Before you indulge the thought of reveling in a perpetually drunken state, realize that Auto-Brewery Syndrome is a very curious, very serious condition.
What happens is that it essentially gets you drunk off food—carbohydrates specifically. The body digests carbs similarly to a brewery processing beer, which leads to a problematic everyday life, as was the most recent case with a New York woman pulled over for a DUI or the more notable case of Nick Hess, whose wife was (at first) adamant that he was an alcoholic.
Those with the condition can function with an alcohol level of .30 or .40 while your average person would otherwise be comatose or on practically death’s door. The condition’s side effects range from random hangovers to more severe outcomes, such as irritable bowel syndrome, chronic fatigue syndrome, and depression. It’s a mystifying, troubling condition.
Also known as gut fermentation syndrome, auto-brewery syndrome is an extremely rare condition that intoxicates the individual whenever they digest carbohydrates. Caused by an overgrowth of yeast, the stomach transforms any carbs into wildly high levels of ethanol through endogenous fermentation.
What is the history?
The condition, or at least the symptoms of it, date back to the 1970s, when doctors in Japan were treating individuals with chronic yeast infections. The curious issue here is that those in the United States these days lack the abnormal liver enzyme of the notable Japanese cases. These current individuals have gut levels of yeast way, way beyond the average range, especially one strain called Saccharomyces cerevisiae, though it’s more commonly known as “brewer’s yeast.”
What is the treatment?
To address the body’s ability to get drunk on carby food, antifungal drugs—specifically one called fluconazole—and a low carbohydrate diet is the best-known ongoing remedy. However, due to the condition’s lack of prevalence in the world (an estimated 100 cases or less), it’s a challenge to treat the problem with a standardized approach.
While the condition’s rarity has made it a challenge to deal with, its more prevalent mentions in news articles and science journals these last few years have helped those diagnosed with auto-brewery syndrome have hope. These latest revelations on the disease are what got the DUI case thrown out and what made Hess’s wife a champion advocate in the end.