What Is Auto-Brewery Syndrome? Patients Seem Drunk Without Having Any Alcohol, Doctor Says

Patients that have the rare disease report feeling drunk without having had a single drink.
Patients that have the rare disease report feeling drunk without having had a single drink.(Getty)

Patients who have the rare condition can develop brain fog, sleepiness and uncharacteristic aggressiveness after eating sugar and carbohydrates.

A healthy 46-year-old man was recently arrested for allegedly driving under the influence, but he swore he didn’t have a single drink, despite being uncharacteristically aggressive. When he arrived at the hospital, he registered a blood alcohol level of 0.2% — more than double the legal limit to drive.   

But it turns out the episode wasn’t because had had spent the night drinking alcohol.  

He was drunk because of a rare condition known as auto-brewery syndrome, according to the case report by the BMJ Open Gastroenterology.

What Is Auto-Brewery Syndrome?

Also known as gut fermentation syndrome, the condition occurs when fungi or bacteria in the gastrointestinal system ferments in a way that releases ethanol.

Dr. Steven Gundry, a heart surgeon who also specializes in human nutrition, compared the patient’s microbiome to the tanks used in a winery or brewery.

“Yeast [is] added to crushed grains like corn, wheat, barley or grapes and a bit of heat is applied,” Gundry told InsideEdition.com. “The yeast ‘eats’ the sugar in the grains or grapes, producing alcohol and carbon dioxide and continues to eat any available sugar until either totally gone or the resulting alcohol concentration kills the yeast.”

How Does It Develop?

He explained that the condition sometimes develops after a patient takes broad spectrum antibiotics. The medication kills off the bacteria which leads to a yeast overgrowth, throwing off an ecosystem in which the two compete, Gundry said.

Gundry said he encountered auto-brewery syndrome in a young female patient earlier this year. She had been taking antibiotics regularly for three months due to reoccurring urinary tract infections.

She said she developed brain fog, daytime sleeplessness, joint pain and abnormally smelly gas, and treated all the symptoms with ibuprofen and steroids as prescribed by other doctors, which worsened the condition.

What Are the Side Effects?

While many jokingly called the condition a blessing of sorts, Gundry warned of the unwanted symptoms and long-term health damages if left untreated.

“This produces not only gas and bloating and abdominal discomfort, but the alcohol produced is actually absorbed – just like you drank a beer or wine – and not only damages the liver but can make affected people feel drunk or at least foggy brain,” he explained.

“And, unlike the alcohol that wears off after you stop drinking, the yeast in the gut keeps making more alcohol since its absorbed and people keep eating sugars and starches.”

Blood tests later determined Gundry’s patient had leaky gut, liver inflammation and rheumatoid arthritis, Gundry said.

How Is It Treated?

Instead of treating with oral antifungals, Gundry said he recommended they look toward her diet. She stopped consuming fruit and starch and began eating a high fat, low carb ketogenic diet. Avocados, olive oil and coconut oil containing lauric acid – an antifungal – to help bring her health back to normal.

“As of this writing, her gut and brain symptoms are gone after three months and her liver enzymes have normalized and her markers for [rheumatoid arthritis] are falling,” he said. “Oh, and her farts don’t smell like a brewery.”