A strange condition made national headlines when a 46-year old man was stopped for erratic driving and discovered to have a BAC of more than twice the legal limit. The man insisted he hadn’t had anything alcoholic to drink, but no one believed him. After a DWI charge, it took six years to reach a diagnosis of a condition called auto-brewery or gut fermentation syndrome.
In auto-brewery syndrome, yeast in the gut converts carbohydrates into ethanol. Doctors ultimately found that the man’s gut was home to a colony of brewer’s yeast, which consumes carbs instead of oxygen for energy. Ethanol is a byproduct of this chemical process, and the levels produced may intoxicate the individual. The condition is rare and difficult to diagnose. Many adults with auto-brewery syndrome find out about the condition after being arrested for drunk driving.
What are the symptoms of auto-brewery syndrome?
The symptoms of intoxication can be harder to detect in people who have not been drinking, yet auto-brewery syndrome can make people act as if they were drunk without having alcohol. Those with auto-brewery syndrome who do drink can become very drunk with just a small amount of liquor. Some common side effects may include:
- Dry mouth
- Memory loss
- Difficulty concentrating
- Mood swings
- Lack of physical coordination
How do doctors diagnose auto-brewery syndrome?
There are no standard criteria for diagnosing or treating auto-brewery syndrome, and it’s dangerous for people who have it to drive. At times, it can cause a lethal level of alcohol, which could lead to an inability to walk, loss of consciousness, and death from respiratory arrest.
Typically, auto-brewery syndrome is linked to Crohn’s disease and diabetes and may be mistaken for other conditions. It can worsen conditions like:
- Chronic fatigue syndrome
- Irritable bowel syndrome
- Depression and anxiety
Auto-brewery syndrome doesn’t have to be a lifelong illness. In the case of the man who made headlines, his illness took six years to diagnose. Doctors traced the origins of his condition to 2011 when he took antibiotics for a hand injury. Later, he noted symptoms of brain fog, depression, moodiness, and memory problems. He sought treatment of those symptoms in 2014 and was prescribed antidepressants. These didn’t help.
Over time, his symptoms became increasingly threatening. Once, he fell and it caused bleeding in his brain. Then, he got behind the wheel and received a DWI charge. Finally, after medical testing, it was revealed that his gut contained a colony of Saccharomyces cerevisiae, or “brewer’s yeast.”
Is there a treatment for auto-brewery syndrome?
Doctors believe that the man’s yeast colony emerged when he took antibiotics. They suspect the drugs interfered with his healthy gut bacteria, leading to an overgrowth of fungus. The case study noted that he worked in construction, so he was potentially exposed to mold. To treat the fungus, he took anti-fungal medication and maintained a no-carb diet. He also took probiotics to strengthen his gut bacteria. Eventually, the yeast retreated, and he has reported being symptom-free for more than a year.
Adults and children can develop auto-brewery syndrome. Doctors may prescribe antifungal drugs like fluconazole, nystatin, and oral antifungal chemotherapy to eradicate the harmful fungi. Patients usually need to change their diets while they’re taking medications. They should limit sugar, carbs, and alcohol. A low-carb diet may also help balance the fungus in your gut. Foods to avoid include white bread and pasta, white rice, crackers, fruit juice, sugary drinks, potato chips, and anything containing corn syrup or high fructose corn syrup.
Fight Your DUI Charge with a West Palm DUI Attorney On Your Side
If you have a health condition that caused police to investigate you for DUI in West Palm Beach, you can rest assured that attorney Brian P. Gabriel will compile all the evidence in your favor and work with prosecutors with the intent of having your charge dismissed.
DUI is a serious misdemeanor offense that could impact several areas of your life even after you’ve served your sentence. Don’t risk a conviction and don’t lose hope that there is little you can do to fight your charge. With a competent attorney on your side, you can achieve the best possible result.
Brian Gabriel has fought DUI and related charges throughout Palm Beach County for more than 30 years. You can trust him to provide a strong case, personal attention, and quality service. Call 561-622-5575 for a free consultation or complete our contact form.