When police pulled over a man and found that his blood alcohol level was at 0.2, they arrested him on suspicion of drunken driving despite him trying to argue that he hadn’t been drinking. The 46-year-old man was hospitalized and later released but it turns out, he was telling the truth about his sobriety, as researchers discovered he has a rare condition known as “auto-brewery syndrome.”
This means that funghi in his digestive system was turning carbs into alcohol and, yes, can even make a person drunk despite the fact that they haven’t consumed any alcohol. At first, this may sound like a pretty awesome syndrome to have but researchers insist auto-brewery syndrome, which is most commonly found in patients with diabetes, obesity or Crohn’s disease, is actually pretty terrible.
“A person is intoxicated from this fermenting yeast, and it’s a horrible illness,” said Barbara Cordell, an auto-brewery syndrome researcher and the author of My Gut Makes Alcohol!: The Science and Stories of Auto-Brewery Syndrome.
It’s a rare condition that many experts believe often goes undiagnosed because it is so unknown. This means that people will find themselves feeling hammered after a carb-heavy meal and have no idea why. As the case of the case of the man who was arrested shows, it can also lead to all sorts of problems and since nobody is familiar with it, including the person who has auto-brewery syndrome, it’s unlikely that the real issue will be addressed.
According to researchers, auto-brewery syndrome appears to be caused primarily by antibiotic use which then alters a someone’s fungal growth. However, it’s not clear why antibiotic use doesn’t affect most people in this way. Additionally, environmental toxins or preservatives in foods can cause auto-brewery syndrome as well due to causing a disruption in the body’s bacterial balance.