Imagine that you haven't been feeling like yourself for a while. You wake up every morning feeling a little sick and having a hangover. You've put on weight and are constantly dealing with excessive gas and bloating, and occasional abdominal pain. You notice that sugar really makes all of your symptoms worse, but you find yourself craving sweets. One day while driving back to work after a lunch with pasta, bread, dessert, and a soda, you pass out while waiting for a red light in your car. You awaken to police officers pounding on your window with a heavy metal flashlight. In a dazed state, you open the car door. Suddenly, you find yourself having failed an alcohol breath test and you're arrested for drunken driving, but you haven't had anything to drink. Your whole life has just changed and you don't know why.
The above example is something known as Gut Fermentation Syndrome (aka Auto-Brewery Syndrome). This rare condition is starting to become better known, thanks to a couple of cases that received a lot of media attention in 2013 and 2014. In Gut Fermentation Syndrome, an individual will have overgrowth of yeast in their intestinal tract that leads to excessive fermentation of alcohol and carbon dioxide. The alcohol enters the blood stream and has been noted to elevate blood alcohol levels three to five times the normal legal limit. The carbon dioxide leaves the person feeling gassy and bloated, causing some women to remark that they look like they're five months pregnant.
I recently served as an expert witness on a case involving Gut Fermentation Syndrome. All the hallmarks of this condition were present. They had tested twice for overgrowth of yeast. They suffered from severe gas and bloating with abdominal distension. Sugar and high carbohydrate meals made their condition worse. They saw improvement of their symptoms by avoiding sugars and taking an antifungal drug. They didn't drink. Nothing else but Gut Fermentation Syndrome could explain this.
In the 2013 case mentioned above, a 61-year-old male suffered from the same complaints. He was hospitalized and they found the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae present in his gut. His symptoms improved with diet and the use of antifungal drugs. His wife, a nurse, had measured blood alcohol levels on him as high as .40 percent without him drinking. The legal limit is .08 percent. The 2014 case involved a younger man with the same symptoms and complains, but he was able to resolve his issues through diet alone. That case appeared on the TV show, "The Doctors." A 1984 case by Kaji et al, followed a 24-year-old female who was found to have Candida albicans in her gut, the same as the person in the court case where I testified. Her Gut Fermentation Syndrome was also resolved with diet and antifungals.
In treating candida cases for the past 23+ years, it's common to find people complaining of gas, bloating, brain fog, and distended abdomens. Some patients have already given up driving a car due to the constant state of feeling drunk. Candida is commonly found in most people's gut, along with other types of yeast. An overgrowth is especially problematic, as the intestinal tract is a 25-foot-long fermentation tube.
The conditions for gut fermentation and alcohol production are present in everyone. A 2004 study by Al-Awadhi showed that a large percentage of men and women in the United Arab Emirates were walking around in minimal levels of alcohol in their blood due to gut fermentation. Antibiotic use can lead to overgrowth of yeasts that set the stage for increased gut fermentation.
The person in the court case also had anemia, which complicated her issues more and could have played a part in her unconscious state. Unfortunately, the jury was unable to accept the lab tests, copious doctors notes, and the positive response to antifungal medications. They decided that she was guilty. She didn't have the luxury of a hospital stay to prove her case. It's unfortunate that justice couldn't be served.
Hopefully, candida doesn't require you to have a designated driver along with you, but if it does, get one. It's better to be safe than sorry.
Dr. Jeffrey S. McCombs, DC, is founder of the McCombs Center for Health, the Candida Plan, the Candida Library, and author of Lifeforce, The Everything Candida Diet Book, and The Everything Guide to Autoimmune Diets. Check out our podcast, "The Candida Chronicles" on iTunes and SoundCloud.
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