People are walking around with blood-alcohol contents of up to 0.4 -- and they haven't had a drop to drink.
As we reported recently, a woman got pulled over in New York with a blood-alcohol level four times over the legal limit — but she was released when she showed no signs of drunkenness and a judge later threw out her case after finding out she had a condition called “auto-brewery syndrome.” But what is this strange disorder, and how does it work?
The woman in question was pulled over in upstate New York and she showed alcohol levels that would have a normal person practically unconscious and near death. But she appeared fine, and it was later determined that auto-brewery syndrome, a rare and strange disorder, was to blame.
Auto-brewery syndrome is also referred to as gut fermentation syndrome. It happens when intoxicating quantities of ethanol are produced within the digestive system. The body converts carbohydrates into alcohol, causing the blood-alcohol content in the bloodstream to spike.
Scientists have identified a type of yeast called Saccharomyces cerevisiae as the potential culprit.
It’s not the first time this defense has been used to dismiss drunk driving cases. And it’s not unusual for people who have it to not even know.
It was once suspected as a potential cause of sudden infant death syndrome, but scientists eventually ruled that out.
How can it be treated? Dietary changes that reduce the amount of carbohydrates a person consumes can help, as does an antifungal drug called fluconazole, which kills Saccharomyces cerevisiae in the gastrointestinal tract.
Although sufferers walk around with spiked blood-alcohol content, they don’t feel like they’re drunk. However, they often feel the symptoms of a hangover later, and other symptoms including dry mouth, dizziness, and irritable bowel syndrome, to name a few. These symptoms can later lead to depresion and anxiety, and can severely affect a person’s everyday life. And individuals can feel intoxicated during an episode.
It doesn’t help that the syndrome is very obscure and difficult to diagnose. Also, most people don’t know to seek treatment for it. A low-carb diet does tend to do wonders, however.