It’s common knowledge that beer is good for lactation, because it contains brewer’s yeast. Less commonly known, is that nutritional yeast is also a nutritional powerhouse for lactating people. Because a breastfeeding infant depends on the nutrients found in the breastmilk they consume, having a nutrient rich diet is significant for both the mother and infant. In this article, I’ll delve into the differences, forms they are found in, and the nutritional benefits of nutritional yeast vs. brewer’s yeast for lactation.
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Often times, when a nursing mom is under nourished, her body will still use its energy to give to the baby, leaving the mother in nutritional deficit. For this reason, working hard to eat a nutrient dense diet will obviously benefit the infant, and will also allow the mother’s body to recover and recuperate from both birth, gestation and the postpartum nursing period.
When I was in highschool, there was a boy in my class who told me one day that yeast infections happen when women live downstream from a bread factory. It was immature, and I laughed, like, a lot. Today, I’m telling you this story, and while I still think it was immature, I also still chuckled at it, like, a lot. It turns out that there is actually more than 1 type of yeast (high school me did not know this), and of course he was assuming that baker’s yeast and candida yeast are the exact same thing. Both Brewer’s and Nutritional yeasts are created from the same fungi, however nutritional yeast is both deactivated and processed.
How They Are Created
Brewer’s yeast and nutritional yeast come from a one celled fungi called saccharomyces cerevisiae (baking yeast comes from this same fungus!), each yeast type is created from a group of strain of yeast. This phenomenon of “different strains” gives each group its distinct flavour, and therefore, use. Brewer’s yeast is grown on grains (barley or malt, or beets), then used for fermentation. When we purchase brewer’s yeast at the store, it has been deactivated which means it’s cells are no longer living.
Nutritional yeast, on the other hand, also starts with the fermenting of the S. Cerevisiae fungi, during which process they are fed lots of sugar in the form of molasses. Once fermented, the byproduct is separated from the fermented yeast (at this point it is called “yeast cream”), and then pasteurized which causes the cells to be deactivated. Typically, the “nooch” is then fortified with B12, and then dried out. This drying out process is what creates the flakes of nutritional yeast that we purchase from our local grocery stores.
Forms They Come In
Brewer’s yeast is sold in grocery stores, usually as “denatured yeast” which refers to its state of deactivation (cannot be used for baking or brewing). The deactivated nature of this yeast means that it is meant to be used as brewer’s yeast supplements for nutrition, not for brewing things like beer. You can purchase brewer’s yeast powder, or it can be purchased in tablet form as well. It tends to have a bitter taste, which is why people often choose to mix it into something or take it in tablet form.
Active brewer’s yeast is typically more challenging to find, and usually carried in stores that sell brewing products.
If not in your local grocery store, brewer’s yeast can be found online on good ol’ Amazon. In Canada, one can also find it at the Bulk Barn, or health food and natural food stores, in the dietary supplement section.
Uses for brewer’s yeast and nutritional yeast
Brewer’s yeast is very well known as a lactation enhancer for breastfeeding or chest feeding individuals. New moms often put brewer’s yeast in smoothies or lactation cookies to increase breast milk production in the early postpartum period.
Because the taste of brewer’s yeast, by itself, is bitter and unpleasant, most people prefer to take nutritional supplement tablets a few times per day as a “galactogue”, which is a substance which increases breast milk supply. It is a good idea to consult with your healthcare provider or lactation consultant, and start at a low dose, slowly working up to 3 teaspoons per day (15-30 mg) , depending on your body’s response.
Nutritional yeast is well known in the plant based community as a good source of protein, and a pleasantly palatable substitution for dairy cheese because of its cheesy taste and umami flavour. It is often used in conjunction with cashews to create creamy dishes (like Mac and cheese, check out my go to HERE), or mixed with garlic powder, salt and onion powder to substitute parmesan cheese for pasta (my fave Vegan parmesan cheese recipe HERE), or sprinkling on popcorn.
Stored in a cool, dark, dry space nutritional yeast (often referred to as “nooch”) has a shelf life of a couple years!
Nutritional Needs for Postpartum and Breastfeeding
According to Oscar Serralach, expert in postpartum women’s health and postnatal depletion, many women suffer from postnatal depletion, which happens when a woman experiences nutrient depletion following pregnancy and birth. If the woman chooses to breastfeed and does not replenish the nutrients, the depletion is increased in both time and intensity.
To best ensure that a woman’s body is adequately nourished, she should focus on the consumption of the following nutrients:
Trace elements including iodine, selenium, molybdenum and manganese
Other B vitamins
Fat soluble vitamins, especially vitamins A, E and K2
Brewer’s Yeast Nutritional Benefits for Lactation
Because brewer’s yeast contains complete proteins (in the form of 16 amino acids!), it is an excellent nutrient source for lactating individuals, who require increased nutrition due to the increased energy needs of breastfeeding.
It’s high protein and iron content (there has been a link established between breastfeeding issues and low iron) make it an excellent support for breast milk production. The chromium and selenium in it support breast milk production. The B vitamins in brewer’s yeast also provide oxytocin, the “love hormone” which supports milk flow and let down in a breastfeeding mother.
Health benefits of brewer’s yeast:
-Is good for the GI tract and considered both probiotic and prebiotic.
-Helps with blood sugar levels by supporting regulation
-Contains beta-glucans, which are immune boosting
–High in iron, selenium, zinc, copper, B6, magnesium, potassium, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, chromium
Nutritional Yeast Nutritional Benefits for Lactation
Nutritional yeast is often referred to as a type of super food because of the huge punch of nutrition that it provides in just a small serving. It is especially endeared to the plant based community because of its high protein content. (If you’re vegetarian and interested in preserving eggs to save money, check out this post)
-Health benefits of nutritional yeast:
-Provides all of the essential aminos
-500% of the daily serving of folate (b12) per serving
-High in soluble fiber (supports heart health)
-Immune strengthening (beta-glucans promote bacterial fermentation in the intestines)
-High fibre content stabilizes blood sugar
–High in B6, folate, B12, iron, magnesium, zinc, manganese, copper
potassium, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, pantothenic acid,
So how does brewer’s yeast vs. nutritional yeast, and their nutritional benefits for lactation tally up in the end? In comparing the 2 lists, it is clear that both brewer’s and nutritional yeast are similar in their nutritional content. They both contain many of the nutrients mentioned by Dr. Oscar Serralach, which are all supportive to the health of a postpartum woman, production of sufficient breast milk, or to boosting a low milk supply.
Nutritional yeast is not considered a “galactogue” the way that brewer’s yeast is, however it’s nutritional profile is a little denser than that of brewer’s yeast. They are both very beneficial long term, however in an acute “need to produce more breast milk asap” type of situation, brewer’s yeast would be a more solid choice.
My Experience with Low Milk Supply
In my own life, I did not ever personally feel depleted or have issues with nutrition and low milk supply until my 5th and 6th babies, who were identical twins.
There were many occasions where I went away for a majority of the day and the next morning was unable to produce enough milk for both babies. In these instances, I often had a (single) beer, timed between feedings to make sure that I wasn’t passing alcohol through my breast milk. Lactation cookies could have been another option for me too, however I was too exhausted to consider baking above and beyond my regular duties.
I also made sure to eat hearty, nutritious meals, often containing a serving of nutritional yeast for the extra boost. Keeping hydrated helped a lot too, as did getting extra rest and lots of skin to skin!
Have you ever been able to solve milk production issues using either brewer’s yeast or nutritional yeast? Have you ever had a breast milk supply issues- either too little OR too much? If so, let me know below in the comments!
Aja Celeste is a mom to 6 beautiful children and a twin mom! She is also creator and writer of That Zoi Life and a professionally trained Evolutionary Astrologer who has been doing astrology for 7 years. She is also a health care assistant, has a Bachelor of Ministry Degree, and is passionate about supporting people in conscious parenting. She also does Psychosomatics using Recall Healing.
Please contact her at [info@ThatZoiLife.com] if you would like to find out more about working with her.