Would you believe it if I told you some people can get tipsy, or even drunk, without even taking a single sip of alcohol? Or what if I told you that a woman in New York had her drunk driving charges dropped – even though her blood alcohol level was 4 times the legal limit?1
As crazy as that sounds, a small number of people have a rare condition that causes their bodies to convert carbohydrates into alcohol – causing them to become accidentally intoxicated. Today, we’re going to dive into exactly how this is possible and how this fascinating condition is treated.
What Is Auto-Brewery Syndrome?
Auto-brewery syndrome is a rare condition where you become intoxicated without ever actually ingesting alcohol. Auto-brewery syndrome also goes by a couple of other names including “gut fermentation syndrome,” and “drunkenness disease.”
This condition can make you experience all the side effects of actually consuming alcohol, feeling slightly drunk, or fighting off a hangover such as:
- Increased blood alcohol levels
- Drunk without drinking alcohol
- Feeling very intoxicated after ingesting a small amount of alcohol
- Red flushed skin
- Nausea or vomiting
- Dry mouth
- Mood changes
- Memory or concentration difficulties
Symptoms often get significantly worse after eating a carbohydrate-rich meal and can cause a noticeable spike in blood alcohol levels.2 So how exactly is it possible to become intoxicated without ever even taking a sip of alcohol? The answer might surprise you.
What Causes Auto-Brewery Syndrome?
Auto-brewery syndrome is caused by an imbalance in your gut microbiome – the millions of microscopic organisms that reside in your gut. Normally, you have a delicate ecosystem of organisms that work together to digest your food and support the health of your gut. Among these microorganisms that call your gut home, includes a number of strains of fermenting yeasts such as:3
- Candida albicans
- Candida glabrata
- Candida kefyr
- Candida parapsilosis
- Saccharomyces cerevisiae
- Saccharomyces boulardii
It’s perfectly normal and healthy to have these strains of yeast present in your gut – as long as they’re in small amounts. But when there’s an overgrowth of these fermenting yeasts, it can spell trouble.
You see, as these microorganisms digest the sugars and starches you consume, they produce byproducts and chemical derivatives of alcohol. So when you have an overgrowth of yeast, you essentially begin “brewing” alcohol inside of your intestines.
What Causes Yeast and Candida Overgrowth?
Yeast or candida overgrowth is caused by an over-colonization of the microorganisms that ferment dietary carbohydrates. This is most often caused by one or more of the following factors:3
- A diet high in sugar, simple carbohydrates, and refined foods
- Overexposure to antibiotics
- An imbalanced microbiome such as seen in small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO)
- Digestive disorders that cause dysbiosis, like Crohn’s disease
- A genetic anomaly that results in reduced activity of the enzymes that metabolize alcohol
Essentially all of these factors point back to the same root problem – a major imbalance in your gut flora that results in fermenting yeast becoming pathogenic.
So, if the core issue of auto-brewery syndrome is altered gut flora, how exactly do we treat this rare disorder?
How Is Auto-Brewery Syndrome Treated?
In instances where blood alcohol levels have risen high enough to cause intoxication, immediate care may range from needing to establish stabilization or just simply “sleeping it off.” And sometimes it may be necessary to treat fermenting yeast overgrowth with an antifungal medication such as Fluconazole or Nystatin.4
But addressing the root cause of auto-brewery syndrome requires more long term lifestyle changes to truly treat the underlying issues of yeast overgrowth and dysbiosis.
How Can I Get Rid of Yeast and Candida Overgrowth?
Fortunately, your microbiome is a constantly evolving ecosystem of microscopic organisms that are significantly influenced by your lifestyle choices. This is great news because it means you have the power to alter your microbiome in a way that supports your health. Let’s take a look at exactly how you can address yeast and candida overgrowth.
Ditch the Junk Food
Nutritional changes are the foundation of treating auto-brewery syndrome and correcting gut flora imbalances. You see, a diet high in sugar, simple carbohydrates, and refined foods are like rocket fuel to fermenting yeasts – giving them the perfect fuel and environment to thrive and multiply.
So altering your diet in a way that fights the growth of yeast while promoting beneficial bacteria is key. Whether you’re addressing auto-brewery syndrome or simply trying to fight back against yeast overgrowth, you’ll want to ditch yeast promoting foods like:
- Sugar: this includes not only refined sugar, but also natural sweeteners that spike blood sugar like honey, agave nectar, and maple syrup.
- Artificial sweeteners: artificial sweeteners like aspartame, sucralose, and saccharin can still alter blood glucose and promote an imbalance in your gut flora.
- Simple carbs: refined carbohydrates like those found in bread, chips, pasta, and other starchy foods are not only inflammatory, but they’re also broken down into sugars that feed yeast.
- Alcohol: alcohol promotes yeast growth, is inflammatory to the lining of your gut, and can hinder your immune system. It’s especially important to avoid wine and beer because they’re highly fermented and made from yeast.
Cutting out these yeast-feeding and inflammation-promoting foods is only a piece of the puzzle though – you also need to add in foods that support a healthy gut.
Focus on a Healthy Diet
A healthy diet is one of the core pillars of overall health and is crucial to creating and maintaining a healthy and balanced digestive system. Build your diet around fresh foods that are as close to their whole and natural state as possible. Focus on foods like:
- Fresh vegetables: While all veggies can be healthy, when you’re dealing with an overgrowth of yeast, you’ll want to limit starchy vegetables like potatoes, yams, and squash. Instead fill your plate with leafy greens and other low-carb veggies like broccoli, cauliflower, and asparagus.
- High-quality protein: Protein is a vital macronutrient that helps slow down the breakdown of sugar and carbohydrates. This minimizes the spikes in blood sugar yeast thrives on. When it comes to protein – especially animal protein – quality matters. I recommend sticking to animal products sourced from animals raised in the most natural way possible. For high-quality meat I suggest checking out Butcher Box – they deliver top-quality meat right to your front door.
- Healthy fats: Healthy fats are another essential building block that supports gut health. And just like protein, fat can slow down the release of sugar and block the growth of yeast.
Prioritizing nutritional changes and sticking to a well-rounded healthy diet is the foundation of addressing yeast overgrowth. But sometimes it can be helpful to get a little extra help along the way – which is why supplements are one of my favorite ways to fast-track your way to a more balanced microbiome.
Boost Your Progress with Supplements
Some of the most potent yeast-fighting, gut-friendly supplements that I recommend to my patients include:
- Probiotics: Regularly re-introducing beneficial bacteria into your gut can help restore balance and crowd out any “bad” microorganisms – keeping yeast overgrowth at bay. Because your microbiome is a delicate ecosystem, I recommend taking a probiotic every day to maintain a healthy population of health-promoting bacteria.
- Collagen: Collagen is chock-full of amino acids that are critical in maintaining the integrity of the lining of your gut. If this lining becomes compromised, it can throw your entire microbiome off-kilter and put a serious damper on your overall health.
- Candida-Destroyer: This blend of essential oils, herbs, and sodium caprylate is specifically designed to discourage yeast and candida overgrowth while supporting a healthy gut.
Supplements are one of the most powerful tools we have when it comes to our health. You can head over to my online store to get started on your own supplement routine – you can even get 10% off your first order by clicking here.
Worried About Yeast Overgrowth?
If you suspect that you or a loved one may have auto-brewery syndrome, I suggest seeking the expertise of an experienced Integrative and Functional Medicine Practitioner right away.
Because auto-brewery syndrome is quite rare, chances are you don’t have this complex disorder. But even if you don’t have auto-brewery syndrome, yeast and candida overgrowth can wreak havoc on your body.
Fortunately, when it comes to your health, you’re in the driver's seat. So whether you’re concerned about an active yeast overgrowth or simply trying to prevent it, following the steps outlined in this article are the foundation for supporting a healthy gut and microbiome.
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Now it’s time to hear from you. Were you surprised to learn that auto-brewery syndrome is a real disorder? What steps are you taking to keep your gut happy, healthy, and balanced? Leave your questions and thoughts in the comments below!
* These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. The product mentioned in this article are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. The information in this article is not intended to replace any recommendations or relationship with your physician. Please review references sited at end of article for scientific support of any claims made.