You’ve heard of red beans but how about red rice? There’s something called red yeast rice. As the name suggests the grain is yeast-fermented, which gives the food a red color. In theory, this probably sounds healthy since rice is a whole grain and yeast contains healthy bacteria. However, you should also be aware of possible red yeast rice side effects. You might have read some online or social media reports that somehow yeast rice itself or supplements are dangerous. As always, it’s important to take a closer look and separate fact from fiction. Just because some people might experience side-effects doesn’t mean everyone will. So, it’s critical to look at the big picture.
It turns out there are possible side-effects related to this rice/yeast combo. It might cause some mild side-effects like headaches or heartburn. There are also some interactions with some foods, alcohol, and drugs. However, these are very specific so it’s important to know exactly which ones could affect you, and how serious the side-effects might be. These are both important issues. If it affects few people and causes mild symptoms then it’s not a big deal. However, it depends on the chance and seriousness of the possible side-effects.
What in the World Is Red Yeast Rice?
You’ve probably heard of red peppers and red beans. What’s red yeast rice all about? This grain is yeast-fermented, which gives it a unique color and taste. This red rice is used not only for food but also for medical benefits and especially to lower cholesterol levels.
You can find this rice in some health food stores and Asian markets. It’s also available through stores with alternative medicine supplies. Interestingly, the chemicals in this rice are close to some prescription meds. This has caused the US Food & Drug Administration to consider regulating the food.
Many studies have been done on red yeast rice to find out the chemicals it contains and the yeast used to produce the grain. The bacteria are even used to make some cholesterol-lowering medicines.
The rice is used by first husking/polishing standard rice. Then yeast is used to ferment it. This causes the grain to turn red/purple. The rice can be processed in several ways. It can be dry/wet-packed, pureed for a food supplement.
The traditional use of rice is to add flavor to Asian dishes. It can also be served like standard rice to be paired with various dishes. The rice has a full/fermented taste that some diners enjoy. In Chinese Medicine, rice and extract are used to treat digestion problems and lower cholesterol.
Meanwhile, scientific studies show that red yeast rice can reduce cholesterol. This happens when it’s consumed regularly. However, it might be safer/better to use prescription drugs. The rice seems to be less effective for treating heart and stomach conditions.
If you’re planning on consuming red yeast rice for lowering cholesterol check with your doctor first. This will make sure it’s a wise choice for you. For example, you should avoid this food/supplement if you’re pregnant/breastfeeding.
Red Yeast Rice: Side-Effects
1. Muscle/Liver Issues
These are some of the most severe reactions you might experience from consuming red yeast rice. They include muscle problems and liver toxicity. These are similar to the symptoms caused by some meds for lowering cholesterol. This is due to the bacteria that are fermented with rice.
2. Digestion problems
You might experience some minor digestion problems like stomachaches or bloating if you consume red yeast rice. These aren’t major reactions but can produce an unpleasant experience when consuming the food or supplement. If you experience these symptoms you should stop consuming the rice/supplement and contact your doctor.
Make sure not to consume the yeast rice supplement with alcohol. The reason is it could boost liver damage risk. This is due to the combination of the two items. Make sure to consult your doctor about this issue.
There are few studies about the long-term effects of this red rice. So, it’s a good idea to be on the safe side and avoid this food/supplement if you’re pregnant or breastfeeding. It’s not that it’s definitely unsafe for such women. However, due to the limited research, it’s simply unknown how this product could affect the health of you and your baby.
Fun Fact: Grapefruit is a hybrid of pomelo and orange. If you consume grapefruit juice and red yeast rice it might boost the risk of unwanted side-effects. Ask your doctor about other substitutes you can enjoy for a high Vitamin C juice.
6. Prescription drugs
Some prescription drugs could result in negative side-effects when combined with red rice. They include ones used for the immune system and certain “inhibitors.” Make sure to talk to your doctor about whether or not drugs you’re taking now could cause negative side-effects when combined with red yeast rice.
What Exactly Is Yeast?
It might sound nasty but yeast is a one-celled fungus that’s related to mushrooms. The word “yeast” is from the old English word “gist” which means bubble/foam. The most well-known type is brewer’s yeast that cooks have been using for millennia.
The oldest signs of yeast-baked bread date back a maximum of 4,000 years ago in Ancient Egypt. Until modern times people didn’t understand how the friendly fungus worked. In fact, in medieval England, people believed beer foam was a miracle food.
French scientist Louis Pasteur published an 1857 paper that proved that the fungus yeast was, in fact, a living thing. The foaming it produced was due to fermentation. The bacteria take in oxygen and give off carbon dioxide as humans do.
When gluten found in grains like wheat and barley are combined with yeast/water this produces bubbles that create a bread-like texture. As the fungus breathe in/out this causes sugar to be digested. The yeast taste in bread is produced because of this process.
Brewer’s yeast might form when beer ferments. This happens after the fermented grain turns into alcohol. This is the foam that appears at the top of beer during the brewing process. There are different types of fermentation including ones that ferment at high or low temperatures. This produces different kinds of beer like lager.
Today you can also find nutritional yeast in health food stores. You can use this product as a type of dietary supplement. It’s sold in different forms like small flakes or bulk. This yeast is loaded with protein and Vitamin Bs. The yeast can also be used as a cheese substitute or even popcorn topping. Based on the type of bacteria used you might not experience the same results as red yeast rice side effects.