Auto brewery syndrome refers to a condition wherein the surplus levels of fungus in the gut synthesize alcohol, from carbohydrates in the body.
The gastrointestinal tract in the human body houses several species of gut-friendly microbes, the majority of which are bacteria, with fungi making up less than 1% of the total.
In a normal individual, these in-built microorganisms are present in balanced proportions and do not give rise to any disorders, such as irritable bowel syndrome for instance. Also Read: Do I Have Irritable Bowel Syndrome?
However, when an overgrowth of fungal specimens occurs, the main form being Candida type of yeast, it results in various complications in the digestive system and other functions in the body.
Yeasts and other fungi feed on the sugars and starches in food, which they convert into energy. This process also creates waste in the form of carbon dioxide and ethanol — a type of alcohol. The ethanol that fungal fermentation produces will enter the bloodstream and travel throughout the body.
People who have auto-brewery syndrome may have high blood alcohol levels after ingesting a small quantity of alcohol or even no alcohol at all. Auto-brewery syndrome can also cause the same physical and psychological symptoms that occur when a person is intoxicated or hungover.
Certain underlying medical conditions can make a person more prone to developing auto-brewery syndrome. These include:
- Crohn’s disease
- Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
- Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth
- Short bowel syndrome
- A weakened immune system
The typical indications displayed by a person with auto brewery syndrome consist of:
- Nausea and vomiting
- Difficulty with memory and concentration
- Loss of coordination
- Mood swings Also Read: Treat Mood Disorders Before It Affects Health
A doctor can diagnose auto-brewery syndrome using a combination of laboratory and observational tests. It is a rare condition, so a person will usually undergo testing for more common illnesses first.
Doctors typically begin the diagnostic process by reviewing a person’s medical history, asking about their current symptoms, and performing a physical examination. A doctor may recommend additional tests if they suspect that the person’s symptoms are due to auto-brewery syndrome or another gastrointestinal disease.
The doctor may collect a small stool sample, which they will send to a laboratory for analysis. This analysis usually involves checking for abnormal concentrations of bacteria and fungi.
Doctors can also use a long, thin tube called an endoscope to collect fluid from different parts of the gastrointestinal tract. These samples will go to a laboratory, where people will look for bacterial or fungal overgrowth.
Some doctors may use a carbohydrate challenge test to test for auto-brewery syndrome. They will ask the individual to eat a carbohydrate-rich meal or take a glucose (sugar) capsule on an empty stomach.
After a few hours, they will check the person’s blood alcohol level. People who do not have auto-brewery syndrome have almost undetectable blood alcohol levels. An increase in blood alcohol levels after the carbohydrate challenge test may, therefore, indicate auto-brewery syndrome.
Once the diagnosis of auto brewery syndrome is confirmed in the patient, the healthcare provider recommends the appropriate course of treatment.
The medical professional will advise the patient to avoid carbohydrates and processed foods, to help relieve some symptoms of auto-brewery syndrome. People who choose to restrict their carbohydrate intake can consume more protein to help them feel fuller for longer.
Doctors prescribe a strict dose of antifungals and, in some cases, antibiotics, to treat the symptoms associated with auto-brewery syndrome. Antifungals can help reduce the amount of fungus in the gut. In addition to these, some probiotic supplements may also be given, to help the individual recover from the auto-brewery condition and restore healthy gut functions.