Get drunk without knowing: auto-brewery syndrome

Just think about it: What if you suddenly became very drunk at random times throughout the day? Not only would it make interactions with family, friends, and colleagues exceedingly uncomfortable, when the intoxication wears off you’d have to deal with crippling hangovers, chronic fatigue, and other side effects of alcoholism. Thankfully, very few people have this viable yeast culture in their stomachs, but for those who do, living with it can be a real challenge.

Auto-brewery syndrome, also known as gut fermentation syndrome, is a rare medical condition in which intoxicating quantities of ethanol are produced through endogenous fermentation within the digestive system. One gastrointestinal organism, Saccharomyces cerevisiae, a type of yeast, has been identified as a pathogen for this condition.

Claims of endogenous fermentation of this type have been used as a defense against drunk driving charges, as for some people, having a digestive system that converts ordinary food into alcohol might sound like a dream come true: You never have to drink in order to get drunk! But this condition, called auto-brewery syndrome, is as real as can be. Also known as gut fermentation syndrome, auto-brewery syndrome is a rare condition in which a type of yeast, Saccharomyces cerevisiae, ferments food in the stomach, producing ethanol, the type of alcohol found in beer, wine, and spirits.

One especially inconvenient time to experience this condition? When driving. Not only is it inherently dangerous, is can lead to arrest. However, thankfully, as the condition gains awareness, more judges are recognizing it as involuntary. Late last year, a judge dismissed a DWI charge against a 35-year-old schoolteacher after she was able to prove that she had auto-brewery syndrome. The effects of the disease can have profound effects on everyday life. As well, the recurring side effects of dizziness, dry mouth, hangovers, disorientation, irritable bowel syndrome, and chronic fatigue syndrome can lead to other health problems such as depression, anxiety and poor productivity in employment. The random state of intoxication can lead to personal difficulties, and the relative obscurity of the condition can also make it hard to seek treatment

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