risks as a dietary supplement because it unbalances the relationships between the alpha, beta, delta and gamma tocopherols.  So I’d recommend a mixture of all the tocopherols, including the tocotrienols.  With B-complex vitamins, I recommend a similar approach.  Going beyond a ten-to-one deviation from the RDA-ratios for an extended period should be supervised.

I do not think the “synthetic” B-vitamins represent a significant liability.  But if you do, I would suggest liver as a good supplemental source.  Desiccated grass-fed beef liver is a good choice.

Rather than consider fatty liver as a sign of B-vitamin deficiency, you might want to examine insulin resistance as a mechanism.  When alcohol is consumed, it acts like sugar, only stronger, to shut down beta-oxidation of fats (fat-burning mode) and gluconeogenesis (the glucose-synthesizing component to fat-burning metabolism).  Energy metabolism is like a teeter totter, with fat-burning and simultaneous glucose synthesis on one side and glucose burning (glycosis) and fat synthesis (lipogenesis) on the opposite side.  Just like only one side of a teeter totter is on the ground at any time, only one primary mode of metabolism is active at a time.  In your situation, you are either burning fat, or you are making fat.  Fatty liver is the result of the fat-making system stuck in overdrive.  The combination of overconsumption of carbohydrate and insulin resistance drives the fat-making system into extreme.  Alcohol acts like a super-carbohydrate to aggravate the fat-making process.  Now that you are not using alcohol, you could also consider carbohydrate restriction to tip the teeter totter back into fat-burning mode.  This shuts down the fat-making system and would enable your liver to burn off the accumulated fat.

Getting into fat-burning mode is as simple as restricting carbohydrate for more than three days.  However, efficiency of fat-burning mode is another matter.  If you have not been in fat-burning mode for years or decades, it may take you a while to adjust and become efficient.  So moderation is required during this optimization process.  Just as sore muscles are a consequence of entering into an exercise program too fast, cross-linking and acetone on the breath is a consequence of inefficient fat burning (ketosis).  So go slow, and go in and out of ketosis at least twise a week.  Go slow by measuring your urine for ketobutyrate with ketone test strips from the drug store, moderating your carbohydrate consumption to stay away from the dark colors (redwood brown).  Pink (mild ketosis) and rose (moderate ketosis) are fine.  As you become efficient at burning fat, 1) your test colors will lighten up (you are burning the ketobutyrate instead of spilling it in your urine), and 2) your body organs (heart, kidney, liver) will become energized and function with more capacity.  Your brain, too, but it takes longer.

For yeast-free selenium, use sodium selenite.  Not only is it hypoallergenic, but it is not cumulatively toxic, like the yeast-based and selenomethionine-based products.  It’s what I use.  —Steve

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