Auto-Brewery Syndrome

Nick, 34, says that about four years ago he started noticing odd symptoms, such as slurred speech and feeling confused in the evenings and waking up feeling nauseated. In videos of himself, he says he looked to be intoxicated, though he hadn’t consumed any alcohol. When he was involved in a car accident in 2011, a Breathalyzer test showed that Nick had a blood-alcohol level of 0.236 – three times the legal limit – despite, he says, only having one beer 12 hours before the incident.

As Nick met with several doctors to try to discover the root of this unusual problem, his wife and close friends became suspicious that he was perhaps a closet alcoholic.

Desperate for answers, Nick finally reached out to family medicine physician Dr. Anup Kanodia. Dr. Kanodia ran a fecal test on Nick and discovered that the amount of yeast in his digestive system was 400 percent higher than normal. 

Dr. Kanodia diagnosed Nick with auto-brewery syndrome, also known as gut fermentation syndrome, a rare condition in which the body produces an excess amount of yeast, which then begins to ferment, forming alcohol. Patients with this condition can become intoxicated without ingesting any alcohol, and in some cases, the condition can lead to death, according to Dr. Kanodia.

To treat the condition, Dr. Kanodia prescribed Nick an antifungal medication and placed him on a restricted, high-protein, high-vegetable diet. By cutting out foods that break down into sugar within the body, Nick can control the overgrowth of yeast in his digestive system.
“The effects are phenomenal,” Nick says. “Just a simple diet change has been remarkable in my process here.”

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