What is auto-brewery syndrome?

While most people know what steps they need to take to avoid drunk driving, some may find that it is impossible, no matter how little they drink. It might sound like science fiction, but scientists are beginning to find that some people have a condition that creates an internal brewery in the gut. Drivers with auto-brewery syndrome have been cited for DUIs even when they have not drunk any alcohol.

How does it work?

Researchers have found that patients with auto-brewery syndrome have an overabundance of the bacteria Saccharomyces cerevisiae, as reported by CNN. This type of Candida yeast has been shown to thrive in the guts of some people, possibly after antibiotics destroy all the good bacteria. While other scientist have called it "germ carbohydrate fermentation," the exact process by which intoxication occurs is coming to light. When the patient ingests carbohydrates, including starchy foods and sugars, the yeast converts these into ethanol, the same type of alcohol that generally causes intoxication.

Are there documented cases?

While several doctors have had patients with this condition throughout the last century, recent cases across the United States have brought national awareness. A woman in New York was taken to the hospital after a breath analyzer gave a reading of 0.4 percent. This level can be deadly to many drinkers, but the woman was showing no signs of drunkenness. Researchers observed her for 24 hours and found that her blood alcohol levels rose to several times the legal limit without her touching a drop of alcohol. The intoxication occurred simply from the foods that she was eating.

Another case was reported by NPR about a Texas man who had been suspected of being a closet alcoholic for many years. After visiting the emergency room for dizziness, it was discovered that his BAC was 0.37 percent. Since he insisted that he had not been drinking, researchers observed him for 24 hours. Without any alcohol, his BAC registered levels 1.5 times the legal limit.

How is it treated?

While doctors are still developing treatment options, success has been found with anti-fungal medicines combined with a diet low in carbohydrates and sugars. If you have been convicted of a DUI and do not believe you were drunk at the time, speak with a lawyer about your options. An experienced attorney can work with your doctor to arrange for testing to see if this condition could be to blame. If you do have auto-brewery syndrome, you will be able to fight for your rights and seek treatment for the condition.

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