Gut Fermentation Experiment


Microbes provide alcohol when they ferment sugars. Specifically, yeasts provide ethanol, and bacteria produce butanol and propanol. We can calculate these different alcohols in the blood. If the levels are raised we can come to conclusion that exces­sive fermentation is occuring; and, depending on the type of alcohol produced, we can say whether the fermentation is from yeast or bacterial origin. We cannot identify which yeast or bac­terium is responsible for the fermentation, but that’s okay – we don’t need to distinguish that. There is one measure for yeast fermenta­tion, whatever the yeast; and another for bacterial fermentation, whatever the bacterium. Followings are a few examples.

 

Pauline was a very busy person with a very important job. She was responsible for the day-to-day management of a large company. Over the past five years she had suffered from recur­rent vaginal infections. Swab tests confirmed that she was infected with Candida albicans. She had become quite fed up with the vaginal itch and pain. Symptoms persisted in spite of frequent prescriptions from her doctor. Her husband was also treated on a number of occasions ‘just in case’. Pauline suddenly became very unwell about six months before she presented to the Allergy Clinic. She was exhausted. She also developed pains in her muscles and joints. Her back, shoulders and arms were affected in this way. At one stage, she was so ill that she slept sixteen hours a day for the best part of three weeks. In addition, she complained of bouts of diarrhoea, abdominal pain, an itchy bottom, and indigestion. She lost a stone in weight.

 

Throughout this time her vaginal infections continued unabated. In fact, she now had chronic vaginal symptoms. A blood test revealed that Pauline was suffering from the effects of yeast overgrowth in the bowel. She was put on a diet, and she was prescribed anti-fungal medication to take by mouth. One month later, and already feeling considerably better in herself, she was given anti-fungal treatment for the vaginal infections. Over the following weeks and months, she expanded her diet, bit by bit. At the time of writing she remains well, and she has had only one bout of vaginal thrush in the past eight months.

 

Fred, too, was a busy person, and had a very demanding job. Over the previous three or four years he complained of increas­ing fatigue. He also complained of abdominal symptoms, such as bloating and diarrhoea. He thought that certain foods were making him ill. In particular, he discovered that all forms of sugar affected him. The problem for Fred, however, was his craving for the very foods that ‘wiped him out’. He underwent a Low Allergy Diet for ten days and although he felt somewhat better, he still had quite a few symptoms left. It was clear that his problem was not food intolerance. A blood test for fermenta­tion was then arranged. It came back positive. In fact, the alco­hol level in his fasting blood was forty times higher than it should have been! He was started on a regime of diet and anti­fungal medication.

 

Fred simply could not believe the improvement in his health once he controlled his fermentation. It took a little longer in his case because the levels were so high. Pauline and Fred had yeast fermentation. Notice I didn’t say they had ‘Candida’! Their fermentation may have been caused by Candida, but it may just as easily have been caused by other yeasts in the gut.

 

Andrea was different. She suffered from recurrent urinary infections, and had taken twenty courses of antibiotic in as many months! During this time she developed many other symptoms, including fatigue, headaches, fitful sleep, impaired memory and concentration, muscle pains and joint pains. Interestingly, she had little by way of abdominal symptoms. However, in view of her inordinate consumption of antibiotics, and the timing of her symptoms, we performed a gut fermenta­tion test. This revealed the presence of bacterial fermentation. Her butanol levels were about ten times higher than they should have been. She was given antibacterial medication (but not an antibiotic!) together with the gut fermentation diet.

 

Within a month she felt better, and within three months she was back to her old self. When she started to expand her diet again, she reacted to wheat and a few other foods. Thus, Andrea had a combination of gut fermentation and food intolerance. This is quite a common occurrence.

 

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