Auto-Brewery Syndrome: Drunk Without Drinking? 5 Things to Know About This Mysterious Medical Condition

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Jan 05, 2016 04:30 AM EST

Auto-brewery syndrome, also known as gut-fermentation syndrome, is an extremely rare condition that occurs more dominantly in Japan. However, there are a few cases in the U.S. that is baffling medical experts, according to The Medical Bag.

Below are five things to know about this mysterious medical condition:

Cause of Auto-Brewery Syndrome

The condition occurs when the digestive system traps too much yeast in the body and turns this common carbohydrate into alcohol. A person afflicted with the condition can eat something starch, such as mashed potatoes, and her body will ferment the carbohydrates into ethanol.

Symptoms of Auto-Brewery Syndrome

Being rare, there are very few documentations about the condition. However, a case study on gut fermentation, which was undertaken in 2013 and was published in the journal Scientific Research, helped shed some light. The research involved a 61-year-old man from Texas who presented drunken-like symptoms "all of the time," according to CNN. Aside from dizziness and lightheadedness, the man also recorded a blood alcohol level of 0.40 even when he wasn't drinking.

Matthew Hogg, who's had the syndrome for 20 years, told Vice he initially had irritable bowel syndrome that worsened to bloating and gas. He also felt "chronic fatigue, muscular aches and pains, chronic headaches, mental impairment, mood disturbances."

Recently, a DUI charge against a woman from New York was dismissed because she apparently suffered from the condition, where she presented "glassy-bloodshot eyes and slurred speech," according to People. Like the earlier case, her blood alcohol level was at 0.40.

Treating Auto-Brewery Syndrome

Doctors were able to help the woman with anti-fungal medications, such as fluconazole, after finding too much yeast content in her gut. A restrictive diet that is low on carbs, sugar, yeast and alcohol is also a good way of avoiding the condition. However, there is no known cure for it.

Dangers of Auto-Brewery Syndrome

In addition to hangovers and possible accidents after gorging on a pasta dish or bread, a person affected with gut fermentation disease is at high risk for alcohol or methanol poisoning. This is dangerous as it can lead to death.

Other Effects of Auto-Brewery Syndrome

As Hogg explained, he used to do well in school until the syndrome worsened an affected his ability to do tasks. His social life also suffered. "I felt alone and detached from my friends and lacked the energy and motivation to be a part of things," he told Vice. Essentially, he had to live on disability, until he made changes to his diet. Now the symptoms are more manageable and he can function as a normal person.

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