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auto-brewery syndrome: drunk without drinking, powered by fungi

Your body can produce alcohol and literally make you… auto-drunk?. This rare condition is called auto-brewery syndrome, gut fermentation syndrome, or self-explanatory — drunkenness disease.

Fungi or rarely bacteria in your gut, oral cavity, or urinary system break down sugars in the process of fermentation and produces ethanol.

Boom — you’re drunk.

People with auto-brewery syndrome experience very high blood alcohol content despite not having any or very little alcohol. And I mean really high blood alcohol level — from 1.0 to 7.0 milligrams per deciliter.

There are around 100 reported people of all ages and genders with this awkward syndrome worldwide. However, some researchers believe that the number of people with the auto-brewery syndrome is much bigger than the number of registered cases.

In 2015, a 35-year-old schoolteacher was found to have the condition after she was arrested for drunk driving in New York. Her blood alcohol level was four times the legal limit. She wasn’t charged because medical tests showed that auto-brewery syndrome raised her blood alcohol levels.

Auto-brewery syndrome occurs when fungi (yeast) or bacteria over-colonize, mostly inside a person’s gut, and turn sugary and starchy foods into ethanol.

They also show almost *every* symptom of drunkenness, such as dizziness, loss of coordination and concentration, word slurring, confusion, brain fog, mood change, headaches, burping and vomiting, and bad breath with constant low-key hangovers.

It doesn’t sound very fun, does it?

This unusual phenomenon is also highly controversial, mostly because its exact cause is still poorly understood.

But, do we have any possible culprits?

Yes — a disturbance in the gut, oral, or urinary microbiome or mycobiome. An underlying health condition or external factor can also lead to this microbiome disturbance.

Some kinds of yeast (type of fungus) that might cause auto-brewery syndrome are Candida albicans, Candida glabrata, Torulopsis glabrata, Candida krusei, Candida kefyr and Saccharomyces cerevisiae (brewer’s yeast).

Auto-brewery syndrome sometimes comes alongside other conditions, namely type 2 diabetes, obesity, liver cirrhosis, or Crohn’s disease.

Excessive consumption of ultra-processed foods has also been linked to upsets in the gut microbiota.

Also, a study published in 2019 found that those with auto-brewery syndrome reported using antibiotics for longer periods of time and were more likely to have a diagnosed gastrointestinal disorder. Some medical experts believe antibiotic overuse may be one of the major risk factors.

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