Slurred speech. A sense of euphoria. Lack of co-ordination. These are just some of the typical signs of having had one too many alcoholic drinks. Alcohol is one of the oldest beverages, and worldwide it is estimated that people drink (on average) one alcoholic drink each day (or 6.4L per year).1
But what if you have these signs of alcohol intoxication but have not had any alcohol to drink? Auto-Brewery Syndrome2 is a very rare disorder in which the body produces ethanol (alcohol). People who have this disease get intoxicated without drinking any alcohol or may get very intoxicated after drinking very small amounts of alcohol.
What are the Symptoms of Auto-Brewery Syndrome?
Patients with auto-brewery syndrome present with many of the signs and symptoms of alcohol intoxication3 while denying drinking any alcohol. Since alcohol levels are raised in the blood, the symptoms of this syndrome are similar to those when intoxicated, such as:
- Slurred speech
- Poor co-ordination
- Nausea and vomiting
- Flushed skin
- Dry mouth and dehydration
What Causes Auto-Brewery Syndrome?
In this very rare condition (which is also known as gut fermentation disease), sugary and starchy foods are fermented in the gut into ethanol. Carbohydrate-rich meals and antibiotic use, both of which disturb the delicate gut microbiota, are thought to be the cause.
Fungi and bacteria are some of the microorganisms implicated in auto-brewery syndrome. Yeasts like Saccharomyces and Candida may also play a role as an overgrowth of yeast in the gut4 causes a lot of fermentation of carbohydrates into ethanol.
This syndrome is also thought to be associated with underlying diseases2 like diabetes, liver cirrhosis, and gut-related conditions like Crohn’s disease, short bowel syndrome, and chronic intestinal obstructions.2
How is Auto-Brewery Syndrome Treated?
Both medical treatment and lifestyle modifications may help in managing auto-brewery syndrome. The medications used depend on the gut microbes involved. For example, since yeasts are often a cause, antifungals are a common treatment2, such as fluconazole, nystatin, micafungin, trichomycin B, and voriconazole. Antibiotics may be used if bacteria are the gut microbes suspected to be involved.
Another part of auto-brewery syndrome treatment is modifying the diet. Patients with this syndrome often report diets high in sugar and carbohydrates.3 Since carbohydrates are the food group that is fermented by the gut microbes, a low carbohydrate diet4 would then be advised, coupled with an increase in protein. In some cases, probiotics have also been used to help restore gut balance to manage auto-brewery syndrome.
Now as interesting as this syndrome may be, there is no need for panic – auto-brewery syndrome is extremely rare with only a handful of cases reported in recent decades. Either way, it is a good idea to follow a diet with little added sugar and refined carbohydrates, such as white bread, white rice, white pasta, and the like.
The FitChef Difference
FitChef meals are low in added sugar, with only a small amount of honey added to some foods to enhance sweetness. Refined, processed, white carbohydrates are a no-no, and we use only high fibre, wholegrain starches in our meals like wholewheat pasta, oats, brown rice, and quinoa.
- World Health Organization (WHO). World Health Statistics Data Visualisations Dashboard. Harmful Use of Alcohol – Alcohol per Capita Consumption. 2017.
- Ud Dun AT et al. Auto-brewery syndrome: a clinical dilemma. Cureus. 2020;12(10): e10983. DOI 10.7759/cureus.10983.
- Painter K, Cordell BJ, Sticco KL: Auto-brewery syndrome (gut fermentation). StatPearls [Internet]. StatPearls Publishing, Treasure Island, FL; 2020.
- Cordell B, McCarthy J. A Case Study of Gut Fermentation Syndrome (Auto-Brewery) with Saccharomyces cerevisiae as the Causative Organism. International Journal of Clinical Medicine. 2013;4(7). DOI:10.4236/ijcm.2013.47054.