Auto-brewery syndrome – a rare condition where the body brews its own alcohol.

"Looking Into My Dreams, Awilda," is one of four large-scale portrait sculptures titled "Jamue Plensa: 1004 Portraits," in Millennium Park, Chicago. (Dr. Noorali Bharwani)
"Looking Into My Dreams, Awilda," is one of four large-scale portrait sculptures titled "Jamue Plensa: 1004 Portraits," in Millennium Park, Chicago. (Dr. Noorali Bharwani)

It was reported on CNN and now it is making rounds in the media. A woman in upstate New York was charged with DUI (driving under the influence) hours after her last drink.

The lady blew a blood alcohol level of nearly 0.40. The police procedure is to take the accused to a hospital, as that level is considered extremely life threatening.
The lady’s blood alcohol level in the hospital was 0.30. This was many hours after her last drink.

The lady was charged with DUI but a judge dismissed the charge after being presented with evidence the woman suffered from “auto-brewery syndrome.”

“I’m in touch with about 30 people who believe they have this same syndrome, about 10 of them are diagnosed with it,” says Panola College Dean of Nursing Barbara Cordell, who has studied the syndrome for years. “They can function at alcohol levels such as 0.30 and 0.40 when the average person would be comatose or dying. Part of the mystery of this syndrome is how they can have these extremely high levels and still be walking around and talking.” Cordell was quoted on CNN.

The condition is also known as gut-fermentation syndrome. This rare medical condition can occur when abnormal amounts of yeast in the gut convert common food carbohydrates into alcohol. The process is believed to take place in the small bowel.

The condition was first described in 1912 as “germ carbohydrate fermentation.” Since then, from time to time, it has surfaced in the media. In 2013, a case of a 61-year-old man who had frequent bouts of unexplained drunkenness for years was documented. Subsequently, he was diagnosed with an intestinal overabundance of Saccharomyces cerevisiae, or brewer’s yeast, the same yeast used to make beer.

CNN report says that the lady is treating her condition with anti-fungal medications and a yeast-free diet with absolutely no sugar, no alcohol and very low carbs. The report says that this does not work for everybody.

So I looked it up on Wikipedia.

The condition has been described variously. The self-brewery syndrome, intestinal fermentation syndrome, and gut syndrome fermentation is an intestinal disease and very poorly documented. There is no consensus among specialists.

The condition was described for the first time in 1976 in Japan. One case went unnoticed for 20 years, despite strong alcoholic intoxication following meals high in sugar or high in carbohydrates.

Symptoms of the disease can have a significant impact on daily life, says Wikipedia.  Recurrent symptoms such as dizziness, dry mouth, cold sweats, hangover, disorientation, irritable bowel syndrome, chronic fatigue syndrome, which can lead to other health problems such as depression and anxiety.

Is there a good treatment for it?

In general, the effects of the condition can be alleviated with a very low carbohydrate diet. The antifungal drug, fluconazole, can be an effective treatment against the disease since the drug is able to reduce Saccharomyces cerevisiae, responsible for fermentation in the gastrointestinal tract.

If you think you are suffering from auto-brewery syndrome, then to put it simply, don’t eat and drive.

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